L.A. Council committee moves to ban disposal of bulky items in parks

City officials propose a ban on leaving sofas, mattresses in city parks and beach parks

Disturbed by a proliferation of mattresses and sofas appearing on park property, a Los Angeles City Council committee Monday asked city lawyers to draft language outlawing the practice.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, asked for legislation after learning that leaving bulky items in the city's 459 recreational spaces is not explicity banned.

Bonin said he and his husband recently rushed to douse and remove a burning mattress on the Venice boardwalk. It's not unusual to see trash-strewn couches and armchairs left in beach parks, he said.

"Bulky items cause damage to park property as well as contribute to visual blight and clutter while the park is open," Bonin wrote in his motion asking for action.

Members of the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee agreed Monday to draft an ordinance that calls for posting signs at parks informing the public that dumping property is illegal. But compliance would be voluntary -- no fines would be levied for violating the ban, officials said.

The draft language also would authorize Recreation and Parks Department workers to remove and dispose of large items. Proposed legislation would have to win the support of the full council before it becomes law.

Michael Shull, the city's recreation and parks chief, said cleaning up personal property creates extra maintenance burdens and costs for his department.

"It's a quality-of-life issue,'' Shull told the committee.

The proposed law would specify that personal property such as luggage and papers left by homeless people would not be confiscated but collected and stored for 90 days.

That provision is necessary to comply with legal decisions that prohibit the city from throwing away personal items left on public sidewalks by the homeless.

General Dogon, a representative of the skid row-based Los Angeles Community Action Network, said homeless advocates would be watching closely to make sure the city doesn't violate their rights.

"The city in a lot of cases has been sued before,'' Dogon said. "I just want to make sure that's not the case here."

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