The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Asked Brown to Tackle Homeless Crises By Declaring a State of Emergency. Brown to L.A. “Forgetabout it.”
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Hope of the Valley….Where Everyone and Everything Gets A Second Chance!
Trek to The City on the Edge of Forever
Skip Rorshach Freedman
I rolled into Niland, California on a lightly-overcast afternoon in the middle of December. The sun is almost set, but there will easily be enough light to get to Slab City and find a suitable spot to camp tonight. The street going east out of Niland [Main Street] is little better than the washboard road that goes out to Area 51, except this is only three miles long instead of fifteen. Driving down this road you begin to get a sense of just how immense this place is. It was originally Camp Dunlap Marine Base from 1949 to 1956 (yes, they tore it down after only seven years), which explains the big concrete slabs that give the place its name. First thing you come to is Salvation Mountain on the right, some guy’s huge multicolored religious monument.
“The Last Free Place”
Moving on, there are scores of RV’s, buses, trucks and vans scattered every which way as I cruise along the dusty jarring road. Looks a lot like Burning Man, except people are more spread out here and this desert actually has some vegetation. It’s been called “The Last Free Place”, and there are good reasons for that. It’s around 50 miles southeast of Indio (itself a desolate desert metropolis) out in the middle of the Sonoran Desert and almost at the south end of the Salton Sea. There’s also no electricity [unless you make your own], running water, trash pickup, or restrooms – you pack in everything you need.
Rattling along looking for an out-of-the-way spot, I end up heading off toward the back. There are a lot of packed-dirt trails heading off in various directions. Looks like most of the better-looking vehicles are back here, so this is definitely the place to be. There are quite a few solar cell arrays and wind generators at this end of town as well. I cruise down one path and see a five-foot rise about a couple hundred yards down. The van slips a bit going up, but makes it easily to the level top. There are scrub bushes on either side, with small piles of rusted cans at their base. In fact, there’s trash like that everywhere around here. Most bushes have at least some kind of refuse under them: discarded clothes, cans, plastic bags, or heaven alone knows what.
Hopping out to stretch my legs, the temperature is in the upper 60’s with low humidity. Nice and quiet, except for about four or five dogs barking in scattered directions. It’s dark in about an hour and the full moon rises in the southeast. Occasional stars peek through the low clouds and a gas generator hums somewhere off to the north. A few campfires are going, which gives a smell of creosote to the air. Some barely audible voices drift through the light breeze, presumably from the campfires. I get back in the van, pop open a can of Ravioli, and watch a movie on the DVD player. After that I drift into a dreamless desert sleep.
Just after 7:30 in the morning I wake up to the sound of faint yelling. Cracking open my passenger window, I see some dude standing on a huge raised slab with multicolored grafitti abut a hundred yards away screaming challenges to an unknown person. He’s pacing back and forth, flailing his arms wildly, while pointing out the apparent cowardice of his rival – who appears to be entirely imaginary. Probably acute amphetamine psychosis, a meth-head burnout. Guess he just went off the deep end; isolation like this doesn’t work for everyone. Using the sighting scope, he’s short, a little stocky and wearing an Army jacket – doesn’t even look to be thirty. After about a half hour, his voice starts getting a bit hoarse, so he hops on his bicycle and heads in the direction of town. His manic threats slowly fade out into the crisp morning air.
Welcome to Slab City.
I have my usual leisurely breakfast while reading several chapters of a book, then get a little writing done on my third book. At 11:00 a pair of fighter jets from the adjacent Marine Base practice bombing runs between Slab City and the Chocolate Mountains to the east. Their sound is trailing them by at least a quarter mile or so. They head north swooping low in formation, pull up in about a 70-degree climb, then loop back the other way. After six of these exercises they fly off to the south. Show’s over.
I do a little more reading, then head over to Salvation Mountain to check it out in more detail. It’s a huge monstrosity built on the face of what’s essentually a sand dune. Mostly constructed by Leonard Knight between 1984 and 2011 (he died two years ago at age 82), it’s made of large tree trunks, intertwined branches, bales of hay, salvaged metal pieces (mostly car doors), and a lot of plaster. There are multiple rooms and grottoes at the south end. Most of the entire thing is also painted with a couple hundred gallons of salvaged latex paint of various colors. The painting still continues through sporadic volunteers. If I’d planned on hanging around longer, I would have helped out with a brush; but I’m only going to do a day here.
