April 18, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Column: The Rule of Law – 41.18, Erin Darling and Traci Park

A lot has been made the past couple of years about justice and public safety in Los Angeles. Emotions run so high on all sides of the issue that communication about any specifics are often so fraught with volatile reactions that shouting substitutes for conversation almost immediately.

I wanted to step outside the rancor for a moment and look at one ordinance passed into law by the City Council.

The law is 41.18. What the heck is that, you might be asking, as I was after having seen and heard it referred to countless times in the CD11 council race, always without explanation. The promo for the recent Palisades debate is exactly what I’m talking about: The promo states that Traci Park is in favor of this law being adhered to, and Erin Darling is against it.

I don’t know about you, but that statement tells me exactly nothing about the candidates. So, I decided to read the ordinance itself.

41.18, it seems, was passed overwhelmingly by the City Council 11-3. Among the minority no votes were Mike Bonin and Democratic Socialists of America sponsored councilperson, Nythia Raman.

Mike Bonin said the ordinance was telling people “you can’t be homeless,” and many others have characterized the ordinance as criminalizing homelessness. Supporters of the ordinance claim it merely establishes common sense minimum protections for communities impacted by homelessness.

I Googled the text of the ordinance to measure these claims against the bill’s actual content. 

What I found:

  1. No person shall obstruct a street, sidewalk or public right of way….in a manner that impedes passage, as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The disabilities act requires a 3’ minimum passageway for a wheelchair. Where sidewalks are narrow and there is no parkway, this portion of the ordinance would make camping unfeasable. Where the sidewalk is very wide, such as along Venice Boulevard, or where there is a parkway between the sidewalk and the street, camping would not be impacted. Traci Park, yes! Erin Darling, no!
  2. no person shall: sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain, or place personal property….(up to a maximum of 500 feet) of a property designated as a sensitive use. A sensitive use is defined as a Public Park or Public Library. Traci Park, yes! Erin Darling, no!
  3. no person shall: sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain, or place personal property (up to a maximum of 1,000 feet) of a designated facility….that provides shelter, safe sleeping, or safe parking to homeless persons, or that serves as a homeless service navigation center. Traci Park, yes! Erin Darling, no!
  4. no person shall: sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain, or place personal property within 500 feet of a School or Day Care Center. Traci Park, yes! Erin Darling, no!

There are other provisions of the ordinance which mostly deal with persistent life threatening activity, but in general I found no evidence to support the purported harms opponents of the ordinance were claiming. Specifically:

  1. Criminalizing Homelessness. In no way does the ordinance do this. Violation of the ordinance does not rise above the level of a misdemeanor, and jail time is nowhere stipulated in the ordinance. 
  2. Mike Bonin’s claim that the ordinance makes it impossible to be homeless. Again, in the ordinance itself, I found this not to be true at all. The ordinance does not make most areas of the city off-limits to homeless camping or sleeping. The ordinance merely would preclude a homeless person camping or sleeping in stipulated sensitive areas. It also precludes camping or sleeping in such a way that would prevent disabled people from getting around the city. Being homeless and sleeping or camping in any part of the city other than the limitednareas stipulated in the ordinance are wide open for camping and sleeping on the ground.

My take away is that the ordinance is not intended to either cure homelessness or make homelessness illegal. It merely establishes a minimal set of boundaries that would allow residents to more safely go about their lives in highly sensitive locations, while also providing reasonable protections for homeless people who are seeking services.

After reading the ordinance, I feel the fact that Traci Park would uphold the law while Erin Darling has repeatedly stated that he intends to block it, clearly differentiates the two candidates. People will draw their own conclusions based on the facts in this case, but at least the candidate’s starkly divergent positions on this issue afford the voters an unmistakably clear choice in this election.

-Barry Cassilly

in News
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