Tentative Pact Reached in Skid Row Sweeps
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office has tentatively settled a lawsuit filed against the city over recent sweeps of Skid Row homeless camps, but at least one advocate of the cleanup campaign said Saturday that she may oppose the settlement because of the restrictions it places on the city.
The lawsuit, filed against the city last month by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Aid Foundation and some private lawyers, challenged the constitutionality of the sweeps and sought to block the city from continuing them. The settlement, reached late Friday, allows the sweeps to continue, but limits their frequency and guarantees 24-hour advance notice to people living on the streets, said attorney Jeffrey S. Gordon, one of the lawyers who sued the city.
According to the settlement, the city would be permitted to clean up one five-block area in Skid Row each day, but could not return to a particular five-block section within one week unless “there is a substantial increase in debris,” Gordon said. If city crews were to move into a five-block section twice in one week, they would not be allowed to do so again for an additional four weeks, Gordon said.
In addition, the city would be required to notify the homeless people about the sweep between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. the day before the operation, and again one hour before the sweep itself, which would have to take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., he said.
The notification restrictions would not apply if there was an “imminent health danger” in the area, such as a toxic spill, Gordon said. The tentative agreement would last five years, although it could be challenged yearly by either side, he said.
“What we have done is make an intolerable situation slightly more tolerable,” Gordon said. “They were coming in with five minutes notice with bulldozers and throwing people off the street.”
Several city officials involved in the cleanup campaign declined to comment Saturday, saying that they had not been told about the settlement by the city attorney’s office. But Maureen Kindel, president of the city Board of Public Works, said she will probably oppose any settlement that restricts the city’s ability to remove the sidewalk encampments.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to review this with the city attorney, but I think there are areas that should be cleaned every day, and I think the city should be free to do that,” said Kindel, who spent several days last week sweeping sidewalks in Skid Row with the help of street people. “I have no problem with giving notice, but I think the (cleanup schedule) will hamper us in doing what we want to do, which is make a clean and healthy environment for people to live and work.”
Mayor Tom Bradley, who also had not been briefed about the settlement, said any agreement should preserve the city’s right to move into an area whenever there are “threats to public health.”
Gordon said the tentative settlement, which requires City Council approval, protects the public health while providing the homeless with assurances that they will not be harassed by public works crews.
“The people want their area to be kept clean, but they don’t want it to be done in a way that deprives them of the few possessions they have to protect them from the elements and crime,” he said. “It is just a terrible situation there, and people are trying to make the best of it.”
A spokesman for the city attorney’s office said Deputy City Atty. Pamela Victorine, who handled the case for the city, could not be reached for comment on Saturday. Victorine, however, told the Daily News on Friday that the settlement would give the city the latitude it needs to clean up Skid Row.