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LA leaders limit how much homeless people can keep on the streets

File: A homeless man sets up his tent along a street in L.A.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
Homeless people's belongings will be limited to what they can fit into a 60-gallon bin.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Thursday to limit homeless people's belongings to 60 gallons worth, roughly the size of a large recycling bin.

Property in excess of that could lead to a citation. Councilmembers said the measure was not perfect, but that it struck a balance between respecting homeless people's property rights and the public's right to unobstructed and clean streets and sidewalks.

Homeless advocates argued that the measure only served to criminalize homeless people and will make it easier for the city to sweep encampments.

After the Council's 13-1 vote, with Gil Cedillo casting the only "no," advocates chanted "Housekeys, not handcuffs!"

Councilmember Joe Buscaino spoke out strongly in favor of the measure, which amended an existing law.

"Public spaces are public," Buscaino said. "They belong to all of us, and as lawmakers we must ensure that all Angelenos can use and enjoy [them]."

But Cedillo said the city needs to focus on developing more housing for the homeless, not making more rules.

"It's a continuation of us going in the wrong direction," Cedillo said.

The city has lost several lawsuits in recent years in which it was accused of illegally seizing homeless people’s property. The latest suit was filed earlier this month by homeless advocates including the Los Angeles Community Action Network.

The unamended law states that homeless people can keep the amount of belongings they can carry. Leaders such as Mayor Eric Garcetti described the change to a 60-gallon limit as "more compassionate for homeless residents, while addressing health concerns in our neighborhoods."

"I have to balance the health and safety of the streets with the rights and needs of those living on them," Garcetti said in a statement.

The measure will go before the Council next week for a second and final vote.