Los Angeles City Council Approves Ban on Sleeping in Cars

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 14, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved a measure that would effectively prohibit individuals from sleeping in their cars in any residential area, or near schools and parks. Although the measure was approved by the city council, it still needs to be signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The new measure, if approved by Garcetti, would replace a prior ban that was put into place in the 1980s that was stuck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a couple years ago.

What the Law Would Prohibit

The new measure would prohibit individuals from sleeping in their cars near schools, parks, and residential areas. If passed, individuals would be allowed to sleep in their cars in business and industrial areas. Currently, Los Angeles allows individuals to sleep in their cars, as the prior prohibition was struck down, although various areas have passed initiatives restricting it.

Oddly, the LA Times story explains, the legal term "dwelling" is being redefined in this measure to include activities like possessing a blanket, or preparing a meal in your car. So, the measure could affect drivers just trying to get some rest or refuel while on the road. And what's even stranger is that because of a prior lawsuit, sleeping on the sidewalk next to the car would be legal, but not inside the car.

Pros and Cons

Proponents believe the measure would help to stem problems with the crime, noise, and unsanitary conditions associated with homelessness in areas where families dwell and children go to school.

Opponents believe the measure will effectively criminalize non-criminal behavior and exacerbate the homeless problem by forcing those living in their cars into unsafe areas. One of the primary concerns for the opponents of this law is that it targets the homeless population with a new regulation that will make being homeless even more difficult. Prohibiting a recently homeless single mother from sleeping in her car during the day by her child's school is just one of the more compelling examples of the negative effects this law can have.

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