Compiled by Gary Walker
Local courts have tossed a pair of lawsuits by neighborhood groups opposed to city plans for a homeless shelter and permanent supportive housing projects in Venice, ruling that a new state law designed to overcome such lawsuits passes legal muster.
The group Fight Back Venice!, opponents of a 140-unit affordable housing development plan along the Venice Boulevard median strip between Pacific and Dell avenues, challenged city allowances for permanent supportive housing facilities to exceed normal building height and density requirements.
L.A. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant granted the city’s motion to dismiss their case on Dec. 5, finding that Assembly Bill 1197 — a new Los Angeles-specific state law that exempts emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing developments from California Environmental Quality Act review — was constitutional, contrary to Fight Back’s claim.
“City officials knew full well that they were going to lose this lawsuit, so they got their friends in Sacramento to rewrite the law after the fact,” Fight Back organizer Christian Wrede told the Los Angeles Times. “It doesn’t get much shadier — or much stinkier — than that.”
On Dec. 13, L.A. Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff denied a petition by the Venice Stakeholders Association to halt the 154-bed temporary homeless housing project currently under construction in the former Metro bus yard on Main Street. The Stakeholders had argued that AB 1197 protections should not apply retroactively to that project, since the project was greenlighted before the law went into effect.
“Amen! I’m grateful we can move forward in our work to provide an alternative to the current nightmare of sidewalk encampments in our neighborhoods and people literally dying on our streets,” reads an email from L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, the prime mover of both projects. “In a moment that demands urgency, it was incredibly frustrating to watch time and money being wasted on legal battles that roadblocked humane solutions. I look forward to opening bridge housing in Venice as soon as possible.”
SCOTUS Punts on Homeless Encampments Issue
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday that it would not review the federal appeals court decision in Martin vs. City of Boise, which prevents cities from enforcing laws against homeless people sleeping on public sidewalks or in city parks when housing is not available.
Los Angeles was one of several cities that petitioned the High Court for a review of the case, decided in 2017 on the grounds that arresting homeless people for sleeping outside violated the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause.
Nanette Pastor-Hanna, who until a week ago lived near the massive tent encampment under the 405 Freeway in Mar Vista, expects leaving the Boise decision in place will only perpetuate the status quo.
“As Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Mike Bonin noted [Monday] on KCRW’S ‘Press Play,’ the homeless in our communities need better access to a full array of services, including mental health and addiction treatment,” Pastor-Hanna stated in an email. “I believe that means more frequent and consistent visits by public and private agency representatives in order to build rapport and create trusting relationships. We can build all the housing in the world, but if people don’t trust they won’t come inside.”
“I think the encampments will grow and more transients will come to L.A.,” predicted Venice neighborhood activist Travis Binen.