Easter Week was supposed to be Spring Break for the Legislature. But, Federal Judge David Carter has certainly ruffled everyone’s feathers here in Orange County. Especially in cities that have been selected to be a potential solution to the problem he is trying to solve. And the residents of these cities are not amused. Just look at today’s front pages of the two major dailies.
First, the CBS reporter that fell short in yesterday’s UPDATE paid me a visit yesterday evening. And I shared my disappointment in her not contacting me a day earlier. We had a long chat and the results are in the first CBS 2/KCAL 9 piece below. Unfortunately, she still states that there is a plan, when there is not. I’m just making inquiries, at the request of a County Supervisor, so there is no real need for alarm or a special city council meeting.
The CBS/KCAL piece was referred to in a Fox News report that can be seen at
Not to be too repetitive, let me summarize my recent previous UPDATEs.
Discusses that with Judge Carter holding a Federal opinion over everyone’s head, that elected leaders are looking at various alternatives, but there is no formal plan on my part for the Fairview Developmental Center.
I’ve been working behind the scenes to assist in providing programs to assist those with mental illness. This has taken time and will take more months, maybe years, in a forward moving process. But, Judge Carter has demanded an increase in the pace.
The hearing that Judge Carter held on March 17th forces cities in Orange County to address homelessness. But, these cities do not have surplus funds to absorb massive new costs. Mental Health Services Act funding is available, but it is restricted as to how it can be used.
Now we get back to the city of Costa Mesa. I have been in contact with four of the five city council members on a rather regular basis over the past two years concerning Fairview (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Bill 59 — February 7, 2017). SB 59 was an effort to require the Department of Governmental Services to follow Costa Mesa’s General Plan, should it decide to dispose of the property, thus protecting Costa Mesa’s residents.
Councilmember John Stephens joined me on my trip to San Antonio, Texas, to tour the Haven for Hope campus (see MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 2 — February 8, 2018).
Councilmembers Sandra Genis, Katrina Foley and John Stephens were in attendance at Judge Carter’s hearing on March 17th. It was at this hearing that Judge Carter suggested Fairview Developmental Center and tried to reach Governor Brown via cell phone.
I did not see Councilman Alan Mansoor there. And, unlike his colleagues, he has not contacted me to discuss any of my recent activities. But, I’ve certainly communicated more than any other elected official in the entire county on these concerns. Consequently, his letter to the editor, which is on the electronic Daily Pilot, and the second piece below, is somewhat awkward. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
I have not been officially invited by the city of Costa Mesa to participate in tonight’s special meeting. If I had been, I would have told them that my calendar would not permit my attending. Sorry. But, spare me, let’s not make charges about a failure to communicate.
The third piece below is the electronic version of the OC Register‘s front page article on yesterday morning’s Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting discussing the subject at hand.
I suspect that this will be far from the final word on this very contentious topic. I have labored my whole adult life to consider the least, the last and the lost, hopefully in a spirit similar to that of Jesus Christ, whose resurrection from the frailties of life we recognize this weekend.
I’ve tried my best to get all parties around the table to have an honest discussion about the disposition of our homeless and mentally ill. We have a responsibility to address them with kindness, hope, and dignity, not as political pawns.
I’m not suggesting that the state, county or cities have all the answers, either; and a great number of thoughtful and well-connected people in the private sector are happy warriors on this fight, willing to also bear a heavy burden privately and charitably. But to not consider our abundance and options to deal even with a small percentage of those already in our parking lots, alleys, creek beds as a danger to themselves and others, is naive and misses the mark.
I won’t advocate for a plan where there isn’t some buy-in from the community. But simply saying “NO” to every alternative presented isn’t a strategy for success and could only make any future judicial recommendations potentially worse.
OC Supervisors Rescind 3-
City Tent Plan For Homeless
(CBSLA) — Orange County supervisors decided Tuesday to abandon a controversial plan to erect large tents in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel to temporarily house homeless people recently removed from the Santa Ana riverbed.
Dozens of protesters, the biggest contingent of whom was from Irvine, were brought in by the busload and gathered outside the meeting, which began at 9 a.m. At times, it got heated as members of the crowd yelled at supervisors.
Dozens of protesters, the biggest contingent of whom was from Irvine, were brought in by the busload and gathered outside the meeting, which began at 9 a.m. At times, it got heated as members of the crowd yelled at supervisors.
“These tent cities does not provide any healthy conditions to the people living in there, but also, it erodes internally and externally to its communities,” one woman told the board.
On the other side were the homeless advocates, who were also out in full force Tuesday.
