LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The city of Los Angeles today filed a motion seeking dismissal of what it calls a “misguided'' lawsuit that attempts to compel local government to provide shelter to thousands of indigent people living on downtown sidewalks and next to freeways.
Lawyers for the city argue that while homelessness is “among the greatest challenges facing our region,'' efforts to address the crisis through the lawsuit filed in federal court last year against the city and county are misplaced.
The L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, which brought the suit, “wrongfully ask the court to ignore fundamental principles of federalism and separation of powers, and to intrude into the city's handling of complex policy issues that should be addressed by the elected city leaders, not the court,'' city attorneys wrote in the 25-page motion. “Indeed, as plaintiffs acknowledge, the city's leaders have already devoted great efforts, money, and resources to address homelessness, and the city has only increased those efforts in recent years.''
The city further argues that the L.A. Alliance -- a coalition of downtown business owners and residents, including homeless people -- has failed to prove any of its claims, including the notion that homeless encampments have been “allowed'' to persist in certain parts of the city, such as Skid Row, Venice, and under the San Diego (405) Freeway, more than in other areas.
Los Angeles city attorneys also contend that the plaintiffs have not proved their claim that $1.2 billion in voter-approved Proposition HHH funds have been “wasted'' because of a focus on permanent housing rather than the interim solutions the L.A. Alliance contends would be cheaper and a better use of the money.
“While plaintiffs may disagree with the city's discretionary decisions, they lack standing to challenge them in the courts; their remedy lies at the polling places and legislatures,'' the motion reads.
A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 9 in Los Angeles federal court to discuss the city's dismissal motion.
Meanwhile, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of appeals in expected to hear arguments next month in the city and county's attempt to freeze a judge's order that local government must offer housing opportunities to the entire population of Skid Row by mid-October.
In April, the judge overseeing the suit, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, issued the injunction ordering that the Skid Row housing effort must begin with offers to all single women and unaccompanied children living on downtown streets. The city and county immediately requested that the appeals court issue a stay pending appeal.
A May 27 hearing in Carter's courtroom explored the role of racism as the driving force behind the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. The city and county then filed papers arguing that racism is besides the point of the L.A. Alliance lawsuit, which does not allege a constitutional violation on the basis of race.
Instead of clarifying the issues, Carter's racism hearing “amplified, rather than mitigated, the need for a stay pending appeal,'' appellants wrote.
“If a stay is not issued, appellants will be left scrambling to implement provisions in an injunction that advocates have warned will do more harm than good,'' lawyers for the city and county wrote. “Given the court's comments that it would not alter any deadlines, appellants will also face the dilemma of finding themselves in immediate contempt.''
At the May hearing, Carter urged the city and county to begin immediate settlement talks to resolve the lawsuit -- or adhere to his timetable for offering shelter to the homeless population of Skid Row.
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