Frequently Asked Questions About “41.18”


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What is the law commonly referred to as “41.18”?

Section 41.18 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) makes it illegal to “sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or other public way.” 

This ordinance — and the general approach of trying to legislate homelessness away — has been the cornerstone of the City’s failed approach to homelessness. Despite a history of litigation over the ordinance, and despite proof that it is a costly failure, the City of Los Angeles is doubling down on this ordinance. The City Council recently voted to revise, reinstate and dramatically expand the use of 41.18 in July 2021.

Mike was one of two votes against the new 41.18. You can watch his comments here.

What specifically does the new 41.18 do and not do?

The City already had an ordinance on the books making it illegal to sleep, sit or lie in a manner that blocks pedestrian access. The City also has an entirely separate ordinance prohibiting sleeping or camping in a public park. 

Without actually doing anything to address homelessness, the revised 41.18 expands prohibited areas to include: within 2 feet of any fire hydrant, within 5 feet of any operational entrance or exit; and within 10 feet of a loading dock or driveway.  The ordinance also allows the Council to include, by resolution, areas within 500 feet of a range of locations, including overpasses, underpasses, freeway ramps, tunnels, bridges, pedestrian bridges, subways, washes or spreading grounds, railroad tracks,  schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries, and any placed deemed to be a threat to public health or safety. The Council can also pass resolutions to prohibit sleeping within 1000 feet of any place opened since 2018 that provides shelter, safe sleeping, safe parking or navigation centers for persons experiencing homelessness.

That means the City Council can prohibit sleeping in massive areas of the city at a time when the city has shelter beds for less than 40% of the people living on the streets. As you can see in the map below, in which areas, where 41.18 could be enforced by resolution, are marked in grey, the only places remaining for unhoused neighbors to go if 41.18 were fully applied to the Westside would be farther into residential neighborhoods.

Why does Mike think this ordinance is such a bad idea? 

Mike strongly agrees that people should not be living on our streets — and he knows that ordinances like 41.18 are the least successful and most expensive way to deal with the problem. The City spends a fortune trying to legislate homelessness away, and it never works. It pushes people and encampments from one neighborhood to the other, pushing them further from needed services or housing. It actually makes the problem worse.

This City Council just approved spending $2 million just to make and install signs to enforce the law. Instead of spending millions to push people a few blocks away, why not use the money on things that get people out of encampments and indoors permanently? 

How is the ordinance supposed to work?

Before posting signs prohibiting sleeping in a given area, the City Council must show that street engagement has taken place and shelter has been offered to everyone in the affected area. The signs must be posted for at least 2 weeks before enforcement can begin.

Well, that sounds good. What’s the problem? 

The reality is a lot different.

When the City Council passed this ordinance, it promised to also approve a new street engagement strategy, with appropriate resources, to make sure everyone was offered a safe place to sleep indoors. The Council almost immediately backtracked significantly on that, watered-down any promises, and failed to produce the housing and shelter.

The City Council also buried a series of proposals made by Mike to make the street engagement real, and commit real resources to it. He proposed that:

  1. A valid offer of shelter or housing must be made by a caseworker, outreach worker, or health professional — not by law enforcement, sanitation, council staff, or others
  2. A valid offer of shelter or housing must be appropriate for the needs of the individual (such as youth accommodations for transition-aged youth, family facilities for unhoused families with children, domestic violence beds for survivors of domestic violence)
  3. A valid offer of shelter or interim housing must be matched with a long-term housing resource, such as a housing voucher, rental subsidy, or permanent supportive housing unit.
  4. Transportation to shelter or interim housing must be provided by a non-law enforcement service, and admission to said housing must be authorized by the operator in advance of such transit
  5. Adequate storage for belongings must be provided to those being transported or directed to placements
  6. Families and partners and social units must be allowed to stay intact in interim placements
  7. Individuals should be offered alternatives to congregate shelters, if desired, when CDC or Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines are advising against congregate accommodations

None of those proposals were approved, making the “offers” of places to go very hollow indeed.

So what does Mike want to do to actually deal with this crisis? What’s happening on our streets is unacceptable.

Mike has consistently fought for and demonstrated a successful way to help get people off the streets permanently.  Over the summer, his Venice Beach Encampments to Homes program brought 213 people indoors, and already 49 of them have found permanent housing. He just replicated that program in Westchester Park, helping bring indoors nearly 100 people living there. Those approaches provide a permanent solution to homelessness, and return park space to public use.

Despite fierce opposition that has sued, appealed and protested to stop solutions, Mike has been one of the most determined, thoughtful public officials fighting the homelessness crisis. He has been the leading voice for fast nimble solutions to homelessness, and has created projects to house people and save lives. You can read more at https://11thdistrict.com/issues/homelessness/

What is Mike doing to make things happen faster?

During the Venice Beach Encampments to Homes effort, Mike showed that with real, dedicated resources we can move people out of encampments, indoors, and on a path to permanent housing. He has proposed a way to expand that program citywide. It is part of an effort called Housing Now. https://11thdistrict.com/housingnow/

Housing Now would have the city and county work together to build on a successful county program — the Flexible Housing Subsidy program — which provides rent subsidies and master leased units to house people quickly, with needed services. 

