LOS ANGELES — Much like Los Angeles’ mayoral race last year, a special election being held on April 4 in the city’s 6th District is also coming down to one key issue that’s been plaguing LA: homelessness.
The special election was called to replace former LA City Council President Nury Martinez, who resigned in the wake of a scandal involving leaked audio recordings, in which Martinez was heard making racist remarks.
Community organizer Katherine Tattersfield is canvassing for one of the candidates in the District 6 race — and she’s doing it in a 41.18 zone. The city’s 41.18 ordinance prohibits any unhoused person from camping or sleeping on sidewalks in some areas, including near schools or libraries.
Tattersfield, who has spent years fighting for the rights of her unhoused neighbors, says the law is deeply flawed.
“You’re basically just pushing people from block to block. That’s not really solving any problem, it’s not getting people off the street,” she said. “It also makes it really, really hard for unhoused people to connect with service providers that they’ve already been working with.”
But on the other side of the argument are community members fed up with encampments, and even some parents, including Deborah Yazmajian, who has a son in the fifth grade. She says because of growing encampments, she doesn’t let him walk home from school anymore.
“The reason I don’t even let him walk home is because they are right on the outskirts of the school," she said. "If he walks from school to Vineland… to the left, there’s homeless encampments, and if he walks to the right, there is.”
Yazmajian says she’s also concerned about the trash that tends to accumulate at encampment sites and believes some residents are illegally dumping at the encampments.
“Just today, I saw someone dumped their washing machine, so it’s becoming like a place where people dump their junk, and it was never like that. It’s really sad,” Yazmajian said.
As for where the candidates stand — Antoinette Scully, Isaac Kim and Marco Santana say 41.18 is flawed and they will work hard to repeal the law if elected. Meantime, Rose Grigoryan, Imelda Padilla, Douglas Sierra and Marisa Alcaraz say they acknowledge the shortcomings of 41.18 but would still enforce it on a case-by-case basis.
Ken Craft is the CEO of Hope The Mission, the leading homeless services agency in the valley. He has spent years working with city leaders to tackle homelessness. Craft admits that 41.18 is a controversial law but says there is a way to make it work.
“My thing is that we are a nation of laws,” he said. “And as a nation of laws, the law must be applied equally to all people: rich and poor… but if there is no beds, anywhere for them to go, how can you enforce anything? You can’t. We must start with the most basic of human need and that is making sure that everybody has food to eat, and everybody has a roof over their head.”
Craft says whoever wins the District 6 seat should prioritize having enough beds to house people who are homeless.
“Obviously the goal is we want to move people into permanent supportive housing, if not then we want to get them into interim housing, if we can’t get them into interim housing, we want to make sure they’re at least safe where they’re at… but we want to make sure that our neighborhoods are safe as well. So, we have to all work together,” Craft said.