L.A. County Is Appealing an Order That Demands Action on Homelessness

The filing sets up a showdown about the judiciary’s power over the city’s and county’s policy decisions

Los Angeles County is appealing a federal judge’s broad order that requires housing be offered to people on Skid Row and regulates the city’s nearly $1 billion budget for homelessness, setting up a historic showdown at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals over the judiciary’s power to intervene in municipal policy decisions.

Attorney Louis “Skip” Miller said the county will ask the Ninth to immediately stay U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s injunction. That would mean it could only take effect if the court endorses it after a full review, which could take at least several months. A decision on the stay could come as early as next week.

“Deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money and deliver services to people experiencing homelessness is a legislative, not a judicial, function,” Miller said in an emailed statement late Wednesday. “The County remains committed to its course of urgent action outside of court addressing this complex societal issue with the City and its other partners.”

The City of Los Angeles has not yet announced if it will join the appeal, but Mayor Eric Garcetti continued his strong pushback against Carter’s order at a press conference Thursday morning. He repeated a previous statement about not wanting to engage in a “chest-beating contest” and warned of emotional reactions and “theatrics” clouding actual progress.

“I think we all have moments where the emotions of this come out, and we’re saying, ‘I want to wave a magic wand,’ and, ‘Can we please make homelessness disappear?’” Garcetti said.

Garcetti said he hopes to talk with Carter and avoid a Ninth Circuit appeal, but that appears to be far too late. The court on Thursday announced a briefing schedule for the county’s appeal, with the opening brief due May 19.

Garcetti questioned the legality of Carter ordering nearly $1 billion earmarked for homelessness into escrow, saying $300 million of it is from the voter-approved Prop HHH and can’t be redirected. That money is to pay for 89 projects with 5,651 units, Garcetti said, and “I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest to slow that down.”

He also pointed to the city and county’s ten-month-old agreement, which is part of the case before Carter, to fund 6,700 new beds as evidence of serious progress.

“We have said we’re ready to do that again and with more, instead we got kind of this order,” said Garcetti, speaking at the opening of a new tiny home village in North Hollywood. “So if it’s not legal, we’ll have to fight that element of it.”

“We see this as actually adding friction and slowing things down,” the mayor added.

Speaking after Garcetti, San Fernando Valley Councilman Paul Krekorian said Carter visited the tiny homes village before it opened “and gave a very strong sense of approval to what we are doing right here.”

“We recognize the frustration that is clear in the language that he has used, and we share it,” Krekorian said. “But you can’t simply make all of the social ills that underlie homelessness go away by striking a gavel. It takes hard work. This is the hard work that makes that happen.”

Meghann M. Cuniff is a freelance journalist focused on legal affairs. Shes on Twitter @meghanncuniff.

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