Los Angeles City Councilmembers suggested today that nearby cities are deliberately steering homeless residents onto the streets of Los Angeles.
Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino say other cities are enforcing laws against sleeping in public, which makes residents lacking shelter more likely to decamp to the sidewalks of LA.
“It is maddening to hear reports from unhoused neighbors about how they are forbidden by police in neighboring cities from sleeping on sidewalks there and are directed to Los Angeles sidewalks,” Bonin said in a statement.
In a motion introduced today—the day after an annual homelessness count showed a 16 percent increase in the city of Los Angeles’s unhoused population—Bonin and Buscaino propose that the city investigate whether neighboring cities are complying with a 2018 court decision allowing unhoused residents to sleep on public property when other indoor housing isn’t available.
“In theory, no city in the region should be allowed to criminalize sleeping on the sidewalk unless there is an alternative,” reads the motion.
As the councilmembers point out in the motion, these tactics may feed into perceptions held by some Los Angeles residents that those without housing are arriving from outside communities.
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, more than 75 percent of unhoused LA County residents were living in Southern California when they became homeless.
Not included in the agency’s most recent homeless count, which measured 36,300 unhoused residents in the city of Los Angeles, is data on how often those experiencing homelessness migrate between cities. However, the city of Los Angeles is home to a disproportionate share of those unhoused.
The city has 40 percent of the county’s total population, but more than 60 percent of those experiencing homelessness can be found within city limits.
Bonin spokesperson David Graham Caso tells Curbed that the councilmember’s office has received “anecdotal reports” of law enforcement shuffling residents living on the sidewalks of Culver City and Lomita into Los Angeles.
If approved, the motion introduced Wednesday would also direct LA’s city attorney to consult with the City Council on legal options to force other cities to comply with the court decision.
Bonin and Buscaino argue that allowing people to sleep on sidewalks in some cities but not others limits the possibility of a regionwide response to the homeless crisis and shifts the burden of addressing it to Los Angeles.
“If we’re going to end this crisis once and for all,” said Buscaino Wednesday, “all cities need to step up and do their part to provide housing and services for their most vulnerable residents, not just push them out.”