The Los Angeles City Council in a 9-to-5 vote approved a resolution on Wednesday, May 10, seeking to expand the city’s anti-camping law to include encampments growing side-by-side in Woodland Hills near Trader Joe’s, a block north of Ventura Boulevard.
The encampments next to the parking lot at Trader Joe’s stretch along a block that contains a Courtyard by Marriott. According to city officials, it has drawn RVs, tents, and piles of trash to Clarendon Street along the 101 Freeway and its adjacent blocks on Alhama Drive and Comercio Way. Officials have reported criminal activity at the sites.
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who represents the area in City Council District 3, introduced the resolution to expand the city’s anti-camping law, known as section 41.18, to incorporate 5400 Alhama Drive and 5416 Comercio Way. The resolution requires city departments to post formal notices and begin enforcement once the posting period ends.
The vote was somewhat split, with five of the 15 councilmembers opposed: Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Eunisses Hernandez, Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martínez and Katy Yaroslavksy.
Jake Flynn, director of communications for Blumenfield, told City News Service, “Councilman Blumenfield does regular homeless outreach and his staff is at West Valley encampments every day. … This location has continuously gotten more problematic, and the recent criminal activity made it applicable for 41.18 buffer zones.”
The section 41.18 law allows the city to designate specified areas for enforcement to prevent sitting, laying, sleeping, storing, maintaining, placing personal property and otherwise obstructing the public right-of-way.
Salvador Vazquez, director of sales for Courtyard by Marriott in Woodland Hills, spoke during the public comment period to address the encampments behind the hotel on Clarendon Street, as well encampments on Comercio Way and Alhama Drive.
“Our hotel, along with neighboring businesses, are growing increasingly impacted by the homeless camps and their individuals. We have experienced loss of employees, guests and business because of run-ins they have experienced with the camps and individuals,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez cited concerns regarding safety and security not only for hotel guests but for the neighborhood. He called upon City Council members to expand 41.18 and address the encampment.
Others making public comments were opposed to the resolution and said it would only further criminalize unhoused individuals. Some speakers claimed that Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe program would only move those unhoused individuals to different parts of the city and fail to aid them.
According to a statement from Blumenfield’s office, the area has had “serious criminal activity” that the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed stemmed from an encampment there.
City News Service contributed to this report.