LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A federal judge Thursday tentatively signed off on Los Angeles' proposed settlement with the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights in which the city will spend up to $3 billion over the next five years to develop as many as 16,000 beds or housing units for non-mentally ill members of the homeless population.
U.S. District Judge David Carter said at the conclusion of a 90-minute hearing in downtown Los Angeles that while the agreement was "far from perfect," he was likely to give his approval and would issue his final ruling next week. The L.A. City Council voted 12-3 last month to approve the settlement.
Carter is overseeing the March 2020 lawsuit in which L.A. Alliance -- a coalition of downtown business owners and sheltered and unsheltered residents -- accuses the city and county of Los Angeles of failing to do its part in addressing the homelessness crisis.
Co-defendant L.A. County is not participating in the agreement and has scheduled closed-door mediation efforts Monday in attempts to resolve the case without a trial.
The judge said that in the two years that the case has been pending, he has seen efforts by the parties to address the homelessness problem not just in the Skid Row area but throughout the city and county.
There is now "an increasing effort to get thousands, not hundreds, off the streets," Carter said, adding that the city's settlement "will not solve homelessness."
While the proposed settlement does not include L.A. County, city officials said the county must be responsible for providing services and housing for homeless individuals with serious mental illness, substance-use issues or chronic physical illnesses.
Although the judge signaled at a previous settlement conference that he wants the parties to address the clearance of transients living near freeway overpasses and underpasses, that issue was not taken up Thursday.
According to the most recent homeless count, conducted prior to the pandemic in 2020, the countywide homeless population was 66,433, a nearly 13% increase from the previous year. The city of Los Angeles homeless population was 36,165, up 14% from the prior year.
At the start of the hearing, Carter blasted many, but not all of the city and county officials in attendance, for refusing to "get up at 4:30 in the morning" and join him in viewing homeless encampments to witness the extent of the problem.
"Frankly, you've lost a lot of credibility with me," the judge said from the bench. "I have pushed you as far as I possibly could."
Carter concluded that, ultimately, the city is "really 15 cities," referring to the 15 council districts.
"You are too big and dysfunctional to have a complete settlement," he said.
Skip Miller, outside counsel for the county, said the county was already "more than meeting its obligations" to homeless residents.
"We'd like very much to get out of this litigation," he said. "Our door is open."
Miller said in recent months that the county "is more than doing its job and doing everything possible to address homelessness without stigmatizing it as a crime. Any assertion that the county has failed on this obligation is utterly baseless."
Shayla Myers of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles -- an intervenor in the case -- objected to the settlement, saying the goal of the city was to enforce anti-camping laws to strong-arm the unsheltered off the streets.
"We do not think it will solve the homelessness crisis," she told the court.