Los Angeles to Resume Towing Vehicle Encampments

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LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles will resume the parking enforcement and towing of vehicles used as dwellings on city streets—which have been suspended since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic—beginning May 15 amid increasing complaints from residents.

On April 6, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11–1 to pass a motion to resume the enforcement and towing of vehicle dwellings in violation of posted signage, with Councilwoman Nithya Raman as the lone dissenting voice and Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Gil Cedillo, and John Lee absent.

“Residents across the city have contacted my office pleading for help addressing nuisance conditions associated with RVs,” said Buscaino, who pushed for restarting parking enforcement.

He said some of the RV-related issues concerning residents include narcotic sales, fights, loud music, verbal physical threats, intimidation, dumping of wastewater in the street, blocked sightlines, suspected sex trafficking, hoarding, and accumulation of trash and large pieces of furniture.

Under the motion, vehicle dwellings deemed hazardous—including those that pose an environmental or public health hazard or have been “extensively destroyed or burned”—will also be towed immediately.

Lucy Han, a Playa del Rey resident and founder of the environmental group Friends of the Jungle, told the Epoch Times that the two dozen recreational vehicles parked in her neighborhood have led to an increase in crime, drug use, meth labs, and sex trafficking.

“It’s not safe for the public, and it’s not safe for the unhoused,” Han said.

Another Angeleno said that some vehicles in his neighborhood have been parked for so long that their engines no longer work and their tires deflate.

“Many of these RVs have simply completely stopped being vehicles,” the commenter wrote in a public comment to the council on April 3. “They have instead become a new form of housing on the streets of Los Angeles.”

The motion directs city administrators to develop a process within 30 days for officers from the city’s Department of Transportation, along with the Los Angeles Police Department, to refer people living in cars to outreach services and shelters during enforcement.

The enforcement of vehicle dwelling, along with other parking enforcement rules, was initially relaxed in March 2020 due to the city’s COVID-19 state of emergency declaration.

The city resumed general parking enforcement in October 2020, but cars being used as shelters remained exempt so “the unhoused did not meet additional burdens during a health crisis,” according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

However, the initial suspension of parking enforcement failed to distinguish abandoned vehicles suitable for towing and vehicles used as dwellings, meaning that many abandoned vehicles remained unaddressed for months.

In February, the Department of Transportation attempted to create criteria to better distinguish vehicles used as dwellings that “warrant additional engagement.”

Prior to this, the definition of vehicle dwelling was based on an officer’s observation of either a person sleeping inside a vehicle, or observations of a sleeping bag, bedroll, cooking tools, or other items that would indicate dwelling in the vehicle, according to the February Department of Transportation memorandum.

However, over time “officers [noted] that the definition is so broad that it captures vehicles that are clearly abandoned which have become a source of frustration and potential health hazards for people nearby,” according to the memo.

The department changed the criteria to require an officer to observe a vehicle and note its condition and contents for a minimum of three days—taking notes and photos—to reveal any changes in the vehicle’s contents that can serve as indicators of someone living in it.

A spokesperson for Councilman Joe Buscaino did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.

Micaela Ricaforte

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