A man in a pink shirt sits on a sidewalk next to his belongings.
A homeless man in Los Angeles puts on his face mask during the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo by Cameron Venti/Unsplash.

Federal Judge Rules Against City of L.A. Over ‘Bulky Item’ Notices

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Yesterday, KTown for All, a volunteer-led homeless advocacy group based in Koreatown, announced that a judge found the City of Los Angeles to be in contempt of court for violating an order that forbids it from seizing unhoused people’s property.

While the city claimed it didn’t remove anyone’s property, advocates pointed to signs the city had installed ahead of a cleanup in San Pedro prohibiting bulky items. U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer did not issue any fines and ordered the city to work with homeless advocates to draft “remedial notices” to be posted for at least two weeks in areas where the incorrect notices had been posted.

On April 13, Fischer granted a preliminary injunction preventing the city from enforcing a portion of Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 56.11 that prohibited people from storing items that don’t fit inside one of the city’s 60-gallon trash containers in public areas.

Per the L.A. Times, the city reasoned that banning bulky items would keep sidewalks and other public spaces clear and clean, while homeless advocates argued that the ban resulted in the “immediate and often permanent deprivation of property.” The lawsuit identified one plaintiff who said the city threw away his dog’s kennel on two separate occasions — accounting for two separate kennels — because they were “bulky” objects. Other people reported losing carts and bedding.

Fischer sided with the plaintiffs at the time, writing, “Although the city would understandably prefer homeless residents not ‘appropriate’ public areas… the bulky item provision cannot be the solution to that problem.”

Bulky items can still be removed, but there needs to be a reason other than that they’re big, like if they block a pathway or pose some kind of safety hazard. 

The April 13 decision also prevented the city from enforcing a part of Municipal Code Section 56.11 that declared it unlawful for someone to resist their bulky item being tossed. Further, the decision also stated that the city couldn’t post notices enforcing either of those code sections. 

Ktown for All’s attorneys argued that such signs could prompt unhoused people to abandon their possessions, while the city argued that incorrect signs were only posted in four instances. Because no bulky items were actually removed or destroyed, the city’s attorneys claimed, “there is no evidence that any person relied on these notices to their detriment or suffered any harm as a result of the notices.”

Meanwhile, advocates continue to advocate for “services, not sweeps,” which you can read more about here.

Los Angeleno