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California

L.A. agrees to pay nearly $950,000 in two cases involving the homeless

Police officer talks to homeless woman on downtown freeway overpass
The city of Los Angeles has agreed to pay more than $800,000 to settle a lawsuit over the confiscation of homeless people’s possessions. Above, a police officer talks with a homeless woman on a downtown freeway overpass in March.
(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles lawmakers agreed Tuesday to pay nearly $950,000 in settlement payments and attorney fees in two cases involving homeless people and their advocates, adding to the mounting sum that the city has shelled out in such legal battles.

The City Council voted to pay out $822,000 to settle a case brought by homeless people who sued the city for seizing and destroying their possessions – a practice that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said violated their right to be protected against unreasonable seizures.

City lawmakers also approved a payout of more than $125,000 in legal fees in another case involving a skid row protest that took place five years ago: The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that police had erred by arresting activist Pete White as he protested a monthly skid row walk by city officials and business leaders, which he and other activists saw as a vehicle for ejecting poor and homeless residents and hastening gentrification.

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The city had already approved paying out $225,000 in the same case last year, a sum that covered attorney fees in district court but not at the appellate level, civil rights attorney Carol Sobel said.

The payouts add to a growing tab for the legal tug-of-war over homelessness in Los Angeles: City officials agreed last year to pay $1.1 million to Sobel and other attorneys who successfully challenged a city law that banned people from sleeping in their vehicles on city streets and parking lots.

And in yet another case brought by Sobel – this one challenging police sweeps of overnight homeless encampments on skid row -- L.A. agreed to pay out $725,000 in legal fees two years ago.

emily.alpert@latimes.com

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Follow me on Twitter at @LATimesEmily

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