News of a settlement in the momentous lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles on behalf of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the LA Catholic Worker, and a number of individuals over the confiscation of homeless people’s property by BID and by City, has been rumbling around PACER for about one year now. Well, yesterday evening, the first concrete details of the ongoing settlement process arrived. The parties filed a joint report indicating that concrete terms had been reached with both CCEA and the City of Los Angeles. The City of LA part still has to be approved by City Council, but according to the document, this is likely to happen within 45 days.
On the other hand, amazingly, the proposed agreement between the CCEA and the plaintiffs has actually been filed! It must still be approved by Judge Philip Gutierrez, but it strikes me as extraordinarily unlikely that it would not be. The agreement severely restricts the circumstances under which the BID can confiscate property. The terms of this part of the settlement make it seem very likely that the City will agree to severe restrictions in its enforcement of LAMC 56.11, the property confiscation ordinance, at least on Skid Row. CCEA will also pay LAFLA $25,000 for damages, fees, and costs. Turn the page for some details of what the CCEA has agreed to.
The OCR on the document filed with the court is completely munged, so I can’t quote much. Here’s a summary of important points:
1. BID officers may move unattended property away from entrances, driveways, and so on. Note that they may move it, but not confiscate it, under this clause.
2. They can remove bulky items such as sofas, mattresses, and other furniture. However, bulky items here are specifically defined not to include bikes, tents, shopping carts, wheelchairs, luggage, and so on.
3. BID officers can remove property for which they have an objectively reasonable belief that it’s abandoned, with “objectively reasonable” defined in painstaking detail, and excluding any property whose owner is present, which has a sign stating it’s not abandoned, it’s appropriately placed to allow free passage, it has previously been tagged for removal but has been relocated in the interim, and so on.
4. Before removing property BID officers must ask nearby people who owns it.
5. Removed property must be extensively noticed and subsequently stored for at least 90 days. It must be stored within the Downtown Industrial District BID.
6. Property must be photographed at the start of the 24 hour waiting period, and it must be photographed before it is removed.
7. On request but no more often than every 90 days the BID must make records of each instance in which BID officers moved or removed property available to plaintiffs’ counsel. This information must include the location of the property, the justification for removal, photographs, and evidence of calls to the City about the property.
8. The BID will put language to be agreed on by the parties describing the settlement in its annual planning report.1
Finally, as I mentioned above, CCEA is going to pay LAFLA $25,000 for their troubles. Overall, this looks like an excellent settlement for the forces of good. It seems that they’ve gotten pretty much everything that sane people would want concerning the protection of the property of homeless people living on Skid Row. What will the City agree to? Stay tuned!
- BIDs are required by Streets and Highways Code §36650 to prepare an annual planning report. This must be approved by the BID’s board of directors and subsequently by the City Council. It describes and circumscribes the BID’s activities for the year that it covers. It seems that the law prohibits BIDs from doing stuff that’s not in the APR. You will be hearing a lot more about these quite soon. They seem to be an as-yet-unexploited chink in the armor of BIDs in Los Angeles.