Motel residents have filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court and will seek an emergency order there today to stop the city of Costa Mesa from making them move every 30 days.
Filed on the residents' behalf by lawyers from the Public Law Center, Haynes and Boone LLP and Western Center on Law and Poverty, the suit challenges an ordinance the Costa Mesa City Council passed by a 3-2 vote in August.
The ordinance violates California's land use laws, the Federal Housing Act, California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, the American with Disabilities Act, the California Constitution, the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, and the California Relocation Assistance Act, according to the complaint.
"Notably, when passing the ordinance, the City Council ignored complaints that the ordinance targeted the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of the community," reads an announcement of the legal action by Veng Group, a Washington, D.C.-based government relations and public affairs group representing the lawyers.
"Mayor Jim Righeimer commented that the ordinance would serve as a 'reminder' to the motel residents every month that something in their life was 'not working' and that they needed to make changes," says Lili Graham, attorney at the Public Law Center, in the release.
"The mayor speaks as if all of his city's residents have a choice in being poor and, after evaluating their life at the end of 30 days, they can then magically live in a house or an apartment. That is not the reality for our clients. Our clients live at the motels because the motels are the last and only place they can afford before becoming homeless."
City officials could not be reached for comment.
The ordinance went into effect on Sept. 4 and, according to the motel residents, has forced them to face the burdensome task of moving every 30 days. Among them, according to the Veng Group, was a 72-year-old woman on dialysis after her request to stay in her motel longer than 30 days was rejected by the city.