There are a couple of signs pointing to the library, so I follow them around the back past Camp Goonies (a collective of high-tech tinkerers) and eventually run into an unassuming building a little ways back from the road. At first glance, it looked to be little more than a small shack surrounded by trees, but it’s actually rather sizable. It’s open-ended at two sides and has a motley collection of rug pieces completely covering the sand floor. The precarious bookshelves look to harbor somewhere around a thousand books, by my estimate. I was told by the resident librarian (a way-cool dude whose name I forgot to write down) that it’s the “take a book-leave a book” system. I mentioned the Gypsy Cool website and he said that he’d run into it before. I left them several copies of my books – a lot of folks here could probably use some of the techniques described in them (which were written to help the 99%, and irritate the rest). One thing’s for sure, people definitely have a lot of time to catch up on their reading here. Not much else to do.
I made it a point to traverse each dusty dirt road in Slab City (there’s eight total, more or less), going past places like the Slab City Hostel, the Live Music place (true to its name), the Sun Works (a solar-related workshop), and the Slab City Christian Club (completely deserted, guess religion isn’t big here). There was every kind of dwelling from simple tents to semi-permanent buildings erected on abandoned concrete foundations. Occasionally, non-functioning vehicles are built directly into these structures. There’s some very inventive construction here using salvaged materials, with a lot of Burning Man influence – except I didn’t see any domes. There were a good number of big fancy RV’s, most likely nomadic Snowbirds from up north.
On the whole, the handful of people I ran into here were reasonably friendly, for California. The younger longhairs were generally more abrasive, but that’s typical these days (Libtards, maybe?). I’d guess the median age this time of year is around 45 or so. Noticed a lot of retirees sitting around in chairs here and there, and saw only two kids. A person would need to be sturdy stock to survive here long-term in these primitive conditions, especially in the summer when the temperature is said to get up to 120 degrees. Definitely count me out on that.
As I was leaving, the old guard shack for the Marine Base had “Caution: Reality Ahead” painted on the side – a very apt reminder. Slab City is definitely a state of mind. What it might lack in overall social cohesiveness, it more than makes up for in personal freedom. And that’s quite acceptable for “The Last Free Place” – probably in this entire oppressive Police State of America. I wish ya’ luck, guys. Let Freedom Ring.
Mayor Garcetti Achieves Top Honor From Website
“Most Shameful Man In The Realm”
Reports Grow of Holiday Raids on Homeless Camps
Mayor and Council Conducting Cruel Operations Against Poorest Citizens
The man who has passed laws infringing on the rights of anyone in a vehicle who is carrying a sleeping bag, blanket, or pillow has been awarded the dubious honor of “Scoundrel of the Year”, by the website of the same name, www.ScoundrelOfTheYear.com. Garcetti was up against some tough competition, but his achievement in attacking the homeless community, as well as his attempt to abolish a citizen’s right to be secure in their property has made him over the top choice as the jerk of the year. (Last year’s winners were mostly Republicans like McCain for his despicable give-away of hundreds of millions in minerals to foreign corporations and the Governor of Michigan for the Flint water fiasco.)
Reports of Raids on Homeless Camps coming in.
The fact that Garcetti beat out all other rivals is easy to see. Garcetti’s henchmen, a task force of cops and City employees are raiding homeless “camps” around the City, sweeping up all their tents, personal items, food, etc. into waiting Refuse Trucks. Nothing is more pathetic than to see some poor homeless man trying to keep his bicycle from going into a dump truck, or an old homeless woman trying to hang on to her blankets as Garcetti’s henchmen “clean up”. The fat cats at City Hall don’t have to sleep on the cement tonight. If they did, they might have a change of tune, like getting some real, basic help for those in need. Criminalizing the poor seems to be a growing trend and another way for the snarky city officials across the land to turn a profit on the situation.
New Ordinance Takes Effect January 7, 2017
Thousands Sleeping in Vehicles at Risk for Money-Grabbing Fines
“Get Out of Residential Areas” Says Mayor and Council
Goofy Garcetti Fines up to $75 for having a Pillow in your car! Is he nuts?
