LA councilmember — and mayoral candidate — seeks controversial homeless ballot measure

Joe Buscaino wants tougher version of recently passed ordinance targeting encampments

LA Councilmember Joe Buscaino (Getty)
LA Councilmember Joe Buscaino (Getty)

Los Angeles city councilman and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino wants voters to decide whether the city should prohibit people from sleeping on the streets after they have been offered shelter. The move comes after the Council already just passed an ordinance targeting homeless encampments.

Buscaino, who represents the 15th District that mostly encompasses the southern end, said he would seek a ballot measure on the controversial issue in next June’s elections, the Los Angeles Times reported. He intends to ask his fellow council members to move forward with the proposal, following a similar measure he introduced, and which failed. If this version doesn’t get the votes, Buscaino said he would gather the more than 60,000 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot.

“We’ve learned through experience that not everyone goes into shelter if there are no consequences for staying on the street,” he said, according to the Times. “There need to be rules banning camping citywide.”

Next June is also the mayoral primary and Buscaino has been positioning himself as a “clean streets” candidate who will pursue tougher laws regarding homeless issues. President Joe Biden nominated Mayor Eric Garcetti as U.S. ambassador to India but he has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

In July, the Council approved a citywide ban on homeless encampments near parks, libraries and other public spaces.

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Last year, Buscaino proposed the first version of that ordinance, which allowed police to clear an area as long as anyone occupying the space was offered shelter first. Council members saw it as too broad and overly aggressive. The subsequent version softens that approach; Buscaino voted for the new version but has criticized it as slow and bureaucratic.

His new ballot proposal drew quick rebukes from colleagues.

“What’s needed, and desperately so, is housing and service,” Councilmember Mark Ridely-Thomas said, the Times reported. “And so my comment to Mr. Buscaino would be: Show me the housing, Joe. Show me the housing.”

[LAT] — Trevor Bach