By Elizabeth Chou
May 4, 2020 —
A federal judge has called for settlement talks to begin Thursday, May 7, the latest turn in a free-wheeling, marathon effort to resolve Los Angeles’s growing homelessness crisis, and to avoid future legal disputes that may slow down efforts to address the issue.
The negotiations are part of a lawsuit filed in March in which the plaintiffs, a coalition known as the LA Alliance for Human Rights, allege the city and county of Los Angeles have not done enough to address the growing homeless population, which number more than 50,000.
Scattered parks, beaches and sidewalks meant for use by the general public are now home to encampments, but federal law has not allowed for enforcement of ordinances to keep these areas clear because public officials have so far been unable to find shelter for people experiencing homelessness, the lawsuit alleges.
Judge David Carter has scheduled for negotiations to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Alexandria Ballrooms, at 501 S. Spring St., in Downtown Los Angeles, according to minutes filed in federal court.
Participants in the talks are expected to include members of the Los Angeles City Council, who recently authorized the city attorney to begin taking part in settlement negotiations, which could include discussions of setting up goals for sheltering and housing people.
As part of a possible agreement, city officials could come away with the ability to enforce certain “quality of life” laws — which have been challenged in court — such as city restrictions against public camping, dwelling in vehicles and storing belongings on sidewalks.
Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the South Bay, and Council President Nury Martinez are expected to take part in the talks as representatives of the City Council.
Participants aim for an agreement like those reached recently in the Orange County Catholic Workers case that led to the clearing away of a large encampment along the Santa Ana River Trail.
Individual cities in Orange County, as well as at least two cities in Los Angeles County — Bellflower and Whittier — have also joined in that case, crafting settlement agreements of their own.
The minute order, filed on Saturday, stated that “previous years of litigation on the issue of homelessness have resulted in only minimal improvements for the homeless population, the business community, and the general citizenry of Los Angeles.”
But after weeks of status updates and conversations with different public officials, Judge Carter said in his order that he has seen “the initiative and cooperation demonstrated thus far by the City Council, the Mayor’s Office, and the county Board of Supervisors, the Court is optimistic that the parties will be able to reach a settlement to the benefit of all persons living in the city and county of Los Angeles.
“This will to succeed is encouraging to the Court, and the Court looks forward to the upcoming settlement negotiations,” the minute order said.
The judge requested that the parties in the case submit confidential memos on their “settlement positions,” prior to the negotiations.
This article courtesy of San Gabriel Valley Tribune
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