A homeless activist was arrested Friday during a Los Angeles city cleanup of the Venice boardwalk.
David Busch, a member of the Venice Justice Action Committee, said the bimonthly cleanups were a pretext for driving homeless people out of the historic bohemian beach community.
"They're denying homeless people equal access to the beach," said Busch, who was taken away in handcuffs after refusing to climb off the hood of a city sanitation truck.
The cleanups on Venice's Ocean Front Walk began more than a year ago and recently were extended to the waterline. Nearly a dozen trucks arrived shortly after dawn Friday, spilling out sanitation workers in white hazardous materials suits who sprayed the boardwalk with a bleach compound and sorted through homeless people’s belongings left on or near the beach.
At one grassy spot, workers dragged away a sleeping bag deemed too contaminated to save, then bagged other blankets and personal items to haul away and store. A mouse skittered out as one crew member lifted a quilt.
Homeless people often leave behind tents and other belongings while they line up at soup kitchens, use the restroom, collect cans or make appointments. Under a 2012 court injunction, the city can confiscate only personal property that has been abandoned, and must store it for 90 days.
The city is considering a new law that would strengthen its authority to seize homeless people's belongings.
Crew members taped a notice to a nearby palm tree stating that the seized belongings would be kept for 90 days at a skid row storage facility. Steve Clare, executive director of Venice Community Housing, who was present during the cleanup, said homeless people could ask for their property to be returned to Venice for pickup, but that rarely happens.
Hope MacGregor, 26, was folding up her tent to make way for the cleanup. She said all her property, including her dog Misty, was taken away 2½ weeks ago when she was arrested on suspicion of selling drugs.
MacGregor, who is seven months pregnant, said she was sleeping on the pavement with other young people thrown out by their parents until she can get into housing in Pacoima.
"I've tried shelters, but they're just nasty," MacGregor said. "Nobody wants to be homeless."