CCDC Members Oppose Proposed Anti-Camping Ordinance

[A special city council meeting was called to consider a new local ban on camping by homeless people. These public comments were made by CCDC members and addressed to the newly-elected Culver City Council (either in writing or in person) at the December 21 meeting. The Council voted 3 to 1 to put the proposed ordinance on the agenda.]

Bubba Fish

Good evening Mayor Vera and Councilmembers, My name is Bubba Fish, I serve as the Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on Housing & Homelessness.

I am here not on behalf of the committee because the committee has not been consulted on this ordinance.

I consider being on this committee a privilege. I believe that all of us on the committee, even those I may disagree with, are volunteering their time to help the Council make decisions on these matters.

And we never gave a recommendation to explore an anti-camping ordinance.

We did however recommend that Council fund safe camping, safe parking, direct housing, expedite housing production, and other proven solutions to care for our unhoused populations and get them into housing. We have also advised to fund more housing staff to be able to run these programs. To my knowledge we currently have less than five full-time city staff devoted to housing the unhoused. Compare that to the 160+ person police department. Our focus thus far has been on enforcement.

The anti-camping ordinances like the one being discussed and 41.18 are proven to fail.

Data from LAHSA shows that since 2019, taxpayers have spent $150M sweeping over 30,000 unsheltered individuals. Less than 10 percent are moved at that point into a homeless shelter, and less than 1 percent (or less than 300) were moved into permanent housing. All of that time, money, and energy spent and still homelessness increased 15 percent since the pandemic began.

The other 90 percent of interactions between homeless individuals and the sweeps team resulted in a return to the streets or a “loss of contact.”

So what happens to those folks? They’re right back on the street. They’re back at square one.

I called 2-1-1 this Monday because an unhoused person asked me to help them shelter for the night and was told there were no more beds available that night. No more beds available in the entire county.

We have zero safe parking sites.

We have zero safe camping sites.

We have zero permanent supportive housing units for unhoused individuals ready. The ones we’re building will provide 78 units, serving just 21 percent of our unhoused population.

Simply criminalizing being unhoused will not change those facts.

So I simply have to ask, where are these people supposed to go? If your answer is a housing solution that has not been created yet, that is not an answer.

The fact that we are having a conversation about criminalizing something when some folks have no other choice available to them, shows a lack of seriousness. I encourage you to focus on proven solutions—not ineffective band-aids that may placate some of your constituents but only cause harm and exacerbate this crisis.

Danny Young

I’m grateful for this opportunity to address the Hackman Capital City Council today.

I’d like to read a short quote:

“…The majestic quality of the law … prohibits the wealthy as well as the poor from sleeping under the bridges.”

That’s in Chapter 7 of The Red Lily by Anatole France —1894.

Proposing to sweep what little shelter the poorest among us are allowed to possess, and sending
them out to wander the streets cold and alone, is an absolute disgrace.

This isn’t about helping the poor find housing, this is about relocating visible poverty from the fragile eyes of some of the most pampered and privileged people in human history. The hand-wringing suburbanites of Culver City, who, in the face of the most catastrophic crisis of poverty in our life-times, consider THEMSELVES the victims.

When you’re home this Christmas with your families, in your warm, million-dollar houses, comfortable and oblivious, make sure you spare a moment to remember the people you are condemning to death on the street, having done NOTHING for them.

I recommend you search your souls and find God. You are lost.

Disa Lindgren

Good evening, Mayor Vera, and members of the city council,

This is a holiday season for many; a time for gratitude, and for spreading love and joy. Among those who observe the Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and/or Christmas, something we have in common is a celebration of light and community. It is meant to be a time of empathy and care for others.

Today, December 21st, is National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, when we remember all of our unhoused neighbors who have died during the past year. It is wrong that in 2022 people in such an affluent community are relegated to living and dying on our streets because our society has failed them.

This can change. The solution is to provide adequate resources—for staff, housing plus supportive services, and the funding to make this possible—so that the currently-under-renovation Project Homekey dwellings can open and welcome residents, AND to open safe parking and safe camping areas in Culver City.

This has all been thoroughly explored during the past several years and it is doable. As our elected representatives, it is up to you to make sure our unhoused residents are accorded the respect they deserve as human beings to live in dignity and with care, as needed.

We cannot focus on temporary shelter to the exclusion of permanent affordable supportive housing to make a lasting difference. So much time, effort, and money have gone into Project Homekey, and it would be awful to undermine the relationships and trust that have been built through outreach to date, not to mention harmful to our unhoused neighbors, disrespectful to staff, and wasteful of resources.

