Here’s What You Missed Last Week at LA City Council
New regulations on public bike repair and sale spark expected controversy but pass anyway.
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).
New Bike Regulations and Other Motions Impacting the Unhoused
The item that, rightfully, got the most attention this week was a ban on “the assembly, disassembly, sale, offer of sale, distribution, offer of distribution, or storage of bicycles and bicycle parts on public property.” Ostensibly this item was meant to give the police more ability to fight bike theft, but – as critics, including CD 4 Councilmember Nithya Raman have pointed out – these regulations make it much harder for unhoused people to move about the city freely. There is also a decent chance that housed bicycle riders, particularly people of color, will also find it harder to use their bikes as they wish – particularly if they need an emergency repair.
The exact things that are banned are as follows:
The assembly, disassembly, sale, offer to sell, distribution, offer to distribute, or storage of the following items on public property:
- Five or more bicycle parts
- A bicycle frame with gear or brake cables cut
- Two or more bikes with missing parts
- Three or more bikes
There are carve outs for business and emergency repairs, but critics have concerns the ban will primarily impact people of color and the unhoused. In a meeting a few weeks back, CD 8 Councilmember Harris-Dawson even mentioned his run-ins with cops when he would ride bikes as a kid, but nevertheless voted for these new regulations along with almost the whole council. The only council members who voted against it were Councilmember Raman, CD 9 Councilmember Price, and CD 11 Councilmember Bonin. Their vote ensured a second consideration of the ordinance, but given the precedent the council has set, it is unlikely that the outcome will be any different.
On June 14, there were a couple of 41.18 motions – one by CD 12 Councilmember Lee, and another by CD 15 Councilmember Buscaino. Buscaino’s motion was continued until June 22.
On June 15, there was an RV ban in CD 12 – another motion that attracted criticism for being one more in a long line of regulations aimed at criminalizing poverty.
But, in potentially better news for LA’s unhoused community, there was an item on the June 14 agenda to give more funding to Councilmember Raman’s Encampment to Homes program.
Housing: CEQA Exemptions and Bids for Affordable Housing
An item on the June 14 agenda recommended some changes to the city’s Housing General Plan. The report was over 5,000 pages long, too long to recap here, but one can only hope that it is moving towards more affordable housing. A quick keyword search shows the word “affordable” shows up 82 times, however, and 82 out of 5,717 is not a great ratio.
On both June 15 and 17, there were items that would work toward building affordable housing in Venice. On June 15, there was a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for a few different addresses. On June 17, the item related to CEQA also mentioned those addresses. A CEQA exemption is complicated, but essentially boils down to allowing a housing project to bypass certain regulations associated with California’s Environmental Quality Act. Exemptions are typically granted either because the project is excluded from CEQA consideration under the state legislature or because the project’s impact on the environment is considered negligible. In public comment against the CEQA-related items, the only specific critique brought up was the cost of these buildings. Despite the sites neither being in his district nor affecting his district, Buscaino voted against both of these items.
Another big housing item was on the June 15 agenda. It asked for a special election to vote on whether or not to tax “Real Property Transfers” of over $5 million to help fund building affordable housing. While the motion passed, City Council President Nury Martinez indicated she may move the item to the ballot for November’s election. It’s unclear where it stands as of now.
On June 17, there was an item to put out a ballot measure to expand Article 34 powers for each city councilor. In 2008, the article was amended to allow for 3,500 low-income affordable housing units to be built in each district under the authority of the article. If passed, this ballot measure would allow for 5,000 more units. There is a chart in the report from the Los Angeles Housing Department showing how many units were built in each district under this authority. None of the districts have reached the limit, and several haven’t even gotten past 1,000.
The Police Donate the Apparent Surplus of Equipment They Have, Still Need More Money
As mentioned above, there was an item on the June 14 agenda to donate some surplus equipment from the cops to the First In Fire Foundation, an organization that helps firefighters. This begs the question – if the cops have so much stuff that they can afford to donate it, why do we keep raising their budgets?
On the June 15 agenda, there was an item about the purchasing and installation of license plate readers, which would likely increase police surveillance. Every councilmember in attendance voted for it.
There were also a couple of items on that day’s agenda asking for reports about enforcement actions against unlicensed cannabis dispensaries. Since the items only asked for reports, it is a bit unclear what their aim is. One item asked about padlock actions taken, both how many have happened and how many are planned. The other item asked about cease and desist letters as well as civil lawsuits. One would hope that these less direct actions would also include pathways to licensure for the dispensaries currently operating without a license.