LA's new fire enforcement ordinance lets cops remove homeless people from high risk areas

Traffic flows south on the 405 freeway, but northbound lanes are closed, December 6, 2017 Photo credit: Saul Gonzalez

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced an ordinance that would allow authorities to move people out of homeless encampments in high-risk fire zones. Last month a brush fire in the Sepulveda Basin displaces 100 homeless people. And when the 2017 Skirball fire that ripped through affluent Bel Air was determined by city officials to be started by an encampment’s cooking fire, it sparked conversations about economic inequality around the country.

The City Council voted in favor of the clearing ordinance this week, and say that the move will improve preventative measures for keeping people safe during wildfires. Currently, the fire code requires that “No Trespassing” signs be posted every 600 feet to prevent encampments in restricted zones.

“This amendment to the fire code ordinance will enable us to have the ability to have law enforcement go in and provide personal notice in areas that are already restricted from public access,” said City Council member Monica Rodriguez, who’s district includes several high fire risk areas.

The new ordinance would allow law enforcement to alert people in encampments to move when they deem it necessary. But critics say that it could leave room for abuses of power.

“Unfortunately because of the threats that they pose, law enforcement will have the ability to go out and let them know that they are trespassing,” Rodriguez says. “Should they refuse to leave, that’s when they would engage in the next step of being arrested for trespassing.”

Council Rodriguez says that people who dispaced by the enforcement could seek through outreach by officials.

“I suggested that we actually provide a Homeless Connect Day so that they would have shower services and all of those wraparound support services that we can connect them to very directly outside of that encampment area,” Rodriguez said.

A recent audit by the L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin found that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which is tasked with moving people from the streets into housing had failed to meet the goals of its contract with the city.



Cerise Castle