A dozen northern Orange County cities Friday approved a settlement in federal litigation challenging enforcement of anti-camping ordinances, agreeing to build two homeless shelters in Buena Park and Placentia.
The landmark agreement comes a couple of weeks after south Orange County cities won in their fight to have U.S. District Judge David O. Carter recused from hearing litigation aimed at preventing them from enforcing anti-camping ordinances.
U.S. District Judge James Selna praised Carter’s unorthodox approach of prodding cities to settle the question instead of spending years in litigation, but he sided with the cities as he cited a few comments Carter made during hearings that some might have viewed as prejudicial.
A federal judge in Los Angeles County will now consider the south Orange County cities’ litigation, but the litigation in the northern part of the county is largely wrapped up.
The agreement means a “navigation center” with 150 beds will be built in Buena Park and another with 100 beds will be built in Placentia. The one in Placentia at 731 S. Melrose St. is expected to be opened by February, and one in Buena Park is expected to be opened at 7101 Lincoln Ave. by the end of December.
This allows officials in Villa Park, Orange, Yorba Linda, Brea, Placentia, Fullerton, La Habra, Cypress, Stanton, La Palma, Anaheim and Buena Park to place transients in the two shelters. The cities are legally required to prove they have enough shelter space for transients before they are able to enforce laws against homeless encampments.
“It is unprecedented for a group of cities to work together and to bring themselves into a lawsuit that is ongoing, but we all understood homelessness is not a city-by-city issue, it’s a regional issue,” Fullerton City Manager Ken Domer said.
“That’s the only way it can be resolved is on a regional collaborative basis,” Domer said. “It’s a problem that’s not going away and we realized that the collaborative approach works best. We hope that what we’re doing will be a model for other groups of cities.”
Meanwhile, Fullerton officials are working with county officials and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva to have the National Guard open its armory in Fullerton to the homeless by Sept. 1, Domer said. That’s earlier than usual for the cold-weather shelter and it is needed “because right now we do not have shelters,” Domer said.
The settlement also protects the cities from further litigation stemming from the lawsuit filed by homeless supporters for four years.
The lawsuits stem from efforts to keep the county from clearing out a homeless encampment along the Santa Ana riverbed last year. Carter steered the plaintiffs and county officials toward efforts to clear out the encampments by temporarily placing transients in motels as social workers found more long-term shelter. Then Carter turned his attention to clearing out a homeless encampment next to the Central Justice Center courthouse in Santa Ana.
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