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L.A. should pay $6.4 million for slow action on cleaning homeless camps, judge is told

Alleging more than a year of foot-dragging by Los Angeles city officials, lawyers for a group of businesses and residents have asked a federal judge to fine the city nearly $6.4 million for not honoring a nearly two-year settlement agreement. I'm asking you to. To clean up homeless camps.

The sanctions request comes amid heightened tensions between the City Council and Mayor Karen Bass over her signature Inside Safe program, which allocates $250 million for outreach efforts and motel rentals to clean up encampments. It was served in

City Council members are increasingly concerned that money earmarked for temporary motel leases won't count toward the city's promise in the lawsuit to provide beds through 2027.

Some City Council members also objected to the areas being cleaned, suggesting the mayor may be prioritizing wealthy West Side and West Valley neighborhoods over less affluent areas.

The complaint stems from last month when the chief of staff for Councilors Monica Rodriguez and Kevin de Leon wandered into negotiations in the judge's chambers uninvited to see what was being discussed. It has risen to such an extent.

The motion, set for a March 4 public hearing, alleges the city repeatedly missed deadlines and negotiated in bad faith over the terms of a settlement agreement that protects at least 60% of people living on the streets in each council district. claims.

Bass' office has not commented on the motion. A spokesperson for the city attorney said the city “will respond in due course in court.”

The motion, filed by attorneys for the motion, alleges that while Bass pursued a citywide program to clear encampments, the city stalled for more than a year and then attempted to backtrack on its district-by-district commitments. . LA Human Rights Alliance.

“The City has obstructed efforts to establish important encampment milestones and created far fewer hospital beds than promised,” the motion states. “This is an egregious breach of both the letter and the spirit of the agreement, and consequences are needed to ensure that the defendants do not have the courage to ignore their commitments any further.”

It also ordered U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over the four-year-old lawsuit, to issue a plan within 30 days for the city of Skid Row to clean up what it calls two “high-risk areas.” They are requesting that the city be ordered to create one.and 45th and 59th Streets. Inside Highland Parkheld it up as an example of low-income neighborhoods being ignored by busing's citywide approach.

Although not large in size, the two locations in Highland Park “are subject to regular fires (45 Avenue averages three fires per week), constant drug activity, and major property crimes. It has become some of the city's most dangerous encampments, with many violent crimes occurring.''This means the city is putting the same level of encampment-reducing energy into this working-class neighborhood as it has been putting into the more affluent West Side. “This represents an inability or unwillingness to direct the person to the

The lawsuit, filed in March 2020, names the city and county, with the number of unsheltered people estimated at the time at 26,600 citywide and 44,200 countywide. It alleges that it failed in its duty to provide shelter and services. In the latest count, that total has increased to about 32,700 in the city and 55,200 in the county.

The county reached a settlement in September that would provide 3,000 additional mental health beds and pay for services in the city's beds.

With Eric Garcetti still in the mayor's office, the city could evacuate within each of the city's 15 legislative districts much earlier, in June 2022, to provide beds to at least 60% of the unsheltered population. A plan was agreed upon to determine the need for additional facilities.

The motion detailed a series of tortuous meetings and negotiations that ultimately led to the plan being approved by City Council last month after a 447-day delay. The city initially complied with one requirement to produce 12,915 beds by June 2027, but failed to meet the second element: the number of encampments to be cleared in each legislative district.

According to the motion's timeline, the new Bass administration initially told the Los Angeles Human Rights Alliance that it intended to place service providers in each legislative district and assess each district's needs by Oct. 1, 2023. Ta. The city did not meet the deadline. Instead, he proposed one citywide encampment cleanup goal.

Bass's Inside Safe program has cleared more than 30 encampments and placed about 2,000 people in transitional or permanent housing, according to his office.

During negotiations late last year, the city changed its proposal several times, at one point offering to clean up “a minimum of 12,000 tents, makeshift shelters, cars, vans, and RVs,” but later saying only 5,300 people could be moved. announced. If they stick to the district plan, a resolution would also be tabled to establish encampments outside the camp, according to the motion.

De León said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” that city officials were “trying to renegotiate a settled agreement in defiance of City Council approval.”

City Councilman Bob Blumenfield heard rumors in early January that a citywide plan was being pursued and immediately contacted Bass to impress upon the Times his strong opposition to abandoning district goals. Told.

“She assured me that wasn't the case,” Blumenfield said.

On January 6, the city provided a breakdown of the 9,800 camp “reductions” requested by LA Alliance lawyers, broken down by City Council district and detailed in six-month increments.

However, this submission was not shown to the City Council, which has the final say on the settlement agreement. That prompted Mr. Rodriguez to intervene in the negotiation session.

The city administration submitted the proposal to the council during its recess on January 31st, which approved it and the city complied.

Lawyers for the LA Alliance subsequently filed a motion calling for serious sanctions. They ask for $100,000 per week for 447 days.

“The citizens of Los Angeles have lost a year of accountability due to the city’s non-compliance and sabotage,” they said.

Blumenfield said he is optimistic that the discrepancies between Inside Safe and the Los Angeles Alliance settlement will be resolved.

“Council members and the coalition have the same goal of housing people and encampment resolutions,” he said. “The purpose of Inside Safe is to reduce encampments.”

Times staff writer David Zahnizer contributed to this report.

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