Recently I obtained some emails which proved that the Los Angeles Police Department was complicit in the placement of illegal anti-homeless planters in Venice. Officers coordinated with local housedwellers to remove homeless encampments in order to facilitate planter installation. You can read that story here.
The planters are illegal for a number of reasons, but two interesting laws being violated in this context are LAMC 56.11 and LAMC 56.12. LAMC 56.11 is, of course, the famous anti-homeless ordinance banning the storage of so-called bulky items on public sidewalks. The other section, LAMC 56.12, requires property owners or other people in control of property1 to keep adjacent sidewalks free of unpermitted obstructions.
Not only that, but LAMC 11.00(m) states that “[e]very violation of this Code is punishable as a misdemeanor unless provision is otherwise made…” It turns out that LAMC 56.11 does make another provision, so that violation of that section isn’t a misdemeanor, but this isn’t the case with 56.12. If a property owner allows unpermitted planters to stay on the sidewalk they’re committing a misdemeanor.
And thus when the police ask homeless people to move so that unpermitted planters can be placed, or even when they hang around watching while Sanitation destroys encampments so that unpermitted planters can be placed, they’re facilitating the commission of a whole series of misdemeanors by the people who own or control the property adjacent to the planters.
And it’s even worse than that. LAMC 11.00(j) declares that “[w]henever in this Code any act or omission is made unlawful it shall include causing, permitting, aiding, abetting, suffering or concealing the fact of the act or omission.” That is, not only does LAMC 56.12 forbid property owners from leaving the planters in place, it actually forbids any person from “permitting, aiding, abetting, [or] suffering” the planters to remain.
So when the police do nothing about the planters, they’re actually violating LAMC 56.12 themselves. And per 11.00(m) this violation is a misdemeanor. So it’s really much worse than it would be if LAPD officers were merely complicit in other people’s violations of the law, which is already intolerable. They are themselves violating the law.
It is intolerable to have police, given extraordinary powers up to and including the power of killing people in the service of their goals, violating the very laws they’re sworn to enforce. So I wrote this complaint against all the police I know to be involved and sent it to LAPD Internal Affairs, asking them to investigate the officers and punish them if appropriate. Turn the page for some transcribed selections and stay tuned for updates!
Note that the exhibit referred to in the complaint is nothing more than this email conversation.
1. In 2018 residents of Venice began placing huge heavy planters on local sidewalks, usually with dimensions of at least 2′ x 2′ x 6′. The point of the planters is to exclude homeless encampments.
2. These planters violate the Los Angeles Municipal Code in a number of different ways. The residents have been assisted in this project by LAPD officers.
3. Officers have asked homeless people in encampments to leave so that planters could be placed. They have also participated in sweeps authorized by the Unified Homeless Response Center while knowing that illegal planters would be installed post-sweep.
4. In many cases the officers who assist residents to install planters which violate the law are the same officers who enforce thoese very laws against homeless residents for possession of bulky items. In some cases some officers have themselves violated the law by being involved with these planters.
5. Such actions by sworn officers of the LAPD are not only illegal but they also erode the trust, already fragile, that must exist between the citizens of Los Angeles and the police. Therefore the actions must be investigated and, when appropriate, guilty officers must be sanctioned.
6. The Los Angeles Municipal Code at §11.00(j) states:
Whenever in this Code any act or omission is made unlawful it shall include causing, permitting, aiding, abetting, suffering or concealing the fact of the act or omission.
7. The Los Angeles Municipal Code at §11.00(m) states:
It shall be unlawful for any person to violate any provision or fail to comply with any of the requirements of this Code. Any person violating any of the provisions or failing to comply with any of the mandatory requirements of this Code, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor unless that violation or failure is declared in this Code to be an infraction.
8. The Los Angeles Municipal Code at §11.00(m) states:
Each person shall be guilty of a separate offense for each and every day during any portion of which any violation of any provision of this Code is committed, continued or permitted by that person, and shall be punishable accordingly.
