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LA City Council refines park camping ban before City Hall lawn reopens

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 10:00AM
Hayley Fox/blogdowntown

As City Hall park nears its reopening dates, LA City Council will vote on tightened camping restrictions.

The Los Angeles City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to ban the use of tents in city parks. This action comes soon before the City Hall lawn is set to reopen after it was closed post-Occupy encampment.

Overnight camping is already illegal in city parks, so some see the new measure as unnecessary.

"It's such a waste of legislative time,” Becky Dennison of the Los Angeles Community Action Network told the Los Angeles Times.

According to officials in the city attorney's office though, this new ordinance defines what is considered camping and includes a specific ban on tents, the L.A. Times reports.

The ordinance would ban all tents for any reason, except for those that provide shade at farmers markets or are used by vendors, according to KPCC. But one civil rights lawyer said Occupy L.A. tents could also be an exception to the law under the First Amendment.

“The United States Supreme Court and other courts have recognized that a tent represents expressive activity,” attorney Carol Sobel told KPCC. “There is a difference between sleeping and living in the tent and using the tent for expressive activity.”

After the Occupy camp was dismantled last November, city officials decided to not just fix the damaged portions of the City Hall lawn but give it a complete makeover. Native plants like succulents and California holly are being used in combination with decomposed granite and hybrid turf grass to create a whole new vision for the Downtown park.

In addition to tightening camping restrictions for the lawn's reopening, the City Council is considering shortening the hours that City Hall Park is open. Previously, it was open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. but Councilman José Huizar has proposed making the hours 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., KPCC reports.


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