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City to reconsider ordinance to dismantle homeless camps

Los Angeles City Council members said today they will consider suspending a recently adopted ordinance that makes it easier and faster for the city to seize transients’ belongings and dismantle homeless encampments.

The council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, which met yesterday to
consider potential amendments to the ordinance, backed a motion by Councilman
Gil Cedillo asking city staffers to report back on potentially suspending the

The measure shortens the notice period from 72 hours to 24 hours before
belongings on sidewalks and other public areas can be confiscated, and imposes
a misdemeanor penalty for non-compliance.
Cedillo, who voted against the ordinance in June, told fellow committee
members today that the city is “putting the cart before the horse” with the
new law because there are not enough storage facilities where the homeless can
put their belongings, and other issues addressing homelessness have yet to be
worked out.

The committee also instructed city staffers to report back on proposed
amendments to the law that could eliminate the misdemeanor penalty, require
that voluntary storage be in close proximity before property could be seized,
clarify how the law would treat attended and unattended property and change the
types of property that can be confiscated.

The panel’s actions come as attorneys for the Los Angeles Community
Action Network — a Skid Row-based organization that advocates for low-income
and homeless people — said the city could face legal challenges if its leaders
fail to reconsider or rescind the new ordinance.

The group’s attorneys sent a 17-page letter to city officials on Tuesday
detailing their concerns about the ordinance, which they say is
“unconstitutional” and contains the “same legal defects” as an earlier law
that was struck down in court.

“We urge you to withdraw the ordinance and avoid subjecting the city to
ongoing legal liability,” attorneys from Munger, Tolles & Olson and Public
Counsel wrote.

LACAN Co-Director Beck Dennison said in an email to City News Service
that the group might consider legal action on the ordinance — and also on a
similar law that affects property left in city parks — “if or when they are
applied in an unconstitutional manner, but we are not at that point yet.”

She said the purpose of the letter was to discuss “our legal assertion
that the ordinance is unconstitutional, and none of the proposed amendments
correct that fact.”

The letter was addressed to council members Jose Huizar and Marqueece
Harris-Dawson, co-chairs of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee.
Huizar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Harris-Dawson released a statement saying that he is “having a hard
time solely addressing people’s belongings when we urgently need to develop a
strategy to address important issues such as shelters, transitional housing,
substance abuse and mental health issues.”

“As long as we’re not housing people, nothing else we do is right,” he

Rob Wilcox, spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer, said the office is
“currently analyzing the letter.”

The ordinance, and another that affects the seizure of property in city
parks and beaches, was adopted by the City Council in June and went into effect
in July without Mayor Eric Garcetti’s signature.

LACAN activists urged Garcetti to veto the ordinances, but the mayor
responded that he had assurances from the City Council that it would amend the
measures. He also said he instructed city officials to suspend enforcement of
the laws until the amendments are in place.

The activists maintain that Garcetti has limited authority to put
enforcement on hold, and LACAN’s attorneys said today the proposed amendments
now being considered will not sufficiently improve the ordinance.

The attorneys contend the law will lead to the “unreasonable” seizure
of personal belongings and a “proposed amendment removing specific reference
in the definition of `Personal Property’ to `personal items such as luggage,
backpacks, clothing, documents and medication, and household items’ will have
absolutely no legal effect.”

“Such items will still constitute `tangible property’ and personal
property as that term is understood in our laws,” the attorneys wrote, adding
that the ordinance would also allow “the confiscation of medication and
critical documents.”

“By seizing those possessions, the city affirmatively places homeless
people in danger and exposes itself to danger-creation liability,” according
to the attorneys, who also maintain that provisions for notifying people before
items are confiscated are “constitutionally deficient.”

The ordinance would make failing to comply “even when compliance is
impossible” a criminal act, the attorneys say, and would also lead to “severe
consequences for immigrants, in particular for those otherwise eligible to seek
deferred action for childhood arrivals (`DACA’); family members of citizens and
permanent residents seeking adjustment of status; and applicants for

Article Name
City to reconsider ordinance to dismantle homeless camps
Los Angeles City Council members said today they will consider suspending a recently adopted ordinance that makes it easier and faster for the city to seize transients' belongings and dismantle homeless encampments.

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