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Home / Neighborhood / Los Angeles / Bass blasts motion demanding fine over homeless encampments

Bass blasts motion demanding fine over homeless encampments

by City News Service
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Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass Wednesday blasted as “baseless” a motion brought by a group of downtown business owners and residents demanding that the city face a nearly $6.4 million fine for its alleged lack of transparency and failure to reduce homeless encampments.

“The city of Los Angeles brought thousands more unhoused Angelenos inside last year than the year before and we will continue that urgent work to save lives no matter what,” Bass said in a statement.

“I do not have patience for anyone who stands in the way, and certainly not for those seeking to profit with baseless motions in court. Regardless of whether or not others choose to divert resources away from this work, we’re going to keep saving lives.”

A March 4 hearing is set to discuss the motion filed last week in federal court by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights. The motion alleges that the city has violated a 2022 settlement agreement between the association and the city calling for the housing of a minimum of 60% of people living on the streets in each of the city’s 15 council districts.

“For more than a year, the city of Los Angeles has willfully and intentionally violated the settlement agreement in this case and failed to meet the milestones it set for itself,” according to the motion for compliance.

L.A. Alliance attorneys say the city “obstructed efforts to establish critical encampment milestones and created far fewer beds than it promised to.”

Bass said the Alliance filing comes after more than 21,000 Angelenos came inside last year, thousands more than the previous year, “thanks to urgent action locking arms with the City Council.”

In the settlement agreement, the city set a milestone of 3,700 new beds for the unhoused in the last fiscal year — but created only 1,748 beds in that period, the motion contends. The L.A. Alliance also alleges that while the city committed to create a total of 5,190 beds by the end of 2023, it has created only 2,810 — falling 2,380 short.

For 14 months, L.A. Alliance lawyers maintain, the city “has stalled, made excuses, and waffled in committing to encampment resolution metrics.”

In a response filed Monday, City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto contends that the city “was in full compliance with its obligations under the Settlement Agreement and that the L.A. Alliance has suffered no actual damages as a result of any delay. On that basis alone, the motion should be summarily denied.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Soto said the lawsuit “unnecessarily distracts from the city’s efforts to address the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. As our response in court makes clear, the city is in full compliance with the Alliance agreement and is on track to continue to shelter an unprecedented number of unhoused individuals.”

U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is presiding over the case and signed off on the city’s settlement two years ago and the county’s pact with the L.A. Alliance last year, scheduled the hearing next month to discuss the motion.

The motion singles out downtown’s Skid Row area and two locations in Highland Park as requiring urgent action.

In March 2020, the L.A. Alliance sued the city and county of Los Angeles to compel elected officials to rapidly address the homelessness crisis, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs demanded the immediate creation of shelter and housing to get people off the streets, services and treatment to keep the unhoused in shelter, and regulation of public spaces to make streets, sidewalks and parks safe and clean.

In the settlement, it was agreed that the city would reduce encampments, establish deadlines and goals to document its progress, and return public spaces to their intended uses.

The county’s settlement agreement would create 3,000 treatment beds for unsheltered people with mental illnesses and addictions, subsidize 450 “Board and Care” beds, and establish deadlines and targets to document its efforts.

According to the L.A. Alliance, the settlements will result in 3,500 mental health and treatment beds and 19,700 beds for people experiencing homelessness, including 6,700 beds focused on helping those living near freeways and underpasses.

Although the lawsuit originally seemed to target the Skid Row area specifically, both agreements are for all of Los Angeles and are not limited to Skid Row and downtown.

Carter approved the settlements on the condition that he closely oversee the city and county’s progress in meeting their deadlines and goals.

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