The Los Angeles City Council passed a cruel set of laws in June making it easy for the city to take and throw out the belongings of some of people who do not have homes, after a former set of laws was struck down as unconstitutional. Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed he would tell the LAPD not to enforce the law until it was amended to be slightly more humane, but as many experts pointed out, he doesn't really have that authority. And so the LAPD has embarked on a crackdown in Skid Row, community groups tell the LA Times, taking stuff in a way that sounds just plain mean-spirited, and they're doing it at the urging of Skid Row's rich new neighbors.
The gentrification of Downtown is closing in on all sides, and even though Skid Row has been around for more than a century (and the number of homeless people in the city is growing dramatically along with housing prices), its rich new neighbors who have moved into the Arts District and the Historic Core in the last few years aren't comfortable with its presence.
In July, "a half-dozen [LAPD] officers gathered on Towne [Avenue]," outside a warehouse, and began loading up a dump truck with people's possessions, including their tents and lean-tos, telling them that people had claimed they were blocking business entrances. As one homeless man pointed out, "What customers are you talking about? This is a warehouse."
The people who lived outside the warehouse explained that these were their homes and they had nowhere else to go (one said he'd been on housing waitlists for years). LAPD Sergeant Robert Bean told them "People pay a lot now to live here, they expect services from the city. You're kind of stuck in the middle, I know." And there's an LAPD officer saying it straight out: if you're rich enough, you're entitled to have the LAPD kick your less-rich neighbors out of their homes. They'll call it "services."
Another man says he was intimidated into signing a "voluntary property release" form by two employees of the Central City East Association business improvement district—these groups are responsible for things like "beautification" and "safety" in business districts and are funded by fees on the businesses they cover. Ken Gabel tells the Times that LAPD officers threatened to arrest him if he didn't clear out last month, so he went with an officer to a storage warehouse to sign up for a place to put his stuff. When he got back, some of the bike parts he uses in his repair business had been thrown out and two people asked him to sign the property release form. He wasn't sure if they were police (they weren't), "said he felt intimidated and signed the form."
And then, homeless and with part of his livelihood in the trash, the LAPD gave him a ticket.
LAPD Lieutenant Andy Mathes says the force is "trying to balance the needs of the homeless while ensuring the city is 'habitable'," for the people who can afford homes.
· LAPD denies increase in homeless sweeps; skid row advocates say otherwise [LAT]
· Los Angeles Passes New Rules to Just Take Some People's Stuff [Curbed LA]
· A Lot More People Are Homeless in Los Angeles These Days [Curbed LA]