9. The Los Angeles Municipal Code at §56.11 (3)(i) states that “No Person shall Store any Bulky Item in a Public Area” where a “bulky item” is defined at §56.11 (2) (c) to be:
any item, with the exception of a constructed Tent, operational bicycle or operational walker, crutch or wheelchair, that is too large to fit into a 60-gallon container with the lid closed, including, but not limited to, a shed, structure, mattress, couch, chair, other furniture or appliance.
10. The Los Angeles Municipal Code at §56.11(10) states that §11.00 does not apply to §56.11 except for under certain enumerated circumstances, none of which apply here.
11. The Los Angeles Municipal Code at §56.12(a) states:
It shall be unlawful for any person or entity occupying or having charge or control of any premises, to place or cause to be placed, or allow to remain upon the sidewalk, or upon the street in front of such premises, anything which shall obstruct any portion of the street or sidewalk, without a valid permit therefor.
3.1 The planters
12. In the last couple years huge planters have been appearing on the sidewalks in Venice. They have been the subject of a great deal of press coverage. An article in Los Angeles Magazine from December 2018 called How Garden Planters Became a Flashpoint in the Venice Gentrification Debate is representative.
13. These planters are typically placed on sidewalks on the sites of homeless encampments immediately after LAPD and LASAN conduct a sweep during which the encampment is removed from the sidewalk.
3.2 The people
14. Mark Ryavec is a Venice resident and activist. He runs an organization called Venice Stakeholders Association.
15. Taylor Bazley is a member of Councilmember Mike Bonin’s staff. He serves as field deputy for Venice.
16. Brian Buchner is in charge of the City’s Unified Homeless Response Center, through which encampment sweeps are coordinated.
17. The following are LAPD officers:
(a) Kevin Lowe (27614)
(b) James Setzer (31260)
(c) James Roberts (31381)
(d) Emada Tingirides (31546)
(e) Michael Soliman (32906)
(f) Kristan Delatori (32914)
(g) Javier Ramirez (39174)
18. Unless otherwise indicated, all of these facts are found in the emails included here as Exhibit 1 on page 10 below.
19. On October 23, 2018 Mark Ryavec emailed Taylor Bazlcy asking him to grant the Council Office’s support in placing some planters on Venice sidewalks. Ryavec stated that he was asking for support on behalf of LAPD Officer James Roberts so that LAPD could help the placement by asking the homeless people to leave.
20. In particular, Ryavec said:
With your approval, the LAPD can certainly support the residents in asking the campers to move their belongings by 8 am Saturday morning so the installation can go forward.
21. Later that day Bazley asked Ryavec if he had obtained permits for the planters. Ryavec responded that he had not done so and that he wanted Bazley to ask LAPD to help him remove the residents:
We did not apply for a permit. I would ask that you ask the LAPD to assist the residents in asking the campers to move their stuff so the installation can proceed. My guess is that all be well. If there is any resistance the residents can wait for a formal cleanup.
22. Ryavec CCed Officers Roberts, Setzer, Ramirez, and Delatori on that email. On the evening of October 23 Setzer responded, committing LAPD officers to ask campers to relocate:
Barring the unforeseen, the LAPD can plan on providing a unit to engage these persons and seek their voluntary compliance. I’ll confirm unit availability and awareness by the SLO for this effort.
23. On October 30, 2018 Bazley wrote to Brian Buchner asking him to schedule a sweep. Buchner wrote back the next day and CCed Officer Tingirides in an email that included the above-quoted emails.
24. By November 2 the sweep was scheduled and Buchner asked Tingirides to confirm that various protocol components had been completed.
5.1 The planters are bulky items within the meaning of LAMC §56.11
25. The planters are “structures,” which is an enumerated type of bulky item per LAMC §56.11 (2) (c). See Paragraph 9 above.
26. The planters are uniformly larger than 2 x 2 x 6 = 24 cubic feet, which is 180 gallons. That is three times the volume of a bulky item as defined in LAMC §56.11 (2)(c). See Paragraph 9 above.
