The city of Los Angeles was sued by the non-profit group “Fix the City” on Tuesday over Mayor Karen Bass’ far reaching emergency powers in trying to alleviate the homeless crisis in the city.
Since becoming Mayor in December, Karen Bass has made homelessness her main focal point. The flagship project of her homelessness campaign has been Inside Safe, which has aimed to open up motel rooms and low-income apartments for homeless to provide long-term shelter and housing. Over the last 10 months, the results of the project have been mixed.
On the plus side for Inside Safe, 14,000 homeless people in the city have been given shelter space or more permanent housing under the program. The number of encampments have also gone down in the city, although actions by the City Council in increasing encampment limitations have helped there as well.
However, the program has faced a severe negative response as well. Many homeless people, particularly working homeless, have grown frustrated with the plan, leaving many the difficult choice between having housing or keeping their current job. Motel owners have also hated the plan, with owners saying that the initiative ignores safety concerns and other vital issues. And, while the city has said that they have housed thousands of homeless, thousands more have also left the program, leading to severely misleading figures.
Since being given emergency powers to help solve the crisis, Bass has had mixed success in keeping her programs going, with her ultimate aim to end street homelessness in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics. While she has won exceptions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to have applicants give documentation of their homeless status for city-assigned housing, the City Council has reigned in Inside Safe to the extent that they now need to give frequent reports as to how they are doing.
Even with the changes, Bass has kept her state of emergency orders on homelessness in place, which she had drawn up just after becoming Mayor. According to the orders, Bass has the power to, amongst other things, commandeer property and use it for temporary housing, suspend competitive bidding on contracts that last less than a year and issue orders and directives aimed at addressing the housing and homelessness emergency. Many groups have seen that particular part allows Bass to go beyond what she had originally planned, especially when it comes to the speed at which things are done and what is propping up Inside Safe.
This led to the announcement on Tuesday by Fix the City that they have filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the city.
A suit against the city
According to the lawsuit, Bass’ emergency powers enable her to overstep her authority by wielding emergency powers that stretch beyond their intended scope. They also hope to get rid of three executive orders issued by Bass that have been a major part of her homeless agenda. These include two that were written to speed up the city’s approval of homeless shelters and affordable housing, as well as a third that directs moving the homeless off the streets and into temporary and permanent housing.
In a statement on Tuesday, Fix the City said that “The mayor can unilaterally execute contracts, suspect competitive bidding laws, issue new rules, orders, and regulations that take effect immediately, and commandeer property, all without any due process, any requirement of public hearings or public involvement of any kind including the city’s own neighborhood councils.”
While the suit has been filed, the Mayor’s office has yet to give a notable reaction as of Tuesday evening. The Mayor’s office has only said that “The complaint was just filed and we will take time to review it.”
Should the suit progress, it stands a chance of severely damaging not only the powers that Mayor Bass has in deciding on homeless measures, but her Inside Safe program could be hurt as well, potentially even forcing her to abandon the project in favor of something else.
Opponents of Inside Safe told the Globe Tuesday that they hope that the lawsuit will lead the Bass administration to switching tactics and embracing different ideas that stand a chance at working.
“Bass just tried to be the Robert Moses of homelessness and was caught big time,” said Maurice, who helps run a church-based shelter in LA. “All the issues raised by the suit are what we have been telling people since she first put up those emergency powers. More and more people are realizing just how far she has gone with these things and how Inside Safe was just a terrible program. Hopefully now she will have people advisor her who actually know what they’re doing.”
More on the suit is expected to come out soon.