Last week, The Los Angeles Times’ published an editorial (“L.A.’s skid row property rights”) calling out City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his “misguided use of resources” in trying to overturn a recent federal court decision that bars the city and LAPD from seizing/destroying the property of homeless residents living in Skid Row.
On February 28, Estela Lopez (Executive Director of the Central City East Association) issued a problematic response (“Skid row: Hoarding trash on sidewalks isn’t a right”) that was riddled with misinformation and straight out lies. She continues to mischaracterize and demonize our community in the media.
To be clear, Estela Lopez and the CCEA do NOT speak on behalf of Skid Row residents – housed or homeless. The CCEA represents downtown L.A. businesses that pay Lopez and her organization to advocate on their behalf. If her concern for housed Skid Row residents expressed in the editorial were real, she could work with residents on solutions instead of blaming us for our community’s problems.
In her response, Lopez states “those who are critical of this injunction don’t dispute the right of the homeless to have personal property.” However, that is precisely the position taken by the City of Los Angeles at the behest of those interested in removing poor people from downtown Los Angeles. Leading the charge has been Los Angeles City Attorney, Amy Field who has openly in her arguments to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, fought against the notion of property rights and due process in Skid Row.
In an exchange with judges, Ms. Field stated “I’m not conceding that they [homeless residents of Skid Row] have a constitutionally protected property right. In fact, that’s my point…that they don’t.” (Hear audio of this quote and others HERE)
Then Lopez concludes her shallow rebuttal by stating that the injunction “is about whether it is safe, sane and civilized to allow limitless and hazardous possessions to occupy the sidewalks that belong to everyone,” which is a blatant misstatement of fact. The injunction does NOT allow for limitless OR hazardous possessions on the sidewalk. In fact, it expressly states that property that presents an immediate threat to public health or safety CAN be seized.
Ms. Lopez, Skid Row residents are perfectly capable and speaking for themselves – and they do it every day in their fight for an equitable community that values long-time low-income and homeless residents. Your version of our community only perpetuates myths and stereotypes.
The specific directives in U.S. District Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez’ ruling state that the City, and its agents and employees, are enjoined from:
“1. Seizing property in Skid Row absent an objectively reasonable belief that it is abandoned, presents an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime, or contraband; and
2. Absent an immediate threat to public health or safety, destruction of said seized property without maintaining it in a secure location for a period of less than 90 days.”
Therefore, the injunction in no way instructs the City of Los Angeles to stop picking up trash. Nor does it stop LAPD from enforcing laws that regulate appropriate sidewalk access or from taking property that presents an immediate threat to public health or safety, or is evidence of a crime.
What the injunction actually does is bar the city from seizing and destroying the personal possessions of homeless residents.