Attorneys in L.A. Win Victory; Santa Cruz ACLU Silent on Anti-Homeless Abuses

NOTES BY NORSE:   The “Official Story”, the Santa Cruz politician-and-police position, is that Parks and Rec and other agencies don’t destroy homeless property but hold it as required by state law (and the 4th & 8th Amendments).

However that’s not the experience of numerous homeless people as Mayor Bryant
‘s hand-picked Take-Back-Santa-Cruz orchestrated Public Hysteria campaign marches on.  The CHP towed Robert Brunett’s home-and-car at the behest of Aptos neighbors and SC County Deputies intent on removing his right to park on the public streets in a residential neighborhood.  He reports not even being given the required vehicular hearing, being denied access to his papers and possessions, and watching his vehicle become unrecoverable as the towing yard fines mounted.Tomorrow the Public Hysteria Citizens Task Farce (which calls itself the Public Safety Citizens Task Force–meets (see
to continue its legalization of the criminalizing of the homeless community in Santa Cruz under the fantasist “Public Safety” label.

The monthly Board of Directors meeting last night of the local ACLU was a usual gum-flapping session–though this time they did not exclude the public generally and homeless complainants specifically as Chair Peter Gelblum had done the month.  The Board continued to ignore any substantive action (or even specific public statements) denouncing the City’s violation of human rights for homeless people around the Sleeping Ban, the parks and levee curfews, sweeps of homeless encampments, destruction of homeless property, and the many concerns sent to them over a year ago (see ).

Meanwhile at City Council today there’ll be another 7 PM Dead Officers Memorial instead of the usual Public Meeting as the Robinson/Comstock faction uses public fears and grief to push its right-wing agenda–with silence from the “progressives” in Santa Cruz.

Supreme Court lets stand ban on destroying property of L.A. homeless

Eight skid row residents accused city workers of seizing and dumping their personal possessions. A lower court ruled that possessions could be taken only if they posed a threat to safety.

Homeless possessionsA homeless man sleeps in a doorway for the night near 4th and Main streets on L.A.’s skid row. (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times / February 27, 2013) 
By Gale Holland, Los Angeles TimesJune 24, 2013, 10:20 p.m. 

A long-running dispute over a controversial cleanup campaign on downtown’s skid row ended Monday when the U.S. Supreme Courtrefused to consider lifting an order that bans the city of Los Angeles from destroying property left unattended by homeless people.

The court, without comment, left standing a lower-court ruling that prevents the city from disposing of the contents of shopping carts and cardboard shanties that homeless people leave behind temporarily while using a restroom, filling water jugs or lining up for meals.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich had argued that the ban posed a public health hazard by making it impossible for the city to clean public streets and sidewalks on skid row, which has the highest concentration of homeless people in the city.

Attorney Carol Sobel, who represented the homeless plaintiffs, accused the city of letting trash and filth pile up for months to support its legal argument. She said skid row’s streets and sidewalks are now being cleaned “with no problem.”

“The city could find no evidence of a public health crisis,” she said. “The thing they should do is provide housing for the people.”

Trutanich, who asked the high court to step in, did not return phone messages. If the justices had taken up the case, it could have had a ripple effect in cities such as Fresno and Honolulu that are facing legal action over clearing homeless encampments and destroying property.

The suit was brought by eight skid row residents who accused city workers, accompanied by police, of seizing and dumping their personal possessions — including identification, medications, cellphones and toiletries.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the transients’ possessions could be taken only if they posed an immediate threat to public health or were evidence of a crime. If the city carts off their things, the city must give owners a chance to reclaim them before they are destroyed.

The city, in a court filing, said homeless people defied cleaning schedules by leaving overflowing shopping carts and piles of possessions covered with tarps and blankets on the sidewalks, breeding vermin and bacteria.

The county Department of Public Health inspected skid row last year and cited the city for multiple violations of health codes. The city launched a major cleanup effort that homeless advocates said was a model of how street sanitation can and should be done. “There was adequate notice and everybody moved their property,” Sobel said.

The city, however argued that forcing workers to sort through homeless peoples’ belongings put their health at risk, particularly when there are facilities where the things can be stored.

The Central City East Assn., a nonprofit business group, has a storage center on skid row where homeless people can leave their possessions. The city last year added 500 plastic trash bins to the center’s existing 600 containers, but organizers said there are never enough.

Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Assn., said she feared that the court action threatened the health of homeless people as well as everyone who works on skid row. “Until there are enough units for everyone and everyone agrees to housing, there will be a huge demand for sanitation,” she said.