5.2 The owners of the planters are in violation of LAMC §56.11
27. LAMC §56.11 states that “[n]o Person shall Store any Bulky Item in a Public Area.” As shown above in Section 5.1 the planters are bulky items, and their owners are storing them in a public area, that is to say the sidewalk. See Paragraph 9 above.
5.3 The owners of the property adjacent to the planters are in violation of LAMC §56.12, which is a misdemeanor
28. The City has not issued permits for the planters. Planter owner Mark Ryavec admitted this in an October 23, 2018 email to Taylor Bazley. See Exhibit 1 on page 10.
29. LAMC §56.12 forbids property owners to allow unpermitted obstructions to remain on sidewalks in front of their property.
30. Violations of LAMC §56.12 are not classified as infractions. Therefore per LAMC §11.00(m) violations of §56.12 are misdemeanors.
5.4 The named officers knew that the planters were unpermitted
31. All of the officers listed above in Paragraph 17 are recipients and/or senders of the emails found below in Exhibit 1.
32. Therefore they knew facts stated in the emails, including the fact that the planters were and are unpermitted.
5.5 Some of the named officers and possibly some unnamed others aided the planter owners in their violations
33. In an email reproduced below in Exhibit 1 Officer James Setzer (31260) commits “a unit to engage these persons and seek their voluntary compliance” with a request to move away so that planters can be placed in violation of LAMC §56.11.
34. According to an email by Venice resident Carlos Torres, Officer Javier Ramirez (39174) evidently helped the owners of the planters by beginning the process of arranging for LA Sanitation to clear an encampment to facilitate the placement of planters in violation of LAMC §56.11.
35. These acts helped make it possible for the owners of the planters to place them on the public sidewalk in violation of LAMC §56.11.
5.6 The named officers are violating one of the core LAPD values, which is reverence for the law
36. When LAPD officers see laws being broken and do not intervene, but instead assist the lawbreakers, they are showing contempt for the law.
37. Even if some of the officers listed above in Section 17 did not assist the planter owners in their violations they were and are aware of these violations and have done nothing at all to intervene, to undo past violations, or to prevent future violations. Knowing about violations of the law and not acting is showing contempt for the law.
5.7 The named officers are suffering the violations of the property owners
38. Per Section 5.3 above, the owners of the property in front of which the planters are placed are in violation of LAMC §56.12.
39. According to LAMC §11.00(m) each property owner commits a new violation for each day each planter is present on the sidewalk in front of their property. See Paragraph 8 above.
40. The named officers are all aware that these planters are being stored on the public sidewalk and they are aware that the planters are unpermitted per Paragraph 5.4 above. Police officers can be assumed to be aware of the laws they are sworn to enforce. Therefore they are aware that the property owners are violating LAMC §56.12 on a regular and continuing basis. And yet they have done nothing to stop these ongoing violations, which they are therefore suffering to continue.
5.8 The named officers are violating LAMC §56.12
41. LAMC §11.00(j) states that anyone who suffers a violation of a section of the LAMC also violates that section.
42. LAMC §11.00(nr) states that anyone who permits violations of a section of the LAMC is also violating that section.
43. Although the City Council excluded LAMC §56.11 from the effects of LAMC §11.00, they did not so exclude LAMC §56.12.
44. The officers named above in Section 17 have both suffered and permitted the violations of the property owners in front of whose property the planters are placed as explained above in Section 5.3.
45. Therefore these officers are also in violation of LAMC §56.12.
6 Requested action
46. I request that these officers be investigated and, if they’re found to have violated any laws or rules, that they be sanctioned accordingly.
47. I request that LAPD investigate other as-yet-undiscovered officers who are implicated in illegal planter installations and, if they’re found to have violated any laws or rules, that they be sanctioned accordingly.
Image of Captain James Setzer, the housedweller’s friend, is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and you can see old Captain James over here as well, can’t you?