By NINA MADOK
Special to Circling the News
After participating in the Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting on April 8 and listening to the comments of concerned citizens and council members alike opposed to Councilman Bonin’s motion to house homeless at Will Rogers State Beach, I come away with two impressions.
First, with all due respect to my fellow Palisadians, our objections sound a lot like NIMBYism. Nimbyism will not protect us, solutions will.
Second, no one addressed the elephant in the room, specifically the motion’s impact on the homeless litigation now pending in federal court and how Pacific Palisades has now been pulled into that litigation and its outcome.
With that in mind, it is my opinion (as a 22-year resident of this community) that our very own Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH) is in the best position to advocate and represent the best interests of the Pacific Palisades community, and to do so in a way that would be both persuasive and effective.
PPTFH is an experienced nonprofit dealing successfully with homelessness in our community (in the absence of effective government solutions). They have developed and implemented best practices and have a unique understanding of the issues and possible solutions that would be beneficial in the pending litigation. In the event that the litigation results in a receivership, which is now highly likely, the PPTFH can best represent the interests of Pacific Palisades. (Visit: PPTFH.org).
Here is the background:
In November 2020, a coalition of business and property owners in downtown L.A.’s skid row came together as a nonprofit, The LA Alliance for Human Rights, concerned about the ongoing impact of homelessness in their neighborhood (https://www.la-alliance.org)
They sued the City and County of Los Angeles on a variety of grounds, asking for action to deal with the issue and for an accounting of money spent on alleviating the problem. (https://www.courtlistener.
As part of the subsequent litigation, the City and County agreed to find shelter for 6,700 of the most severely impacted homeless by April 15, 2021. The litigation is overseen by Judge David Carter, a federal judge with an empathetic heart and a hands-on approach (https://www.latimes.com/
On March 29, the County of Los Angeles filed a motion asking to be dismissed from the lawsuit. Part of their argument was that nowhere in the original complaint was there factual information that impacted County jurisdiction.
Two days later, on March 30, Councilmen Bonin and Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced their motion wherein they specifically suggest possible relocation sites on County parking lots for homeless impacted by the litigation. (Also mentioned are locations in Culver City, a jurisdiction not previously implicated in the pending lawsuit, and property that is privately owned in the City of Los Angeles.) (https://www.
In my view, Councilman Bonin’s choice of sites in his CD-11 was intentional. Instructing the City to focus on these locations, where the County has primary jurisdiction, is an attempt to factually tie them to the circumstances of the lawsuit. Additionally, the placement of homeless in these beach parking lots would impact the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission, an entity also not involved in the litigation currently but needed for a comprehensive solution.
Why would Councilman Bonin want to do this? Because he has in fact advocated all along in this litigation for a “comprehensive” solution. His specific suggestion is for something called a consent decree, a settlement between the relevant parties “agreeing to” a judicially monitored global solution. (https://mikeboninla.medium.
However, at a February 4 hearing, Judge Carter asked the parties for briefs discussing something different — whether or not he can impose a receivership on the governmental entities involved in order to find a comprehensive solution.
A receivership would be akin to what the courts did in order to desegregate schools under Brown v. Board of Education (https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483).
The rationale for such a receivership is that the county and city governments are incapable of working together and finding solutions to the problem at hand. Here is an article with a good overview of the current situation: (https://www.lamag.com/
Clearly, there is an argument to be made that a receivership may be needed. The County and the City have shown through their actions and arguments that they are not effective dealing with this issue.
The deadline is April 15 for the parties to house 6,700 homeless pursuant to the previously reached agreement last November. The parties have not come close to being able to meet this benchmark. The plaintiff, LA Alliance for Human Rights, has filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction to force a receivership or some court solution. (https://storage-
And now, just like that, Pacific Palisades is impacted by the litigation. So, what to do?
In past situations like this, including before this judge, any arguments that smack of NIMBYism have been ineffective. And with all due respect to the PPCC and concerned citizens alike, the current letters and proposals in opposition to the motion all fall in that category.
What Judge Carter and the plaintiffs have asked for are solutions. The PPTFH’s approach, which has proven effective and scalable, is one that would impress Judge Carter.
More importantly, the task force leaders are in a unique position to speak to what doesn’t work. See for example the following articles about a tiny home village in Olympia, Washington, where the average length of stay is 3-1/2 years.
The PPTFH also can report on its experience with the limitations of simply providing housing, as they did for Timmy Houston, but which was not enough to keep him off the street.
They are able to directly speak to the challenges of homeless residents at our beaches, the lure of the beach and why pulling homeless to and putting them up at the beach would be anything but temporary.
The PPTFH could also suggest other possible solutions (note, these are some of my own personal suggestions, and may not be those of the PPTFH), including the development of a regional database to track shelter bed availability, possible alternate locations for beds for homeless on a short-term and long-term basis and the need to preserve the sense of community that develops in homeless encampments. (visit: https://abc7.com/
As a private citizen who supports and appreciates the PPTFH, in many ways I am loath to pull their attention away from my little community in any way. But our Councilman, by his actions and with his motion, has pulled our community in.
And in truth the greater good of the Los Angeles community would be well served by the voice of the PPTFH in this important litigation.
Furthermore, I for one would be willing to help finance their involvement. I have no doubt the many others speaking at our PPCC meeting or signing the online petition (http://chng.it/qzxdzKrVM7) would be supportive in the same way. I speak with a grateful heart, as someone advocating solutions. The PPTFH could be that advocate.