Another anti-camping ordinance will not achieve this. Sweeps hurt unhoused people and we should be ashamed as a community that they are being considered at all, especially during a season that is meaningful only inasmuch as it is about caring for one another.

I implore you to come up with a decent and effective response, and actually make it possible for our homeless neighbors to become housed.

Karim Sahli

You said, “Start with shelter and services,” but instead of investing in proven solutions, you are asking for an anti-camping ordinance, which requires expensive and harmful police enforcement. This is not compassion; this is cruelty.

Some say “help the elderly,” but the one fast-growing segment of unhoused neighbors ARE the elderly. And you will harm them. This is not compassion; this is cruelty.

As our County Supervisor said, this measure is unhelpful and a waste of resources. And you will undermine the work of our own staff by destroying trust. This is not compassion; this is cruelty.

If you want real solutions, rebalance the budget, and don’t punish the poor. This is not compassion; this is cruelty.

Meghan Sahli-Wells

It takes a special kind of cruelty to interrupt the holidays to target the poorest among us. And it takes truly twisted logic to conclude that pouring money into a police-response model to criminalize homelessness is the actual answer to this statewide humanitarian crisis.

The model ordinances you have proposed in this agenda do nothing less. Without enforcement there is no anti-camping ordinance. So if you don’t want to criminalize homelessness—then don’t pass one.

By pursuing the anti-camping approach you are diverting staff time and precious public resources in order to take away tents in the dead of winter instead of investing in real solutions—raising wages, protecting renters, building housing, and providing the services that actually work. Sweeps are not solutions.

Under the false premise that LA will send its houseless residents to Culver City over the holidays—this emergency meeting and proposed ordinance are fear-based and regressive. Pursue people-focused solutions—not cruelty.

Olga Lexell

According to a Boston University study, each sweep on an encampment increases the chances of dying for the people who live there by up to forty percent each time for the next nine months following the sweep, and overall health care expenses are ten to twenty percent more than if they had never been displaced from the encampment. There is a lot of research coming out about the failure of these types of ordinances. Preliminary research on section 41.18 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code sweeps program shows only one percent of people have come off the streets as a result.

Stephen Jones

Good morning. I was surprised that the staff report on a potential anti-camping ordinance doesn’t cover how camping is already made illegal under the Culver City Municipal Code.

Regarding camping:

• No person shall store personal property, including camp facilities and camp paraphernalia, within any public park or upon any public property.

• CAMP FACILITIES include, but are not limited to, tents, huts or temporary shelters

• CAMP PARAPHERNALIA includes, but is not limited to, tarpaulins, cots, beds, sleeping bags, hammocks, cooking facilities and similar equipment.

And regarding public nuisance:

• The City Council finds and declares that it is a public nuisance and unlawful for any person to allow, cause, create, maintain, or suffer, or permit others to maintain . . . any personal property or structure that obstructs or encroaches on, across, or over any public property, including, but not limited to, any public alley, highway, land, sidewalk, street or other right-of-way.

• Any person who causes, permits, suffers, or maintains a public nuisance, or any person who violates any provision of this Chapter, or who fails to comply with any obligation or requirement of this Chapter, is guilty of a misdemeanor offense.

There’s no study needed. We already have laws on the books that make encampments illegal, so there’s no need for a hastily scheduled meeting to figure out how to make them illegal. That’s not an emergency.

The emergency is that hundreds of Culver City residents have no choice other than to live on the street, during the coldest time of year, and more people die of hypothermia in LA than in SF and NY combined. We know for a fact that “cleanups” and anti-camping enforcement make this problem worse, not better.

Looking to our neighboring cities is not the answer when we’re seeing that LA’s ordinance, by far the most draconian of those reviewed (even “sitting” is outlawed), totally fails at getting people off the streets and into housing.

This evidence belies the statement in the staff report that “cost of enforcement may also be offset by a reduced future need for periodic encampment cleanups and emergency service response.” (In contrast, one study found that providing permanent supportive housing, without preconditions, kept people housed for ninety percent of the days in the four-year study period and resulted in significant decrease in emergency service use.)

This emergency could be met, in part, with targeted short-term solutions like providing emergency cold weather shelter, safe camping sites, or even distribution of safe burn bins. But the only thing that has ever worked to get people off the streets and keep them off the streets is to provide permanent supportive housing. And there’s nowhere near enough of it.

It’s not fast. It’s not flashy. But it’s the one thing that we know works.