LOS ANGELES (CN) --- A day after a federal judge ordered the city and county of Los Angeles to take widespread action to quickly eradicate homelessness and audit the response to the crisis --- including by ponying up $1 billion in an impound account within a week --- attorneys for the city and county announced they will appeal the order as likely unlawful.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s preliminary injunction issued Tuesday sent shockwaves through the region’s political infrastructure. In addition to the $1 billion escrow account, Carter ordered city and county officials to audit funds allocated for fighting homelessness and undertake sweeping actions to house homeless people living in a 50-square block, open-air encampment by October.
Carter also ordered officials to house unaccompanied women and children living in the Skid Row community within 90 days and families within 120 days.
“The city and county shall prepare a plan that ensures the uplifting and enhancement of Skid Row without involuntarily displacing current residents to other parts of the city or county,” Carter wrote.
He gave the city and county until April 27 to explain why officials have not declared an emergency or triggered emergency legislative powers to house people. Homeless people living in the Skid Row community account for about 28% of the more than 60,000 who are homeless in LA County.
In 2020, LA County reported a nearly 13% increase in the local homeless population, while the city of LA saw a 14% increase. In total, more than 66,000 unsheltered people were counted.
Attorneys for LA County filed a notice of appeal with the court Wednesday evening and asked Carter to stay the injunction pending appeal.
Skip Miller, outside counsel for the county, said in a statement to Courthouse News the county is appealing the ruling because it feels the court should respect the county’s legislative authorities and ongoing work to solve the crisis.
“Deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money and deliver services to people experiencing homelessness is a legislative, not judicial, function,” the Miller Barondess attorney said in the statement. “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.”
In a virtual press conference Thursday morning announcing the opening of a tiny home village for houseless people, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti shared additional reactions to Carter’s ruling. He said the court should let the city do what it can legally to handle the homelessness crisis.
“I think we all have moments where the emotions of this come out, where we say ‘I want to wave a magic wand and can you please just make homelessness disappear,’” Garcetti told reporters.
Carter's injunction came a day after Garcetti announced an ambitious city spending plan that boosts investments in small businesses, gang reduction and youth programs --- and allocates $1 billion to combat homelessness. The Central District of California judge seized on that, ordering the city to place the $1 billion in escrow and to report funding streams to the court by April 27.
Garcetti said Thursday he’s skeptical of the legality of complying with Carter’s escrow order.
“It may be impossible and illegal to take that money and put it in escrow,” Garcetti said. “And I just said ‘Stay out of the way’ in terms of the work we’re doing. We’re not gonna slow down."
Garcetti told reporters the $1 billion “doesn’t exist yet” because it hasn’t been approved by the full LA City Council. He also said Carter has no authority to override ongoing distribution of funds from Proposition HHH, a voter-approved tax the mayor said has funded construction of over 5,600 housing units.