The Shameful Actions Against Thousands of Displaced Folks Living in Vehicles
The City of Los Angeles has done it again, launching a new campaign against anyone “dwelling” in a vehicle. The new Ordinance (Fully reproduced at the end of this article) takes effect on January 7, 2017. It shoves vehicle dwellers out of residential neighborhoods, near parks and schools, and seeks to push them either back onto the street to sleep on the cement, or shove them into “industrial or commercial” areas that are already heavily posted with signs that say “No Parking between 2am-6am”. In other words, making it very difficult to park somewhere just to sleep. Many of these vehicle dwellers work in low paying jobs and cannot afford the insane high rents in Southern California, hence they live in their vehicles.
Law Applies to Everyone, Even the Thousands of Moms and Pops Visiting Their Kids.
The local efforts to criminalize homeless and poor folks across the State and other states in this Country reveals such a sick situation of conflicting laws that it is amazing the public puts up with these loony politicians. For instance, with this new law in Los Angeles, relatives who have traveled from afar to visit their moms, dads, or other kin, cannot park their RVs in residential neighborhoods. Many cities have also banned the parking of RVs in residential driveways. In some cities, like Burbank, a police permit and fee is required to park an RV anywhere on a city street. The arriving moms and pops have no idea what a hassle they are in for just coming to Southern California for a friendly visit.
Pasadena Rose Parade Out of Town Visitors Targeted by Cops.
There is no parking anywhere on any street in Pasadena without an expensive permit only issued to residents. Imagine the surprise the tourists get who come out from another area to see the Rose Parade. They face tickets and tow. The rich folks who run Pasadena, the same folks who actually gave their City Manager in effect a lifetime job, really don’t want a lot of visitors, especially ones in RVs. The thousands of small businesses suffer from a constant loss of business from out of town visitors who are denied a place to park overnight. Unless you can afford to stay in a $300 dollar a night hotel room.
LA Outlaws Sleeping Bags, Blankets, Pillows, Cooking Utensils, in any Vehicle
The new Ordinance actually prohibits the public from carrying a sleeping bag, pillow, sheet, blanket or other items in your vehicle. Ironic as the City disaster folks are telling everyone to carry just those things in your vehicle for an emergency, such as an earthquake. Will the City set up checkpoints around town to search all vehicles for pillows? The perfidy of the sociopaths who run the City has now hit an all-time high with this one.
The City Does Not Have Even One Decent Solution to the Many Problems of the Poor
Many thinking people and websites have sent in or published solutions to some of the problems. The City has ignored all of them. We have proposed safe overnight parking facilities, for instance. There should also be well placed areas for RVs and Campers to dump grey water and get fresh water. The City has never tried to even provide adequate rest room facilities for both homeless and tourists, Much of the low-cost housing that was built for our poor and seniors is occupied by foreign immigrants who never worked a day in their life in this Country. Another taboo subject not to be mentioned in the hallowed chambers of City Hall. And by the way, we are not talking about Mexicans or Hispanic folks. We are talking about the many thousands of old people brought in to L.A. County from European, Russian, and Middle Eastern countries and given low cost housing plus benefits for political asylum.
Not Everyone Sleeping in Their Vehicle is “Homeless”
Let’s face the fact that many folks could have reason to dwell in their vehicle. Folks coming into L.A to live and work sometimes have to live out of their vehicle until they can even find an apartment and a job. Tourists from around the world travel in RVs and Campers on their vacations. Seniors who can’t get into the low cost housing that was allegedly built for them are more and more living in their cars because they can’t afford rent. There’s also a growing trend of folks who just want the freedom of living in a vehicle. There’s also the traditional gypsy lifestyle. And then there’s the 50,000 homeless in L.A Criminalizing poor people, homeless folks, seniors, visitors, and tourists is a despicable act of cowardliness by the Mayor and Council.
Below is the Complete Text of the New Ordinance.
