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L.A. city to fight judge’s order demanding action on skid row

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter walks skid row with LAPD Officer Deon Joseph and the Rev. Andy Bales
U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, left, walks skid row with LAPD Officer Deon Joseph and the Rev. Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission, on April 3, 2020.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The city of Los Angeles plans to file an appeal against a sweeping order by a federal judge that demanded urgent action to get people off skid row, according to court papers filed Friday.

The preliminary injunction from Judge David O. Carter calls for the city and county of L.A. to offer housing or shelter to everyone on skid row by the middle of October. It also requires the city to put $1 billion in escrow — roughly the sum that Mayor Eric Garcetti had pledged would go to homelessness initiatives in his upcoming budget.

Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the city attorney’s office, declined to comment on the notice of an appeal Friday afternoon. Garcetti and other city officials have publicly challenged the feasibility of putting aside $1 billion.

A federal judge’s order calling on L.A. to provide shelter to all unhoused people on skid row by October is sparking growing alarm

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More than a third of the money that Garcetti had planned for his budget would come from Proposition HHH, a bond measure that has been funding permanent supportive housing for homeless people.

Carter was sharply critical of the city in his order, arguing that its leaders had made a deadly decision to focus those HHH dollars largely on costly and slow-to-develop permanent housing at the expense of immediate shelter, leaving people to die on the streets.

“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” the judge wrote.

The mayor’s proposed budget, set for release Tuesday, comes at a moment of heightened frustration over the city’s handling of homelessness.

Lawyers for Los Angeles County, which is also named in the suit, had already announced earlier this week that they were appealing the order. Both the city and county are also seeking a stay of the order, which could delay it from going into effect.

Attorney Skip Miller of the Miller Barondess law firm, which is representing the county in the case, said the order is “fatally flawed” and “goes against prudent policy.”

“It upends long-term plans for permanent housing in favor of a temporary fix that would create a revolving door, not a way out, for persons trapped in homelessness,” Miller said

The judge’s order was the latest twist in a legal saga spurred by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a group made up largely of downtown business owners and residents that sued the city and county last year, arguing that they had mismanaged the homelessness crisis, wasted public money and violated various laws, including those protecting people with disabilities.

The injunction was cheered by the alliance and others who said it would finally spur action to eliminate dire conditions on skid row. Critics, including the Los Angeles Community Action Network, have argued that the tight timelines in the order would propel spending on temporary shelter rather than long-standing housing, failing to address the underlying problem.
The Los Angeles Community Action Network is also an intervenor in the case and filed a notice that it plans to file an appeal of Carter’s order.


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