Here’s What You Missed Last Week at LA City Council
City Council approves a drastic expansion of LAMC 41.18 despite massive outcry, and orders police to clear objectors from the chambers.
Every week, Knock LA provides live coverage of Los Angeles City Council meetings from our Twitter account. While you can follow along live, we’ve also put together this breakdown of what’s happening at the highest levels of power in our city for those who don’t have 12 hours a week to spend on City Council meetings (including regularly absent city councilmembers).
Council Approves Expansion of 41.18, Further Criminalizing the Unhoused
The big news item of the week was the council’s vote to expand Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) 41.18 on Tuesday, August 2. Things got so heated that the council went into recess and had the police clear the chambers. You can read more about what happened in this thread. But more on that in a second.
As background, in 2021, the City Council enacted a new version of LAMC 41.18 to criminalize sitting, lying, or sleeping upon any street, sidewalk, or other public way in specific locations approved separately by the council. The City Council did not provide any plan for housing the people who would be displaced by this ordinance.
On Tuesday, the council considered a drastic expansion of LAMC 41.18, expanding the prohibition on sitting, lying, or sleeping to over 20% of the city (500 feet of schools and daycare centers). The ordinance again provided no answer for where unhoused individuals can sleep.To learn a bit more about what the enforcement of 41.18 looks like, you can watch this video from city controller candidate Kenneth Mejia and city attorney candidate Faisal Gill. The main criticisms of 41.18 are that there is not enough outreach being done to help people into housing (which was part of the original 2021 ordinance), that there aren’t enough housing options for the people that want them, and that the housing options that do exist don’t work for many people.
The turmoil on Tuesday began when CD15 Councilmember Joe Buscaino rose to speak in favor of the L.A.M.C. 41.18 item and the crowd began chanting, “Shut him down.” When activists continued chanting, Council President and CD6 Councilmember Nury Martinez called a recess for chambers to be cleared. Some of the people present began a sort of “People’s Public Comment.” After a bit, the crowd dispersed peacefully. All of this transpired in a little under an hour.
Once the council reconvened, several members of the council spoke about how 41.18 is meant to protect children. Lame duck CD1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo even compared the expansion to the Supreme Court case Brown v Board of Education. Martinez also said that the public commenters were not worthy of her attention because they didn’t look poor.
The motion passed by a vote of 11-3, with only CD11 Councilmember Mike Bonin, CD8 Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and CD 4 Councilmember Nithya Raman voting against it. The lack of a unanimous vote meant that the ordinance required a second vote the following week in order to pass. At the end of the day, the displacement and ignoring of unhoused people perpetrated by our City Council through the cops and sanitation workers will kill people, but the council doesn’t care as long as their reelection coffers are being filled by developers and NIMBYs.
The disturbance that took place during Tuesday’s meeting clearly had an affect on the council. Not only did they continue to reference it throughout the week, they had riot cops at the ready for the reconsideration of the ordinance the following week. The council’s refusal to engage with the public shows their disinterest in serving the people. The amount of time allowed for public comment rarely, if ever, exceeds 45 minutes, and the councilmembers don’t pay attention during that short period.
Measure Requiring City Hotels to House Homeless Individuals in Vacant Rooms Heads to the Ballot
On Friday, August 5, the council took action on a ballot measure to require hotel owners to act responsibly that is supported by Unite Here Local 11, a union that represents hospitality workers including hotel workers. On the development of new hotels, the measure would, among other things, require developers to replace any demolished affordable housing on a one-to-one basis. The ordinance would also create a program whereby city workers could refer unhoused individuals to any hotel with vacant rooms, and the city would pay a fair market rate for that room. The hotels would be prohibited from turning down these guests.
The council’s options with this item were to adopt the ordinance outright or send it to the ballot to be voted on in 2024 (because the deadline has passed for measures to be placed on this November’s ballot). While there was no specific discussion of this item, CD 2 Councilmember Paul Krekorian thanked people for coming to speak against the measure and indirectly criticized it by saying that he hopes the council will continue to default to sending petitions to the ballot so any “ridiculous policy proposal” can be shut down by the voters. His comments made it sound as if the council would be analyzing petitions and trying to “fix their flaws,” but there is nothing they can do except send it to the ballot. And send it to the ballot they did.
Fun tidbit, Cedillo accidentally voted against sending the item to the ballot, although he did correct his mistake later in the meeting.