A Statement from Laguna Niguel Mayor Elaine Gennawey:
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS VOTES TO RELOCATE HOMELESS POPULATION ACROSS STREET FROM CHILDREN'S DAYCARE CENTER
I am outraged by the Orange County Board of Supervisors’ poorly thought out decision to move the homeless tents out of the Santa Ana River Trail and move them to three different cities in the county, Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel. This does nothing to alleviate the problem of homelessness that has grown due to the Board of Supervisors’ willful abdication of leadership. They have had years to address this issue and they are the ones who put themselves in this "time crunch" with an apparent limitation of ill-advised options. It is unclear how moving the homeless into temporary tents in an area that lacks public transportation, is not pedestrian friendly, far from an employment center, and far from services will benefit the homeless population in our county. This faulty logic is detrimental to both the residents of Laguna Niguel who the County Supervisors purport to serve, and the homeless individuals they have failed to help.
The Board of Supervisors has been searching for about 10 years to find a solution to the growing homeless population and provide needed services, but what have they done? First, they disbanded the Commission to End Homelessness, then they refused to spend the hundreds of millions in state funds that was designated to provide mental health services and supportive housing to the homeless (but were happy to collect the interest income of those funds), and now they want to spread the homeless population across the county which will make it even more difficult to provide them resources. As U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter put it, the county has been "chipmunking" the funds.
The Laguna Niguel site in question does not meet the criteria that the Board of Supervisors outlined. Unlike other existing and proposed locations, this is not an "isolated" location, and the placement of homeless tents will most definitely have a direct negative impact on the local community. The Laguna Niguel site borders a residential area, is directly across the street from a children's daycare center, shares the parking lot with the families and children going to the 2 library, is in the middle of our Civic Center, and is literally right outside the front door of City Hall.
The County staff did not even make a courtesy phone call to our city staff before announcing in the media that they issued a decree that an unpermitted homeless shelter should be erected in our city. County staff provided the Board of Supervisors a list of county-owned properties and they selected one property from each of the three service districts (North, Central, South) without consulting with anyone from the city!!
This move will not help those struggling to find shelter, food, and employment. In fact, this haphazard, hurried and poorly-planned action by the Board of Supervisors is gravely detrimental to public safety.
For the past couple of years, our city had worked with the county to develop this county-owned land into a new town center, which would have been an economic boon for both the county and our residents. A few months ago, the Board of Supervisors could not reach agreement with a developer for the property because they desired a higher financial return. What kind of a financial return will a temporary homeless shelter get the county? Zero! It is very short-sighted to use such valuable real estate, which could generate income for the county, to put up homeless tents, which drain public resources, not contribute to them. Additionally, the property in question does not have adequate public transportation, is not near a jobs center, and is far from county services. The land is not flat, so it is not tent-ready and there are mold and asbestos concerns in and around the County courthouse building.
It would be much more logistically and financially responsible to provide the transitional housing needed at one larger site, as well as the wrap-around services that would lead to permanent supportive housing. Supervisor Todd Spitzer stated at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that 571 beds are available, which is more than adequate since hundreds of homeless have either refused services or have not met with their assigned social worker.
To the residents of our great city-please rest assured that myself, the city council, and your city staff are taking immediate and appropriate action. As Mayor, I have called a Special Meeting of our City Council tonight, immediately following our Regular City Council meeting, to discuss potential litigation on this issue.
-- Elaine Gennawey Mayor, City of Laguna Niguel