Property owners and shelter residents seek to block settlement on homelessness

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Homeless encampments in Skid Row could soon be further entrenched thanks to a legal settlement preventing authorities from trashing personal property that exceeds what would fit in a 60-gallon garbage bag or container.

The March settlement followed a 2016 lawsuit by attorney Carol Sobel on behalf of four homeless individuals and two advocacy groups, after Los Angeles officials tried to set the 60-gallon personal property limit. Mitchell argued seizing personal items was unconstitutional, and the City would ultimately settle for the right to haul away and destroy sofas, pallets and hazardous materials, and nothing else.

Property owners say clutter from homeless encampments have caused rat infestations and the ongoing typhus crisis in downtown Los Angeles. They, along with residents of nearby shelters, are taking the City to court to undo the settlement. A hearing is set for Aug. 12.

The petition to intervene was brought on behalf of the DTLA Alliance for Human Rights, a group new to the Skid Row controversy. In legal papers, the group is described as an alliance of downtown “stakeholders” working for incremental solutions to the “human rights crisis” of mental illness and homelessness on Skid Row.

Members include Inner City Arts President Bob Smiland and several residents of the Union Rescue Mission, a Skid Row shelter headed by the Rev. Andy Bales. Smiland and Bales are on the board of the business improvement district for the downtown industrial district, which handles security and cleanups on Skid Row. But neither group is involved in the court petition.

The petition to intervene is the second legal action in recent weeks that could affect enforcement of L.A.’s sprawling camps. Theodore B. Olson, a veteran litigator of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, is challenging an appellate decision that prohibits cities in nine states, including California, from punishing homeless people for sleeping outside when shelter is unavailable.

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