Attorneys for a coalition of Skid Row-area business owners, formerly homeless and disabled city dwellers who are suing the city and county of Los Angeles over the homelessness crisis claim the estimated cost of pallet shelters is “outrageous,” according to court papers obtained Tuesday.
In a status report filed in Los Angeles federal court, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights applaud the agreements reached by the city and county to provide an additional 6,700 beds over the next 16 months, with funding for five years thereafter.
“However, such programs must be implemented in the most cost-effective manner possible, to ensure limited resources are able to do the most good,” according to the document filed Monday. “For decades Angelenos have watched their local government spend astronomical amounts of money to provide too little relief for too many. Year after year the budget to address homelessness increases, and year after year the city’s homeless population continues to grow, along with it devastation, disease, mental illness, crime, fires, unusable sidewalks, and death.”
The L.A. Alliance lawsuit accuses the city and county of not doing enough to address the homeless problem, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs’ latest filing says that during a “massive budget crisis, requiring public employees to take furlough days and the city otherwise cutting crucial services,” it is essential that funds spent on homeless projects are done as economically as possible.
“To that extent, utilizing pallet shelters in available parking lots and unused or underused city property is a good and fair use of public funds, due to the low cost, durable quality, and expeditious construction of the structures,” the group’s filing says. “However, the estimated cost of infrastructure to support these shelters in Los Angeles is nothing short of outrageous.”
The tiny, easily assembled dwellings have an average per-bed rate of $41,932, which is “several times higher than any other municipality or agency that has utilized these same structures,” according to the plaintiffs.
“No other program utilizing these structures has anywhere close to that same per-bed rate,” the document alleges.
By way of example, Riverside utilized the structures for an average per bed rate of $8,252, and a private farm on Oahu placed the structures for $7,893 per bed, utilizing an older cheaper model and getting much infrastructure work donated by local partners, according to the Alliance. The most expensive comparison it offered was the county of Sonoma, which created a pallet community for $26,534 per bed, but was only placing a single person in each shelter.
“Had Sonoma double-bunked like Los Angeles to provide an apples-to-apples comparison, it would represent a cost of only $14,875 per bed,” the document states.
The plaintiffs allege that the “blame does not lie with pallet shelters, which provide cost-effective emergency options, but rather with the bloated budget and burdensome process the city has developed for these projects.”
The city and county have not yet filed their response. A hearing continuing prior efforts to settle the case lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 17.