On October 21, 2018 Carol Sobel filed suit in federal court against the City of Los Angeles on behalf of three named homeless people along with about sixty others similarly situated. The three, Rebecca Cooley, her husband Benjamin Hubert, and Casimir Zaroda, are homeless people who were living on the streets in Venice in September 2017 when the City of Los Angeles, without notice and without any kind of process, confiscated and destroyed their property, including tents, blankets, essential paperwork, transit passes, and other items essential to the maintenance of human life. The suit comes just as the City is resuming its horrific, indiscriminate sweeps of homeless encampments outside of neighborhoods covered by the various injunctions.
The initial complaint claims that the City’s actions violate constitutional bans on takings and on unlawful seizure as well as the constitutional guarantee of due process. These familiar theories have been consistently upheld by federal courts up to and including the Ninth Circuit,1 all of which have been willing to issue and/or uphold injunctions against the City’s property confiscation and destruction policies. So it’s hard to imagine that the City can prevail on these issues.
Also, because two of the three named plaintiffs are disabled along with many of the similarly situated unnamed plaintiffs, the complaint also alleges that the City violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by confiscating their essential papers and means of transportation, by storing confiscated property in locations and facilities not properly accessible to disabled people, and, in general, by following policies and practices with respect to homeless people’s property that disproportionately burden disabled people.
On September 3, 2018 Carol Sobel filed suit in federal court against the City of Los Angeles, alleging that Rex Schellenberg, a homeless man living in the San Fernando Valley, stepped away from his property briefly only to have it confiscated and much of it destroyed by the LAPD and LA Sanitation personnel. I can’t find anything about this case in the media, in contrast to Sobel’s other pending case on the matter, Mitchell v. City of LA, which is covered extensively. You can read and get copies of the pleadings here on Archive.Org. I’ll update the collection as more stuff is filed.
The facts of the case are simple. Schellenberg, an elderly man homeless in Los Angeles for more than twenty years and disabled as well, lives in the San Fernando Valley. In July 2017 he left his property momentarily unattended to visit a convenience store and employees of the City of Los Angeles summarily confiscated and destroyed Schellenberg’s neatly stored possessions. In its monumental decision in Lavan v. City of LA, the Ninth Circuit had this to say about this practice:
As we have repeatedly made clear, “[t]he government may not take property like a thief in the night; rather, it must announce its intentions and give the property owner a chance to argue against the taking.” This simple rule holds regardless of whether the property in question is an Escalade or [a tent], a Cadillac or a cart. The City demonstrates that it completely misunderstands the role of due process by its contrary suggestion that homeless persons instantly and permanently lose any protected property interest in their possessions by leaving them momentarily unattended in violation of a municipal ordinance. As the district court recognized, the logic of the City’s suggestion would also allow it to seize and destroy cars parked in no-parking zones left momentarily unattended.
The City’s argument is based on the highly dubious assertion that “Throughout all of its efforts, the City strives to balance the need of all of the City’s residents to have clean, sanitary, and accessible public areas, including sidewalks, with the needs of “the City’s large and vulnerable homeless population” and they just need clarification “…to ensure that its employees who are responsible for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of every person living or working in the Skid Row area clearly understand, and are in a position to successfully implement, the terms of the Court’s Order.”
Good evening, Friends! I haven’t had time to write much recently and I won’t have time for another day or two because the latest installment in the MK.Org LAMC 49.5.5 project is turning out to be more complex than I’d anticipated. I expect to have it done with by the end of this week. This is just a short interim post to announce some new records.
According to an excellent article in yesterday’s Times by the incomparable Emily Alpert Reyes, the City Council agreed to pay out $947,000 in settlements in two cases brought by civil rights lawyer Carol Sobel. The article didn’t have much detail on either the cases or where the money was going, so I thought I’d fill some of it in here.
The Lavan case is kind of off our beat here since it’s not directly linked to BIDs, but I haven’t found any discussion in the news of pleadings filed with the court in early December, so I thought I’d upload them and note their existence here as a public service. (I don’t want to go into the details of the case, but if you’re not already familiar with them, the Argonaut has a reasonable if westside-whiny outline of the situation). On December 2, 2015, the parties to the case filed a Joint Notice of Tentative Settlement, asking Judge Philip Gutierrez to vacate the trial date due to an impending settlement:
As the Court is aware, the parties participated in a settlement conference before Magistrate Judge Woehrle on November 24, 2015, at which time they reached a tentative settlement of the remaining issues in this action. The settlement requires a four-step approval procedure by the City. That process is anticipated to take at least three months, if not longer, particularly in light of the upcoming holidays resulting in the cancellation of several meeting dates for City officials. If the settlement is approved by the City Council, the third step in the process, it then goes to the Mayor, who has 10 days to act on the proposal. The parties have agreed that, if approved by the City, the settlement will be paid at the beginning of the next fiscal year, which is July 1, 2016.
We have written before about the January 2015 conspiracy comprising indefatigably feckless dudebro Steven Whiddon and various city officials, including LA City Council District 13 field deputy Dan Halden, to (probably illegally, certainly immorally) use the threat of powerwashing sidewalks outside of the Public Storage building at the corner of Willoughby and Cole as a means of removing homeless people and their possessions, in violation of both human decency and the Lavan injunction. Today we have an email chain from November 2014 which illuminates the origins of the conspiracy and also demonstrates that LA City Council District 4 operatives as well were involved in the furtherance of these misdeeds.
We join the sordid story on November 6, 2014, when someone named Marvin Cruz emailed Universal Protective Services security wallah John Irigoyen, CC-ing firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and someone named Damien Reed, stating somewhat obscurely that:
There is alot [sic] of trash dumping here accross [sic] from 832 cole( public storage side). Also multiple 647I’s that block the aide [sic] walk. Can u [sic] contact HBT for the trash and maybe also lapd to come andtake [sic] contact with the idas.