Playing ball in Los Angeles is illegal

LAMC Section 56.16: “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.”

I recently attended a talk by Dr. Richard Jackson, one of America’s leading experts in how the ‘built environment’, including architecture and urban planning, affect health. In his presentation, Dr. Jackson showed slides of the growing obesity rates in Los Angeles County and described what has happened to our kids health in the past 20 years as “child abuse”.

Along with the problems a kid faces these days when she wants to walk or bike around the neighborhood, that same kid faces a wall of cultural and (in Los Angeles) legal limits that prevent the most mundane activities of childhood.

Case in point is the law above, Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.16, which makes playing catch on the sidewalk or street an unlawful act.

We can have 100 CicLAvias a year but if kicking a soccer ball to your buddy on the sidewalk in front of your apartment building, or throwing a football in the street, is a crime you can expect nothing fundamental to change.

What would it take to strike down this ridiculous law? In Los Angeles, we have a 15-person city council and it only takes 8 of those 15 to agree on the matter to strike down a stupid law like this. Assuming we can build an effective “Legalize Playing” lobby (I can’t believe how ridiculous we are that we need a lobby to make playing legal in LA), I think we can get it done.

The first order of business should be play-ins wherein we all throw balls to each other in front of City Hall with signs to protest LAMC 56.16. Next, barring our arrest, we should walk the halls of the 3rd floor of city hall and create a simple list with councilmembers names, their lead staffer on this issue, and whether or not that councilmember supports a repeal of LAMC 56.16.

Our proposed amendments to LAMC 56.16? It should look like this after we’re done with it:

(Repealed by Ord. No., Eff. xx/xx/14.)

It’s either that, or childhood remains illegal in Los Angeles.

Many thanks to Jeff Jacobberger for posting this municipal code to his Facebook page.

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