ORDINANCE NO. 184530 An ordinance amending Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 85.02 to establish regulations governing the use of vehicles for dwelling on City public streets and to provide a sunset of the regulations in 18 months. The City finds and declares the following:
WHEREAS, for a variety of social, economic and personal reasons, many people dwell in their vehicles on City public streets;
WHEREAS, some people with homes choose temporarily to dwell in their vehicle on public streets because of financial considerations, such as a person catching an early morning flight or train and instead of paying for a hotel room decides to dwell in his or her vehicle overnight on a public street near the airport or train station;
WHEREAS, some people have no housing and they believe their safest option for dwelling is in their vehicle on public streets;
WHEREAS, substantial public health, safety and quality-of-life concerns are posed by persons who use their vehicles for dwelling on public streets, especially on streets in residential areas or in sensitive areas, such as near schools, day care facilities and parks;
WHEREAS, there have been numerous complaints by residents of litter, unsanitary conditions, noise and crime, sometimes resulting in altercations, when persons dwell in their vehicles in residential and sensitive areas;
WHEREAS, the conditions described above have resulted in and will likely continue to result in blight, sanitary and public health concerns, excessive noise and crime, not only affecting residents, but also affecting persons who dwell in vehicles and are at a heightened risk of assault, robbery and other criminal activity;
WHEREAS, dwelling in vehicles on public streets diminishes the economic viability of the City and its many tourist attractions;
WHEREAS, the City has an interest in balancing the needs of those individuals who dwell in their vehicles and the needs of all City residents, businesses and visitors for clean, healthy and safe public areas;
WHEREAS, the City’s existing law addressing vehicle dwelling was found to be unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles; 1
WHEREAS, the City currently has no reliable information on the number and location of people using vehicles as dwellings or the impacts to health, safety and the physical environment, if any, resulting from this activity, and is unable to obtain such information from other sources;
WHEREAS, the City has reasonably determined that gathering the information necessary to evaluate the impacts to health, safety and the physical environment, if any, due to the use of vehicles for dwelling on public streets will take approximately eighteen months;
WHEREAS, the City intends to allow vehicle dwelling in order to gather data and information related to impacts to public health, safety and the physical environment, if any, for use in developing permanent regulations pertaining to the use of vehicles for dwelling on public streets in the City; WHEREAS, the City intends to allow vehicle dwelling only on non-residential streets and on streets that do not have a school, pre-school, day care facility or park;
WHEREAS, the restriction on vehicle dwelling regulates the conduct of dwelling in a vehicle on a public street and is not a parking restriction;
WHEREAS, the City has determined that the regulations will not result in a serious or major disturbance to an environmental resource;
WHEREAS, the City intends to provide public outreach regarding the provisions of this ordinance, including engaging the assistance of homeless service providers such as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and making publicly available on the City’s website maps identifying streets where vehicle dwelling is allowed;
and WHEREAS, the Chief Administrative Officer will coordinate the collection and analysis of data and information by City departments and third party organizations with relevant expertise for purposes of determining the impacts to public health, safety and the physical environment due to the implementation of these vehicle dwelling regulations and will compile the resulting data and analysis into a report with recommendations for action to the City Council and Mayor within eighteen months of the effective date of this ordinance.
NOW, THEREFORE, THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES DO ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Section 85.02 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code is repealed in its entirety and replaced as follows: SEC. 85.02. REGULATING THE USE OF VEHICLES FOR DWELLING.
A. Use of Vehicles for Dwelling Restricted on City Streets. No person shall use a Vehicle for Dwelling as follows:
Between the hours of 9:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. on any Residential Street; or
At any time within a one Block radius of any edge of a lot containing a park or a licensed school, pre-school or daycare facility.
Nothing herein precludes the enforcement of any other laws such as parking restrictions, including, but not limited to, prohibitions on overnight parking.
B. Definitions: As used in this section:
Block is defined as 500 feet.
Dwelling means more than one of the following activities and when it reasonably appears, in light of all the circumstances, that a person is using a vehicle as a place of residence or accommodation:
Possessing inside or on a vehicle items that are not associated with ordinary vehicle use, such as a sleeping bag, bedroll, blanket, sheet, pillow, kitchen utensils, cookware, cooking equipment, bodily fluids.
Obscuring some or all of the vehicle’s windows. Preparing or cooking meals inside or on a vehicle. Sleeping inside a vehicle
Residential Street means any street which adjoins one or more single family or multi-family residentially zoned parcel.
Vehicle means any motor vehicle, trailer, house car or trailer coach as defined California Vehicle Code.
C. Penalty. A first violation of this section shall be punishable as an infraction not to exceed $25. A second violation of this section shall be punishable as an infraction not to exceed $50 and all subsequent violations of this section shall punishable as an infraction not to exceed $75. Violators may be eligible for referral to a prosecutorial-led diversion program such as the Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART). D. Sunset Provisions. The provisions of this section shall expire and be deemed to have been repealed on July 1, 2018, unless extended by ordinance. E. Severability. If any portion, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this section is for any reason held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such a decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this section. The City Council hereby declares that it would have passed this ordinance and each portion or subsection, sentence, clause and phrase herein, irrespective of the fact that any one or more portions, subsections, sentences, clauses or phrases be declared invalid.