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Housing and Homelessness

LA City Council Votes To Ban Bike Sales And Repairs On City Streets

City Council passed an ordinance seeking to crack down on bicycle "chop shops."
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Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of an ordinance seeking to crack down on bicycle "chop shops" by prohibiting the assembly, disassembly or sale of bikes or bike parts in the public right-of-way.

City council member and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino, the motion's co-author, points to Long Beach where the city has criminalized bike chop shops in public areas.

According to Buscaino, the Long Beach ordinance describes a chop shop as three or more bikes, a bike frame with gear or brake cables cut. Or, two or more bikes with missing parts or five or more missing bike parts.

"I believe this ordinance will give our LAPD officers the necessary tool to reduce bicycle thefts and help clean up our streets," Buscaino said.

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Councilmember Paul Krekorian, who voted in favor of the motion, says he has no evidence that somebody who lines up 40 bikes on a sidewalk is selling stolen bikes.

"But let's get real. We all know that they are, and if you don't have some way to enforce the law, then we're just going to keep shrugging our shoulders and say, 'oh well, crime like this can just continue,'" Krekorian said.

Opponents fear that anybody fixing a bike on the street without proof of ownership can be targeted by law enforcement.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson was one of four Councilmembers opposing the proposed measure. He says when he was a kid, he used a hand-me-down bike that would often break down on a sidewalk or at the park.

"Under this law, growing up in this city, I could have been arrested four, five, eight or nine — I don't even remember my bicycle broke, and I had to fix it. Or [my brother and I] had to fix our bikes and [a friend on my block and I had to fix our bikes,]" Harrison-Dawson said.

Councilmember Nithya Raman points out bike theft is a real problem in L.A. but she says this ordinance is not the way to stop it.

"This ordinance the way it's envisioned could also capture innocent conduct. The ordinance in Long Beach makes it illegal to assemble or disassemble two or more bicycles on the sidewalk that could be missing parts," Raman said.

Raman says the only way to prove the bike is yours is by producing a video or photo evidence, a bill of sale, a serial number or bike registration.

"How many people actually have those things? How many of us have those things? For our bikes on hand all the time? I certainly don't," she said.

Council member John Lee asked city council members on Tuesday"what type of city do we want? What message are we sending?"

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"The issue of criminalizing homelessness was brought up...this ordinance is not criminalized homelessness," Lee said. "It criminalizes conduct is in the direct result of feeling to support their drug habit."

The 10-4 vote on Tuesday could result in City Attorney Mike Feuer drafting a law to ban the practice. After Feuer writes the ordinance, it goes back to city council, where the motion can become law.

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