Mike has been pushing for the City to partner with the County on this program since 2015. It is smart, fast, effective and cost-effective, likely less expensive than shelters, tiny homes, or other interventions. The county program is fast, allowing people to get off the streets almost as quickly as they yes, and get access to services that help with any significant health, mental health and other needs.

Does Los Angeles make it too comfortable to live on the streets? Don’t we need more enforcement to coax people to come inside?

Being unhoused is not comfortable. It is a series of traumas piling upon one another. Up to 5 people per day are dying unhoused in Los Angeles County. They are seniors, veterans, foster youth, families that can no longer make rent, people fleeing domestic violence. 

Part of the problem is that Los Angeles offers too few alternatives to the streets, and many of those alternatives are inadequate or present barriers that prevent people from using them. Congregate shelters are risky during the pandemic. Co-ed facilities may be unsafe or uncomfortable for someone fleeing domestic violence. Many facilities do not allow couples to stay together, or do not let people bring their pets or belongings. Many facilities are far from where people may have a support system, including medical providers. Los Angeles needs to provide better, healthier, safer, more welcoming and more appropriate alternatives to living on the streets.

How do we know enforcement does not work?

Time and time again, when local jurisdictions enforce laws targeting homeless people, homeless encampments are temporarily displaced and then return and grow larger as more people have fewer places to go. In fact, both academic research into the issue and evidence from experiences of those living on the street make clear: criminalization is a failed strategy. 

Some recent examples of how criminalization has failed include: 

  • Yale University School of Law report: “Forced into Breaking the Law – This 2016 report finds that criminalization is “unnecessary, costly, and counterproductive.” The study concluded that “criminalizing homelessness keeps people in a detrimental cycle of citations, imprisonment, and homelessness that makes it even more arduous to secure resources to help them get back on their feet. The federal government recognizes that fining individuals does nothing to get them off the street and has incorporated ending criminalization into national policies that address homelessness. Laws criminalizing homelessness correlate with higher rates of hate crimes and violence perpetrated against those experiencing homelessness. They are also expensive. Many studies have found that it costs far more to jail people than to provide housing solutions.”
  • National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty –  In 2019, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty published a report titled “House Keys Not Handcuffs,” which compiled a growing body of research comparing the cost of homelessness – including the cost of criminalization – with the cost of providing housing to homeless people. This thorough look at research shows that ending homelessness though housing is the most affordable option over the long run, and the report includes summaries of studies demonstrating the cost ineffectiveness of criminalization approaches as compared with housing solutions to homelessness
  • ACLU Report: “Outside the Law” – In a scathing report released in October 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union cited case studies from throughout California of how policies attempting to criminalize homelessness have failed to address the problem. 

Does 41.18 affect homeless encampments in city parks? 

No. Rules for parks are covered by a separate section of the city’s municipal code and the revisions to 41.18 do not affect rules regarding encampments in city parks. It is currently illegal to camp in a city park.

What else is being done to end homelessness on the Westside? 

Mike has been saying for years that we need a wide menu of solutions to our homelessness crisis, and other government officials are finally listening and we are gaining traction. 

Mike has proposed: 

  • adopting social housing models effective internationally, 
  • expanding the motel conversion ordinance to apply to office buildings, 
  • expanding Project Roomkey, 
  • further converting motel stock into permanent supportive housing, 
  • expanding our coastal affordability protections, 
  • adopting a blanket pandemic eviction moratorium, 
  • expanding our partnership with successful supportive rehousing programs at the County level, 
  • expanding Encampments to Homes citywide, 
  • enacting a penalty on empty homes, house flipping, and out-of-state transactions; 
  • that the City use its pandemic emergency powers and federal emergency funds to create social housing, that the renters who need aid the most be first to receive it; 
  • using federal funding to expand veterans’ housing, 
  • a Homes Guarantee legislative package that will create the housing needed to ensure everyone has a place to live; 
  • and in the face of inaction, Mike called for Los Angeles to enter into a consent decree with a Federal, a legal structure that would compel action to create suitable shelter. 

For a more detailed list of Mike’s ongoing work to end homelessness, please visit 11thdistrict.com/issues/homelessness

Is there enough housing to accommodate people who are experiencing homelessness?

No. A count conducted in January and published last week by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) found that the city has 24,689 units of permanent supportive housing available to people experiencing homelessness. While that only accounts for the most deeply subsidized form of affordable housing, reserved for people with certain disabilities, LAHSA officials say that LA County as a whole is short about 500,000 affordable apartments compared to the need. The last homeless count found about 41,000 people living on the city’s streets and in its shelters.

Will Mike propose 41.18 resolutions on the Westside? 

Mike is focusing on creating the suitable alternatives we need to end homelessness in Los Angeles and is not considering the introduction of any 41.18 resolutions on the Westside until the street engagement strategy has been made real and we are able to answer the simple question “where should people go?”