Class Action Suit Settlement Helps Venice Homeless

By Peggy Lee Kennedy, Venice Justice Committee

A class action lawsuit has been settled in favor of Venice homeless people whose property was seized by Los Angeles Police and other City employees, without warrant, and then destroyed during a homeless sweep that took place in September 2004.

Carol Sobel, President of the Los Angeles National Lawyers Guild, waived her legal fees, increasing the total cash settlement available to homeless people. The cash settlement was dispersed the first week of February 2007.

To get a portion of the settlement a proof of claim form needed to have been submitted by last November. Deepest regrets are extended to any person affected by the sweep – and not found.

The case, Noe v. the City of Los Angeles, was partly based on written and videotaped statements from 22 people directly affected by the sweep along with videotape and still picture evidence of ten or more dumpsters full of the homeless people’s belongings found in Westchester and documented by Calvin E Moss and myself, of Venice Food Not Bombs and the Venice Justice Committee.

Sobel’s lawsuit providing cash settlements to Venice homeless people, which helped move some into housing situations and improved their living conditions.

The settlement further included an order that homeless property, if not abandoned, must be held for 90 days. Common sense, the constitution, and the State of California seem to all say we are supposed to be protected from the police seizing our property without a warrant or probable cause. Police should not seize and destroy property in order to rid an area of it’s homeless population. Such is the situation, though.
Around seven in the morning, Thursday before Labor Day 2004, Ibrahim Butler phoned me, “You need to get down here. There was a big sweep on the beach.” Usually, beach sweeps come just before a popular tourist holiday or a big event.

Calvin and I arrived on the Boardwalk shortly thereafter, but people were distressed (rightly so) and trying to find out where their belongings had been taken: the Venice LAPD Sub-Station, the Venice County Works Yard, or the LAPD Pacific Division Station?

We handed out incident reports and decided to go looking for a form called Claim for Damages against the City of Los Angeles. The form is available downtown in the clerk’s office at City Hall, but I thought it was worth a shot to go looking for it at the LAX courthouse clerk’s office.

The LAX clerk’s office doesn’t provide Claim for Damages forms, but the ride back turned out to be really worth the trip. Well, that’s where we were when Calvin said, “Is that their stuff?” and there it was - the seized belongings in ten or so full dumpsters all sitting in that park - in plain view from Lincoln Blvd.

A homeless person in Venice would not have thought to go looking in a park behind the Westchester City Council office three towns away from Venice, but we drove right by it.

Besides things being broken, the dumpsters had already been scavenged through. Calvin videotaped for a few minutes and we rushed back to tell people where their stuff was.

Posted: Thu - March 1, 2007 at 06:09 PM