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Lawsuits target city over new laws for homeless housing projects and motel conversions

Lawsuits target city over new laws for homeless housing projects and motel conversions
A homeless man walks around Venice Beach wearing a blanket. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A Venice group sued the city of Los Angeles on Friday over a pair of laws recently passed by the City Council that are intended to ease requirements for sheltering homeless people.

Oxford Triangle Assn. alleges in a suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that the city failed to fully consider the environmental impacts of the two laws. Another group, Fight Back, Venice, filed an identical suit Friday, said Jamie Hall, the attorney for both groups.

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The ordinances being challenged make it easier to build permanent supportive housing and to convert motels to units for homeless people.

The lawsuits cite the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires government officials to fully evaluate a new development's impact on the environment. The plaintiffs want to set aside the laws and force the city to require full environmental reviews for projects.

The lawsuits don't target specific developments, but Hall said the plaintiffs are concerned about two proposed projects in Venice.

Speaking generally about the new permanent supportive housing law, Hall said residents are concerned that new developments are being "shoved down their throat without any opportunity to provide for comment or feedback."

Under the permanent supportive housing law passed last month, homeless housing developments that meet a list of requirements can avoid a lengthy process at City Hall that includes environmental review and can trigger a public hearing.

The law also slashes parking requirements and allows permanent supportive housing projects to be built taller or denser than otherwise allowed.

The other law eases the way for motels to be converted temporarily into housing. To participate, motel owners must show that they had struck an agreement to lease out their building for homeless tenants.

As the laws were being debated this year, several neighborhood groups expressed concern.

Court filings identify some of the members of the Oxford Triangle Assn. as Mark Shockley, Karen E. Kennedy and Linda Giambrone Vaughn. Christian Wrede is listed as a member of Fight Back, Venice, Hall said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti's office had no immediate comment.

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith

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