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Southern California Cities Pass, Enforce Anti-Camping Laws to Reduce Homeless Encampments

Culver City has now joined Santa Monica in banning camping in public spaces in advance of a now-affirmative vote by Los Angeles’ city council on February 15 to significantly expand enforcement of its own anti-camping ordinance.

While federal courts have found it unconstitutional to ban individuals from sleeping on public property, including sidewalks, ordinances banning the use of setting up of tents, not just pillows and sleeping bags, continue to be a legal means of limiting the size and scope of homeless encampments. In November 2022, Santa Monica adopted such a measure, which served as model legislation for Culver City’s February 13 ordinance. 

Though Santa Monica’s ordinance was the product of a growing homeless problem, Culver City’s ordinance was motivated by Los Angeles’ expected enforcement agenda — city leaders feared that if Los Angeles were to begin enforcing camping bans in the areas around the city’s borders, that those refusing services and enforcement would “just cross the street into Culver City.” 

Culver City also directed that enforcement be deferred until a 73 unit supportive housing facility, 40-person safe-camping site on a city-owned parking lot, and long-term agreements with motels to provide temporary housing are active later in 2023. 

With Los Angeles’ adoption of anti-camping enforcement in the areas immediately surrounding Culver City the next day, significant portions of Los Angeles County, which has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the United States, are undergoing a significant change in homeless encampment policy.

Under these new enforcement measures, city staff offer shelter and housing opportunities, post notice in areas where enforcement is imminent, offer to store homeless individuals’ belongings, remove any lasting encampment material beyond an individuals’ bedding, and issue citations for noncompliance. Police officers are not able to take individuals into custody for non-compliance with these ordinances.