Guide to Laws About Activities on Public Streets, Sidewalks, Parks, and Other Public Spaces in Los Angeles

Many laws about public streets, sidewalks, parks, and other public spaces are made at the state level. Be sure to see our Guide to the Law on Public Spaces in California.

1. Being on the sidewalk or street

Is it illegal to block the sidewalk?

Yes. In California, it is illegal to intentionally block the free movement of another person on a street, sidewalk or other public place.1Cal Penal Code 647c

Also, in the city of Los Angeles, you can’t stand in or on any street, sidewalk or other public way open for pedestrian use or otherwise occupy any portion in such a manner as to “annoy or molest” any pedestrian or to obstruct or unreasonably interfere with the free passage of pedestrians.2LA Municipal Code 41.18; Where free-passage along sidewalks is obstructed by persons listening to what is said at a street-meeting, the persons conducting said meeting cannot be convicted of a violation of this section in the absence of other facts. People v. Yoneda, CR A 249.

Is it legal to just start marching or protesting in the street?

If you want to march, protest, or assemble on public roads, you will need to apply for a special permit with the city. For related issues within the city of Los Angeles, see the LAPD website here.

Also check out our Guide to Free Speech

Is it illegal to simply sit or lie in the street?

Yes. In Los Angeles, you can’t “sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or other public way.”3LA Municipal Code 41.18(d) This is often referred to as a “sit/lie” ban.

But this law does NOT apply to sitting on on benches or other seating facilities provided for such purpose by the government, or while attending or viewing any permitted parade

Is it illegal to sit in other public places?

Within the city of Los Angeles, you can’t sit or stand on or at the entrance of any church, hall, theater or other place of public assemblage in any manner so as to obstruct such entrance.4LAMC 41.19

What is loitering? Is it illegal?

Loitering means hanging around with no apparent purpose, and is not by itself illegal unless prohibited in specific places. However, loitering or “lying in wait” with the intent to commit some crime is a crime in itself.5Cal Penal Code 647

In the city of Los Angeles, loitering is prohibited in any:

  • tunnel, pedestrian subway, bridge overpass, or at or near the entrance thereto or exit therefrom, or at or near any abutment or retaining wall adjacent to such entrance or exit, or any retaining wall or abutment adjacent to any freeway, street or highway open and used for vehicular traffic, or adjacent to that portion thereof used for vehicular traffic, or on any public property in the proximity of such bridge, overpass, or retaining wall or abutment.6LAMC 41.18;  Sec. 41.18 has not been preempted by State Legislation encompassing loitering offenses. Gleason v. Municipal Court (April 1964), 226 Cal. App. 2d-226 ACA 701.
  • hotel, where the manager has told you to leave7LAMC 42.11
  • airport, bus stop, or train station8LAMC 42.11.1
  • public bathroom with the intent to have sex with someone, even if consensual9CA Penal Code Sec 647(d)

Is it illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk?

See our Guide to Laws for Cyclists in the Los Angeles Area.

Is it illegal to ride a skateboard on a sidewalk?

No, as long as you comply with the following rules:

SEC. 56.15.1. USE OF SKATEBOARDS.

(c) Skateboarding on public property. Persons riding on skateboards on public roadways, public sidewalks, public parking lots and other public property shall comply with the following requirements and restrictions:

1. Skateboarding in the upright position. Persons riding on skateboards shall do so only in the upright, standing position. Using, pushing, propelling or riding on a skateboard in a sitting, prone, kneeling or lying position is prohibited.

2. Traffic controls. Persons riding on skateboards on public roadways shall obey all speed limits, stop signs, signal lights, and other traffic controls that govern right-of-way.

3. Yielding to traffic in same direction. Persons riding on skateboards on public roadways shall ride close to the far-right edge of the roadway, and shall yield to vehicles approaching from the rear by moving to the right curb or shoulder of the roadway.

4. Uncontrolled intersections. When approaching an uncontrolled intersection, persons riding on skateboards on public roadways or public sidewalks shall yield to vehicles that are so near as to present a hazard and shall not cross the intersection at a speed in excess of ten (10) miles per hour.

5. Manner of operation. No person shall operate a skateboard recklessly or in such a manner or at such a speed as to cause or threaten to cause injury to himself or herself or to others, to create an obstruction or to present a hazard to the free use of public property by other pedestrians or motorists.

6. Attaching to or towing by vehicle. A person operating a skateboard shall not attach the same or himself or herself to any motor vehicle on the roadway. In addition, a person shall not knowingly drive a motor vehicle that is towing a person riding upon a skateboard.

(d) Penalty for violations. It shall be unlawful for any person to violate or fail to comply with the provisions of this section. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an infraction and shall be subject to fines as established by the City Council.

2. Stuff on the street or sidewalk

Is it illegal to leave things or tents in the street?

In Los Angeles, it is NOT legal to leave any personal items unattended, whether large or small, in a public area.10LAMC 56.11 You also may not leave any trash or waste in a public area, as this is considered littering or “illegal dumping.”11California Penal Code Sec 374.3LAMC 190.02 The city of LA will pick up bulky items for free.

You may keep things on the street or sidewalk or other public area that can fit into a 60 gallon container, and only if you are present with the items. But items cannot block any path of a sidewalk or street, or be a hazard to others.

See more at our Guide to Laws about Homelessness.

3. Disturbing the peace & “nuisance”

What is disturbing the peace, or a nuisance?

This is mostly governed by state law, so see our Guide to the Law on Public Spaces in California. Also see more about noise laws in Los Angeles at our Guide to Laws About Noise.

4. Street vendors

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Is street vending legal in Los Angeles?

As of November 28, 2018, it is legal to sell food or goods on most sidewalks in the city of LA, with the following rules.

