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Mayor Eric Garcetti says he’d only reinforce sidewalk sleeping ban near homeless shelters

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That clarifies earlier statements he made

Photo by David McNew, Getty Images

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday clarified his position on reinforcing the city’s ban on sleeping overnight on sidewalks, a 50-year-old law targeting homeless residents and homeless encampments.

“I have no plans to do that anytime soon,” he told reporters, stepping back a bit from earlier comments he made to the Los Angeles Times.

Last month, he told the newspaper’s editorial board that the law was “a tool that we have before us, that we can and will use.”

The ban—which a federal appeals court once deemed “cruel and unusual”—hasn’t been enforced since 2007 as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union. That year, the City Council agreed to allow sleeping on the sidewalks from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. until it built 1,250 units of low-cost housing, according to the New York Times.

The mayor said Wednesday that the city has the “legal authority” to begin reinforcing the ban, because it has met the requirements of the settlement.

If the city does decide to reinforce the ban, he said, it would “only be around areas where the city has built shelters.”

Garcetti used a soon-to-open shelter on a city-owned parking lot in Downtown LA’s El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument as an example. That shelter will house 45 homeless residents in trailers and will be a “bridge” toward permanent supportive housing.

“I think that if we say, ‘Okay this is available for all of you... and there’s still people who refuse to [move in], then enforce the sidewalks around those two blocks,” he said. “But the idea that police are going to start going to sidewalks right now and say, ‘move along,’ as a policy, that would not help us at all.”

Authorities are scrambling to put an end to LA’s homeless crisis. The El Pueblo project is just one of more than a dozen proposed emergency shelters proposed across the city.

There are more than 31,000 homeless residents living in the city of Los Angeles, and 6,473 people live in tents and makeshift shelters, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. An additional 8,980 people live in cars, vans, and campers; the city has rules against that too.

With the Super Bowl, Olympics, and maybe the World Cup coming to Los Angeles, homeless advocates fear the city may ramp up policing of the homeless to clean up the streets—instead of focusing on longterm solutions.

Garcetti acknowledged that Wednesday, saying: “Criminalizing homelessness or petty infractions doesn’t do a lot to solve homelessness.”

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly reported the date of the settlement with the ACLU. It was 2007, not 2013.