ACLU Sues Laguna Beach over the Treatment of Homeless People. Again

Here we go again: The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), which settled a lawsuit with Laguna Beach in 2009 over the city's treatment of homeless people, filed a new suit Thursday on essentially the same grounds.


Laguna Beach Settles Lawsuit Over Homeless Ordinance

The issue seven years ago was the city had no homeless shelter as police broke up camps and ticketed people with no where to sleep, including those with disabilities, under a city ordinance. After the ACLU SoCal sued, the city quickly settled, agreeing to repeal sections of the ordinance that prohibited sleeping or camping in public places. A shelter was later established as well.

The new suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by the ACLU SoCal and the law firm of Paul Hastings LLP on behalf of five chronically homeless individuals with
mental and physical disabilities, including a homeless veteran. They claim Laguna Beach officials reinstated the old prohibitions and police resumed ticketing homeless people, “the vast majority of whom have mental or physical disabilities and often have difficulty accessing the shelter.”

Through City News Service, Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig countered that not only does the city provide the only municipal year-round shelter in Orange County, but between the facility and related programs and services, the town spends more than $350,000 a year addressing the needs of the homeless.

“It is very disappointing to be a target of the ACLU given the city's proven track record of being a leader in providing services to the homeless community,” Pietig said.

His city is accused in the suit of being out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Constitution.

“Laguna Beach is best known as an affluent, idyllic seaside art colony, but a small, yet significant portion of the population suffers from mental and physical disabilities that leave them unable to access housing,” said Kristopher Wood, an attorney with Paul Hastings, in a statement. “The city refuses to provide permanent supportive housing that would alleviate the problem; yet continues to cite physically and mentally disabled homeless individuals who have no other option for sleeping outdoors.”

Adds Heather Maria Johnson, a staff attorney with the ACLU SoCal's Dignity for All Project, “The city has adopted a strategy that punishes homeless individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, the tactics are not new and what is happening in Laguna Beach is all too commonplace. But the difference in this case is the city has chosen to ignore the issue despite being put on notice years ago.”

Read the complaint here:

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