Vendors must:

  • pick up their trash
  • not block the flow of the sidewalks
  • do business at a minimum distance from fire hydrants, driveways, curbs, building entrances and other street features
  • leave at least 3 feet of space between any other vendors
  • NOT sell around the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, El Pueblo de Los Angeles monument, or Leimert Park. And on days when events are being held, vendors must not sell near Dodger Stadium and nearby Elysian Park, Hollywood Bowl, Staples Center and the L.A. Coliseum. (But even in prohibited places, vendors can still sell “expressive creations” that are protected under the 1st Amendment, such as art, books, music, audio, video or other recordings of performances, paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures or any other item that is inherently communicative.).
  • obtain any business and health permits required by the city, county or state (but the city is not yet issuing specific “street vending permits” so vendors can currently set up at any appropriate location)

Is it legal to sell food or goods in the park in Los Angeles?

As of November 28, 2018, it is now legal to sell food or merchandise in most parks, subject to the following rules (in addition to those above):

  • Only 2 vendors are allowed per park acre
  • Vendors cannot operate within 25 feet of each other, or within 100 feet of any park buildings or playgrounds
  • If a park has an exclusive concession agreement, vendors cannot set up stationary stands there to sell food or merchandise. (But again, this does not apply to “expressive creations” as discussed above)

Follow The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign for updates.

Where can food trucks park?

See our Guide to Parking Laws.

5. Plants and trees on city streets

Who is responsible for maintaining the trees and other things on the sidewalk and parkway in front of a house? The city or the homeowner?

Generally this responsibility falls to the homeowner. See our Guide to Laws for Homeowners.

Can a homeowner plant or remove stuff on the “parkway” strip of greenery in front of the house?

Yes. See our Guide to Laws for Homeowners.

6. Parks and Recreation Areas & Playing Games

What can or can’t I do in the park in LA?

  • Sell things? As of November 28, 2018, you can generally sell any food or goods in a park, subject to the rules listed above.
  • Smoke? No smoking or vaping of any kind is allowed in LA parks.
  • Can I be there at any time of the day? Each park has different “open” and “closed” hours, but when it is closed you are not allowed to be at the park.
  • Throw balls or other objects? No, see below.

For more general rules and rules specific to certain parks, check out LA Municipal Code Sec 63.44.

Is it illegal to play games involving throwing balls or other objects on the street, sidewalks, or parks?

No.

Los Angeles Municipal Code SEC. 56.16. STREETS – SIDEWALKS – PLAYING BALL OR GAMES OF SPORT. No person shall play ball or any game of sport with a ball or football or throw, cast, shoot or discharge any stone, pellet, bullet, arrow or any other missile, in, over, across, along or upon any street or sidewalk or in any public park, except on those portions of said park set apart for such purposes.

7. Drinking in public

Is it illegal to drink alcohol in public?

Laws vary by city, but most cities do NOT allow you to drink alcohol in public, including the city of LA.12LAMC Ch IV Sec 41.27(c) But in most cities, including LA, if the drink has less than 0.5% alcohol (such as some kinds of Kombucha drinks), it is not legally considered alcohol and is OK to drink in public.13LAMC Ch IV §41.27(c)

Is it illegal to be drunk in public?

Yes, in California you may not be so drunk (or high on drugs) that you are unable to exercise care for your own or others’ safety. It is also illegal to be so drunk that you are blocking or preventing the use of the sidewalk or public street. This is called public intoxication.14Cal Penal Code Sec 647(f)

Is it illegal to simply carry alcohol in public?

It varies by city. In the city of LA, sealed alcohol is fine to carry around. Unsealed or “open containers” are NOT OK in or near a store that sells alcohol,15LA Municipal Code Sec 41.27(d) or on public transportation. Other than these or other specific areas, it’s not technically illegal in LA to carry open containers of alcohol in public.16LA Municipal Code 41.27(h) was declared unconstitutional and unenforceable However, it’s not advisable as it may garner the attention of law enforcement.

See more at our Guide to Laws About Alcohol

8. Peeing or pooping in public or on public property

Is it illegal to pee or poop in public or on public property in California?

Yes. In California it is generally considered “disorderly conduct” to urinate or defecate in public.17California Penal Code 647 However, there is no specific statewide “public pooping” or “pubic urination” law.

But many cities do have a law specifically prohibiting human waste in public:

More specifically, in Los Angeles it is illegal to urinate or defecate in or on 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 proper toilet or portapotty hidden from public view.18LAMC 41.47.2

9. Private streets

Can property owners in Los Angeles make a street private and prevent the public from entering on it?

Possibly, if they apply for it, following the procedure outlined in the LA Municipal Code Sec 18.03.

10. Graffiti and Vandalism

What is the penalty for graffiti or other vandalism?

Up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $50,000. See our Guide to Laws on Graffiti and Vandalism.

11. Posting Signs

Is it legal to post flyers, signs, posters, advertisements (ads) or other things on public property?

No. You may not “paint, mark or write on, or post or otherwise affix, any hand-bill or sign to or upon any sidewalk, crosswalk, curb, curbstone, street lamp post, hydrant, tree, shrub, tree stake or guard, railroad trestle, electric light or power or telephone or telegraph or trolley wire pole, or wire appurtenant thereof or upon any fixture of the fire alarm or police telegraph system or upon any lighting system, public bridge, drinking fountain, life buoy, life preserver, life boat, or other life saving equipment, street sign or traffic sign.”19LAMC 28.04

The Department of Public Works may hold you responsible for the costs of removing any of these things.

Related Pages

Guide to the Law on Public Spaces in California

Guide to the Law on Homelessness in Los Angeles

Laws for Homeowners in Los Angeles

Laws about Alcohol in California

Laws about Noise in Los Angeles

 

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