L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

In mid-Decem­ber, Karen Bass was sworn in as may­or in Los , the first woman may­or in city his­to­ry. Lead­ers across the were quick to express sup­port when Bass declared a state of emer­gency relat­ed to home­less­ness and launched the Inside Safe , with the inten­tion of off the street and into tem­po­rary hous­ing in city-leased prop­er­ties. actions, tak­en dur­ing the new may­or’s first week in office, sig­naled her inten­tion to ensure a path to hous­ing the unhoused.

In Los Ange­les Coun­ty, near­ly 70,000 peo­ple expe­ri­ence home­less­ness. Bass’s office have to con­tend with struc­tur­al and juris­dic­tion­al pecu­liar­i­ties that lim­it her reach in a region that is noto­ri­ous­ly dif­fi­cult to gov­ern. One such pecu­liar­i­ty is the make­up of a place that is often referred to col­lec­tive­ly as “Los Ange­les,” but is actu­al­ly a mashup of small­er cities with their own gov­ern­ing bod­ies.

The City of Los Ange­les is the largest munic­i­pal­i­ty in Los Ange­les Coun­ty, but it encom­pass­es less than 4 mil­lion of the region’s near­ly 10 mil­lion res­i­dents. The rest live in cities like San­ta Mon­i­ca, Bev­er­ly Hills, and Cul­ver City, all of which have their own may­ors and city coun­cils that gov­ern inde­pen­dent­ly.

For Bass and her stat­ed , this presents an impos­ing obsta­cle. House­less­ness is a region­al issue and, despite wide recog­ni­tion of the chal­lenges asso­ci­at­ed with tru­ly address­ing the prob­lem, local gov­ern­ments tend to work in silos and arrive at very dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions about how to address home­less­ness with­in their respec­tive bor­ders. This prob­lem is illus­trat­ed by the sto­ry of one long-stand­ing encamp­ment that strad­dles the bor­der between the City of L.A. and Cul­ver City.

An Underpass in the Middle

The peo­ple who live under the 405 Free­way under­pass on Venice Boule­vard have faced a lot of scruti­ny from the sur­round­ing housed . In 2020 and 2021, a series of tent fires and vio­lent crimes thrust the encamp­ment into the spot­light. Local news cov­er­age focused on issues of safe­ty and clean­li­ness in the , with one arti­cle going so far as to be titled “A win­dow into the night­mare of liv­ing next to the 405 under­pass.” Pub­lic dis­course focused on clear­ing the encamp­ments, with debate cen­ter­ing on ser­vices for folks who are dis­placed ver­sus enforce­ment. Yet the real­i­ty of this par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion has proven much more com­plex than whether to force res­i­dents to relo­cate or not.

This encamp­ment, one of the largest on L.A.‘s West­side, is .…

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