City, Business Group Settle Suit Over Seizure of Homeless People’s Property

DTLA — A 2014 lawsuit that alleged police and business improvement district workers in the Industrial District worked together to confiscate homeless people’s belongings has reached its conclusion.

The City Council on Wednesday, June 14, approved a settlement that will change how the Central City East Association and its Downtown Industrial BID operates in and around Skid Row.

The suit against the city, brought by four homeless people and the organizations the L.A. Catholic Worker and L.A. Community Action Network, alleged that Los Angeles Police Department officers notified BID workers about the location of belongings to confiscate, then stood by while workers took property, and threatened to arrest anyone trying to stop the act.

         The suit alleged that the city used private officers in this manner following a series of court rulings that hampered the LAPD’s ability to directly confiscate homeless people’s belongings found on public property.

The city, CCEA and the Industrial District BID denied the allegations, but have agreed to stop taking or destroying property, including tents, shopping carts, bicycles, luggage and wheelchairs, from public space unless it is near doorways or loading docks, is impeding disabled people’s access, or has been deemed “abandoned” (the definition has strict requirements, including verbal approval from people near the item and a 24-hour notice period).

In addition, the CCEA agreed to pay $25,000 to the Legal Aid Foundation of L.A., which led the plaintiffs’ legal team.

The office of City Attorney Mike Feuer and CCEA Executive Director Estela Lopez declined to comment on the settlement.