By Sue Pascoe
After discussions at several Pacific Palisades Community Council meetings left some confusion about when homeless people can and cannot be arrested for certain actions, Palisades News asked L.A. Neighborhood Prosecutor Claudia Martin for clarification.
For example, several residents seemed to think there’s a double standard at work, that if they, for example, urinated on a building in the Palisades business district, they would be arrested, but a homeless person would not.
“The code section [laws] applies to everyone,” Martin said. “There is not selective enforcement.” She then clarified laws relating to public nudity, public sex, ind cent exposure and camping in city parks.
1. A homeless couple was recently discovered having sex at the Palisades Recreation Center. According to Martin, they could have been cited if the elements of a crime were present under California Penal Code 647(a), summarized: The person willfully engaged in the touching of his or another person’s genitals, buttocks, or female breast, with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify himself/herself or another person, or offend another person in a public place, or place open to the public view.
Martin pointed out that Django Unchained actress Daniele Watts was recently charged for lewd conduct in public view. It is a crime, and those committing it can be cited.
2. “No Camping” signs are posted on L.A. Recreation and Parks property below Via de las Olas. Municipal Code (LAMC) Section 63.44 notes that people are not allowed to camp or engage in camping in a park, except for locations designated for such purposes, or erect, maintain, use or occupy any tent, excluding umbrellas or sun shades. It further defines camp as using a park for living accommodation purposes.
Martin said that homeless people and residents alike need to abide by the law and could be cited. A first violation is punishable by a $100 fine.
3. Some Palisadians have seen people urinating on the sides of public buildings. Can those people, homeless or not, be arrested? Martin cites (LAMC) 41.47.2, passed in 2003: “No person shall urinate or defecate in or upon any public street, sidewalk, alley, plaza, beach, park, public building or other publicly maintained facility or place, or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view, except when using a urinal, toilet or commode located in a restroom, or when using a portable or temporary toilet designed for the sanitary disposal of human waste, which is enclosed from public view.”
The answer is “Yes,” homeless or not, people must find a public bathroom or risk a misdemeanor citing.
4. Finally, there is a homeless man who likes to sleep nude near the Recreation Center. His backside has gone viral on local social media. This public display of nudity has upset parents who do not want their young children to see adult male buttocks or genitalia out in public.
LAMC Section 63.44 (b) (14) does not allow people to enter, remain, stay or loiter in any park between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. of the next day and section (20) prohibits nudity in parks or on beaches.
But unless the homeless individual or any individual is naked in a park or on a beach, it is not illegal to be nude, as long as there is not an attempt to sexualize it. A Pacific Palisades resident could walk naked down Swarthmore: there is no law against it.