Council directs staff on anti-camping ordinance

As the CCN reported last week, there was a special City Council meeting on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 21 to discuss an anti camping ordinance and, as expected, the newly seated council voted 3-2 in favor. Council Member Freddy Puza was the one “nay” vote, with Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin out of state with family for the holidays.

The agenda for the meeting, which will have taken place on Wednesday night by the time of reading, simply states, “1) Discussion of an anti-camping ordinance; 2) Direction to city manager as deemed appropriate.”

From 4:30 p.m., protesters gathered to make their voices heard while marching to City Hall in opposition to the ordinance. Puza spoke to them from the front of the City Hall building.

Prior to the meeting, McMorrin released a statement which read, “I am appalled to see a special meeting placed on the agenda during a holiday break. It would be one thing if the meeting was to approve a safe camping/safe parking site, or to streamline approval for affordable housing in Culver City-something that would help our unhoused families, children, veterans, victims of domestic violence, and other community members before the holidays. But the solution that is at hand is to remove our most marginalized neighbors simply so they are out of sight, and criminalize those who have no other place to go.”

At the meeting, Mayor Albert Vera said that he was sad some members of the council, past and present, felt the need to take to social media with talk of “sweeps.”

Public comments were split fairly evenly, with people getting equally passionate whether talking about the safety of housed residents or the need to treat unhoused residents humanely. One speaker said that this ordinance is inhumane. Another referred to those affected by homelessness as “barely human.” There were 69 speakers in all.

“[The council majority] provided direction to start enforcing again anti-camping laws in parks,”wrote Puza on social media afterwards. “Note: enforcement means policing despite them saying they believe in providing services and housing as their priority. If that were true, why wouldn’t they lead with that?”

In the end, the vote was 3-1 to direct staff to draft an ordinance based on the one employed in Santa Monica (as opposed to the one in Los Angeles). This will include direction on safe camping and parking areas. Staff has until the end of January, and the item will be back before the council in 2023.