The local government in Culver City, California, is facing criticism this week after city council members passed a sweeping ban on tent encampments in an effort to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets.
Culver City is one of 88 cities within Los Angeles County – the most populous county in the U.S.
Within the county, each city has the ability to create its own laws affecting homeless residents, which has led in recent months to a mix of rules that vary mile-by-mile.
“All these laws do is they push people from one location to another. This patchwork of regulations is nearly impossible for unhoused people to actually navigate,” said Shayla Myers, a senior attorney who focuses on housing with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
Located just north of Los Angeles International Airport, Culver City is a wealthy enclave within the greater LA area that has ties to moviemaking history and is home to Sony Picture Studios, formerly the massive MGM production lot.
While the city of Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million, Culver City’s population is only about 40,000. Overall, the population of LA County is a whopping 9.8 million.
There are roughly 69,000 people experiencing homelessness in the LA County, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Culver City ban takes tougher approach than city of LA, LA County
- Culver City’s ban spans the city, whereas there is no ban on tents that applies to the entire city of LA.
- There is no countywide prohibition on tents in LA County.
- Throughout the city of LA, Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe program is moving people from encampments to motel and hotel rooms without police being directly involved.
- Under Culver City’s ban, people who erect tents in prohibited areas will receive citations for breaking the law, according to the ordinance.
- Culver City’s government says it still needs to create more temporary housing, open one sanctioned camp site and make a deal with motels to secure rooms. At that point, police can fully enforce the tent ban, according to the ordinance.
LA County jurisdictions that have passed bans on sleeping, camping
- In February 2023, LA City Council’s 2nd District, which includes North Hollywood, passed a resolution banning sitting, lying or sleeping under certain freeways.
- In January 2023, LA City Council’s 11th District, which borders Culver City, passed a resolution banning sitting, lying or sleeping in parks across the district.
- In November 2022, Santa Monica reissued a decades-old ban on camping in public spaces. The local government classifies “camping” as erecting a tent, hut, cots, beds, hammocks or any other “temporary physical shelter” for the purpose of living accommodations.
- In August 2022, the LA City Council approved a ban on encampments within 500 feet of schools and day care centers.
Culver City ban does not prohibit sleeping outside
Culver City council members voted 3-2 Monday to ban temporary structures, tents, cots and beds, modeling their prohibition on the one in Santa Monica.
But the city will not prohibit “the use of sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, or similar bedding while sleeping on public property,” the ordinance says.
In the ordinance, Culver City council members acknowledge that banning sleeping outside when there is not shelter space available has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Cities are working hard to figure out how close to constitutional limits they can get to be as restrictive as possible to force people to leave their jurisdictions,” Myers said.