The City of Los Angeles famously and frequently violates the California Public Records Act. One of the most difficult-to-counter ways in which they do this is to deny that they have responsive records at all. It’s pernicious because the only recourse for violations is to file a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court but the statute only authorizes petitions when:
it is made to appear by verified petition … that certain public records are being improperly withheld from a member of the public.
That is, if the City says there are no records and there’s no evidence to the contrary it’s likely a judge will believe the City’s claim and deny the petition. Which means it’s often useful to have evidence that responsive records exist even before requesting them. It’s also really important to duplicate requests to as many City departments as may have copies, since they all have different search methods.
Fairly regularly one City department will say that there are no responsive records while another one will produce proof that the first was lying. For a recent and spectacular example of this phenomenon take a look at this stunningly good Twitter thread from @LANCWatch.
Sometimes even the same department will produce proof that they themselves are lying, an example of which is the subject of today’s post! On June 19, 2021 I asked LA Sanitation for some information about ride-alongs on their CARE/CARE+ homeless encampment sweeps:
Continue reading LA City Sanitation Blatantly Lied In A Response To A CPRA Request For Information About Ride-Alongs With CARE/CARE+ Encampment Sweep Teams — They Said They Didn’t Do Ride-Alongs — But I Already Knew — And Could Prove — Using Evidence Produced By LA San In Response To Another Request — That They Did Before I Made The Request — This Kind Of Dishonest Nonsense Completely Derails Requests From People Who Don’t Know That They Lie About CPRA Requests All The Time — And Is The Zillionth Reason We So Badly Need A Municipal Sunshine Law In The City Charter
Ask the LA City Bureau of Sanitation, popularly known as “LA San,” for public records and you’ll almost certainly be subjected to obstructions, delays, lies, and so on. And since LA San signed up for NextRequest, a despicable and useless public records platform, you’ll be forced to communicate with anonymous City staffers through a clunky script-heavy website that barely works on a computer and just forget about your phone all together.
Unless, of course, you happen to work for NBC Universal or the LA Times. Elena Stern, Senior Public Information Director with the Department of Public Works, which includes LA San, is happy to handle your CPRA requests informally via email. This is no accident, by the way. Stern clearly understands the utter uselessness of NextRequest, and the pain it causes. Here’s the story.
Continue reading Despicable Streets Of Shame Reporter Joel Grover Emailed LA Sanitation Boss Flackie Elena Stern Asking For A Bunch Of Info — Stern’s Subordinates Asked Her Why Didn’t She Make Him Use NextRequest — Stern Explained That “we have to decide whether or not it’s worth it to antagonize a reporter like Grover” — She Said: “because it’s him, I’m not making him go through CPRA” — Then She Sent Him The Goodies Via Return Email — So I Asked Her For The Same Stuff Just Yesterday — Via Email — And Her Response Was Quite Different — She Refused Me Stating That “all CPRAs are to be submitted through the NextRequest portal” — Because She — Or Her Masters In The Department Of Public Works — Like Joel Grover’s Reporting And They Don’t Like Mine — Which Is Egregious — And Illegal — And Immoral — And Entirely Normal For The City Of Los Angeles
A couple days ago it came out on Twitter that a lot of people in Los Angeles don’t understand how homeless encampment sweeps get scheduled and why, in particular how encampments to be swept are chosen. I promised to write a post about it, and here we are! Part of the reason for the delay is that the story is really complex, so I’m just going to talk qualitatively about how encampments end up being targeted by Council Districts and leave the rest for another post or two. For instance, the City has two kinds of sweep teams, which are CARE and CARE+, but I’m not going to talk about the differences, which are probably important, but not for this post.
Each Council Office has a staffer whose job is to work out their District’s sweep schedule with LA Sanitation. I think that ordinarily every request for a sweep in a given District goes through this San contact. The scheduling is done by email as well as by editing Google Docs, and the emails occasionally reveal the reason a given encampment is being targeted. Here are the sets of records this post is mostly based on. If you’re interested in the subject it’s really worth looking at these. There’s a lot more information there than I’m using here:
⬟ Some 2020 Emails Between CDs and LA San
⬟ Housedweller Complaints to Juan Fregoso About Echo Park Encampments — From 2019 and 2020
⬟ CD15 Emails With LA Sanitation — January through May 2020
Continue reading A Brief Discussion Of How Homeless Encampment Sweeps Are Scheduled In The City Of Los Angeles — Or At Least Part Of The Process — The Whole Thing Is Driven By Housedweller Complaints — Filtered Through Council Districts As Political Patronage — LAHSA Involvement — Every Kind Of Outreach — Is Basically A Cover For Relocation — The Only Actual Goal