Pacific Palisades resident Susie Forte Gilman filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles on April 6 for its proposed intention to house homeless people in the Palisades Recreation Center during the coronavirus outbreak.
In the 13-page complaint, filed in Superior Court, plaintiff Gilman, who lives near the Palisades Recreation Center, seeks relief from the intended action, calling it a public and private nuisance.
During a March 18 press conference, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan to move about 6,000 homeless from encampments into beds at 42 recreation centers around the city, including the Palisades RC. His plan has thus far been implemented at about a dozen recreation centers.
It is estimated that there are more than 50,000 homeless people in Los Angeles, so the Mayor’s housing plan, even if fully implemented, would impact only about 12% of the homeless.
Given that people that have already been moved to recreation centers and may be asymptomatic or come down with the disease after they checked in with no apparent symptoms, Gilman’s complaint states: “Placing a large number of vulnerable people with health conditions in an enclosed setting without isolation is a recipe for disaster.
“The Palisades RC will become akin to a ‘cruise ship’ or ‘nursing home’ in close proximity to a residential neighborhood. The homeless will be free to travel from the Palisades RC (i.e., the potentially infected cruise ship or nursing home) through the surrounding neighborhood.”
The complaint also notes that members of the Pacific Palisades Community Council were told that people living in a recreation center would be free to come and go: “People can leave the shelters under the same condition that any other person can leave their homes.”
The complaint argues that this City action does not abide by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulations that recommend that homeless encampments be left intact and that more handwashing and toilet facilities be provided.
The plaintiff also noted that the City had not assured the community it would comply with Megan’s Law that requires residents be notified of the presence of sex offenders in their communities.
Additionally, the complaint stated that the City had not responded to the Pacific Palisades Community Council letter raising questions about housing people in the substandard Palisades Recreation Center, which has only two bathrooms, both with a history of sewage backups, and old pipes, resulting in the lack of hot water.
In the Prayer for Relief, Gilman’s attorney John S. Durrant, of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, asked for an injunction to prevent a public and private nuisance and for atttorney fees and court costs.
Recreation Center Could Be a Breeding Ground for Coronavirus
An April 8 L.A. Times story noted that “One of the homeless people living inside [the Granada Hills] Recreation Center in the San Fernando Valley has tested positive for the coronavirus, an aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.”
The Mayor’s spokesperson, Alex Comisar, said that the case had resulted in a “deep clean” of the Center.
On March 30, your Circling the News reporter visited three Recreation Centers–Westchester, Cheviot Hills and Westwood. The cots inside each gym were indeed six feet apart, but if two people would both get out of “bed” on the same side, they would be closer than six feet. Additionally, the bathrooms were communally shared.
Also, CTN didn’t see any masks or gloves provided for the homeless residents.
About half of the cots were empty at about 4 p.m. at each center, but CTN was told all shelters were full. If they were full, it meant that the homeless were out in the community and coming back at night.
In the L.A. Times story, a man identified as Victor, who had been staying in the Granada Hills facility, said he left immediately without any of his property once it was announced the homeless man had coronavirus.
“I’m not staying another night in there,” he told the Times. “This guy had been there a couple of days and he was coughing the whole time.”
City officials must realize that the homeless people staying in that recreation center have most likely been exposed to coronavirus, which includes Victor. And now Victor has moved back to the streets and could possible infect other homeless. Is anybody tracking Victor?
Councilman Mike Bonin has said he supports using the Palisades Recreation Center as a temporary shelter, but that he favors the City’s second strategy, which is to find blocks of empty rooms at hotels and motels across the city to temporarily house the homeless.
The Palisades Community Council, the Pacific Palisades Residents Association and the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness have all opposed the City’s recreation center program, unless certain issues are clarified: for example, what will be the pre-screening before people are admitted to the Center, and will all inhabitants be required to wear face masks? Once the coronavirus crisis has passed, will the homeless be pushed out of these centers and back onto the streets?
The City has assured local communities that once the homeless move out of a Rec Center, a deep clean of the facility will be done.