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(Repealed by Ord.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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  1. garrett
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s way funnier if it’s never repealed.

  2. Posted March 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I will be bringing this up at my next Neighborhood Council meeting.

  3. Joe B
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps this law (and others like it) represent an opportunity. By building a coalition around repealing the “low-hanging fruit” such as this and other ridiculous laws, we’ll have momentum when it comes time to alter or repeal other bad laws which are less blatantly ridiculous.

  4. gryphonisle
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    In a city like Los Angeles, founded largely by Midwesterners fleeing the harsh winters set off by the 1886 explosion of Krakatoa, it is to be expected that there will be a host of anal retentive laws. The challenge is to get rid of them, and not emulate San Francisco by creating modern legislated stupidity.

  5. Commenter
    Posted May 31, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to use this ordinance to cut down on the noise outside my house. I’ve tried asking people the nice way, but keep getting scoffed at. I live in a dense condo community that used to be nice and quiet. Recently, a group of kids have decided to turn the sidewalk outside my home into their kickball court. I’m sorry, but it’s not ok. It sucks. It’s loud and even with double paned windows, all I hear is the thumping of the ball. Before people bemoan that the poor kids don’t have any place to play and it’s better for them to be outside than playing video games…I’d like to point out that there is literally a park right across the street from my home. They could go there and kick balls to their hearts delight. I don’t think the kids are refusing to go to the park – it’s their lazy parents who would rather stand on their balconies than walk across the street with their kids. This is just not ok. I pay hundreds of dollars every month to an HOA so that we can have several big parks – a soccer field, basketball courts, etc. Clearly, these are features designed for kids. So they need to go use them. I think what makes me the angriest is that when I’ve tried talking to the parents, they give me these looks like, “Chill out, they’re kids.” I’m not saying kids can’t play. But, if they were my kids and I had the option of being considerate of other people and walking them to the park, that’s what I would do.

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