A Whittier College mathematics professor who has frequently used the California Public Records Act to obtain information is asking a judge to order the city of Los Angeles to release internal communications related to the installation of planter boxes in Venice that he says have been used to displace the homeless.
Adrian Riskin, who filed his Los Angeles Superior Court papers on Monday, says he has been stymied in five attempts to obtain the information he is seeking through the Public Records Act.
“The public’s access to information is obstructed by (the city’s) blatant disregard for transparency and manifest violation of the CPRA,” according to Riskin’s court papers.
A representative for the City Attorney’s Office could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to his petition, Riskin, a blogger and open-records advocate, uncovered records through the CPRA that were published in the media and used to confront Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office regarding “its directive to sweep a homeless encampment in order to make way for a planned political event.”
In 2018, dozens of planter boxes were constructed on public sidewalks in Venice, mostly in popular resting places for homeless people, the petition states. According to Riskin, many activists in the Venice neighborhood oppose the planters, believing they were put there to displace Venice’s homeless residents.
“Notably, while the planters have been a source of much debate in the community, no one has publicly admitted to installing the planters,” according to Riskin’s court papers, which say similar planters have also appeared in other neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles.
An aide to Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents City Council District 11, stated he was not aware of any city department’s involvement in the placing of the planter boxes, the petition says. However, through a separate CPRA request, Riskin says he obtained an email thread that shows “strong evidence that CD11 and LAPD had direct involvement in the installation of planter boxes that have displaced homeless people in Venice.”
Riskin made five attempts beginning last December to obtain “all 2018 emails between Councilmember Bonin or his staff members and a list of named individuals … many of whom are suspected to be involved in anti-homeless efforts or efforts to install planters to displace homeless people in Los Angeles,” the petition states.
In January, Bonin’s new deputy chief of staff, Krista Kline, acknowledged receipt of Riskin’s request and asked that he wait until mid-February to call and arrange a time to review the documents, according to the petition, which says that Riskin’s exchanges with city officials in search of the emails continued through May.
The city “impermissibly delayed and obstructed” Riskin’s access to records and “ultimately failed to provide petitioner with even one single record in response to his five requests, let alone to do so “promptly as required by law,” the petition alleges.
Documentary producers have used unrelated records Riskin obtained in making a film on the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition and the Hollywood Media District Business Improvement District, according to his petition.
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