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Some LA Residents Now Only Allowed What Fits in a Trash Bin

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The City Council has passed a draconian law limiting the amount of personal property some residents can keep

In yet another revision of the controversial Municipal Code 56.11, which prevents people from leaving items unattended on public property, the City Council voted 13-1 Wednesday to on rules that allow homeless residents only as much as can fit inside a 60 gallon container (about the size of a trash bin). The city can continue to "seize and impound" tents immediately.

In June, the Council amended the municipal code to shorten the amount of advance warning police must give residents before confiscating property, and to allow them to immediately take large items like tents. Since most homeless residents have no place to put belongings other than the sidewalks, the law has been called cruel and unconstitutional. (In fact, an earlier version was declared unconstitutional and, rather than taking that as an answer, the City Council has been attempting to pass a version that threads the needle a little better ever since it was struck down.)

Not wanting to stir the pot one way or the other, Mayor Eric Garcetti chose not to sign the revised ordinance, allowing it to go into effect without his endorsement. Garcetti said the LAPD would not enforce the measure, but in fact they have been accused of over-enforcing it.

Now, with mounting pressure from activists and business groups alike, the Council has revised the ordinance. On the one hand, the changes passed by the Council Wednesday actually increase the amount of property homeless residents can legally keep on the sidewalk, from essentially nothing to whatever you can fit in a 60 gallon bin. On the other hand, there's now a very specific limit on the amount and size of things a homeless individual can legally claim as their own—after 24 hours, "excess personal property" can be impounded and the city will supposedly store it for 90 days—a restriction on the amount of private property a person can have doesn't seem very American.

The LA Times says that members of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the homeless advocacy group based in Skid Row, expressed their displeasure with the Council's decision by wearing trash bags painted with the words "I am human. Not trash." Neighborhood activist General Jeff asks "How can I get out of homelessness when you keep throwing me literally in the trash?"

It's unclear exactly how the LAPD will enforce the new measure—though they will, surely, considering the vast majority of the money Los Angeles spends on homelessness is on law enforcement; perhaps we'll soon be seeing officers wheeling garbage bins around the city to use as measuring instruments.