“It’s up to all us, every city, to be a part of the solution and not just be riled up when shelters are wanting to be built, you know, based on state-mandated legislation that makes it so that there are lands for homeless shelters to be able to take care of this growing crisis,” homeless advocate Joese Hernandez said.
This comes after supervisors on March 19 held a special meeting to approve consideration of “sprung structures,” which are large tents hotels often use to handle overflow from ballrooms. The supervisors voted to direct staff to research the logistics and then work with officials in each of the three cities, but the plan never got far as residents and city leaders erupted with outrage and threatened litigation.
State Sen. John Moorlach told CBS2 that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing the lawsuit against some O.C. cities from homeless advocates, is asking the impossible.
“We’ve got a federal judge that says, ‘Hey, release inmates,’ on one end, and I got a federal judge saying, ‘Take care of those homeless,” on this end,”Moorlach said.
In the absence of a viable solution, Moorlach has floated the idea of turning the soon-to-be shuttered, state-run Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa as one possible place to house some of the homeless in question.
“We only want to put maybe a hundred people there, not 200 to 250 to 4,000, all these numbers that are running around,” Moorlach said.
He also had some words for people completely opposed to any housing for the homeless being placed around them.
“You can’t just keep tying the hands of people that are trying help out by just being obstinate about it,” Moorlach said. “We’ve got to find our balance; we’ve gotta say, you know, ‘When does compassion kick in,’ more than ‘Not in my backyard.’ Because, baby, it is in your backyard. It’s on your riding trails. It’s on Fairview Park. We’ve got homeless everywhere.”
The city council is scheduled to meet at the Costa Mesa Senior Center Wednesday at a 4 p.m. closed session meeting. The public is encouraged to attend at 5 p.m.
Last month, hundreds of homeless people were cleared from a two-mile stretch of the Santa Ana riverbed – from Santa Ana to Anaheim — after months of wrangling between homeless advocates and county and city officials.
During the ordeal, the Orange County Catholic Worker group and several homeless people filed a federal lawsuit against the governments of O.C., and the cities of Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa, claiming that removing the homeless from the riverbed violated a broad range of constitutional protections. OCCW argued that evicting the transients would disperse them to the surrounding cities, where they will be cited for trespassing, loitering and anti-camping laws.
The lawsuit resulted in a deal between the advocates and municipal officials in which the homeless would be removed from the riverbed and then be given 30-day motel vouchers while the county looks for more permanent solutions. Those vouchers are set to run out, however.
County officials are confident they have enough beds to handle the transients from the riverbed, but to satisfy Judge Carter, they pledged to pursue the large tents in the three cities in case they lacked enough beds. The plan was to put 200 beds in Irvine, with 100 each set aside in Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel. If the beds were filled in Irvine then officials would then turn to Huntington Beach and then to Laguna Niguel.
Hundreds of Irvine residents turned out Sunday to voice their opposition to placing the homeless in a temporary shelter across from the O.C. Great Park, which consists of 100 acres of county-owned land.
Officials in Huntington Beach complained the property in their city is plagued with methane gas issues, and Laguna Niguel officials say the plot of land under consideration in their city is next to the now-shuttered O.C. Superior Courthouse, which has issues with asbestos and mold.
Last week, meanwhile, Moorlach and O.C. Supervisor Shawn Nelson laid out a plan to house the homeless in part of the Fairview Developmental Center. That plan has also been met with a great deal of opposition. Neighbors say there is an elementary school, high school and a Boys and Girls Club nearby.
The urgency to find additional beds came from Carter’s plan to see a similar relocation of transients from the Plaza of the Flags area next to the Central Justice Center courthouse in Santa Ana. But Carter told supervisors at a court hearing last week he would tap the brakes on that plan to make sure officials have enough beds for the 170 or so transients there.
Nelson chaired Tuesday’s meeting as Chairman Andrew Do is out of town.
Nelson has long championed putting up a temporary shelter at the Great Park, because Irvine officials have zoned it for the homeless. The Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel sites are not yet zoned for the homeless.
At the special meeting March 19, the supervisors also voted to spend $70.5 million of money earmarked for the mentally ill to provide beds for the transients through the construction of a new facility or renovation of existing facilities.
The O.C. homeless crisis came to the forefront last September, when the Anaheim City Council declared a state of emergency for the more than 400 people who have been living in a tent city in the shadow of Angel Stadium.
That same month, the Santa Ana City Council also declared the homeless issue around the Santa Ana Civic Center a public health and safety crisis, while the O.C. Board of Supervisors approved a plan to increase law enforcement along the riverbed from Santa Ana to Anaheim.
In November, Orange County permanently closed the west side of the flood control channel between Santa Ana and Fountain Valley. During the process, authorities reportedly found about 1,000 bikes hidden in a tunnel system under a concrete flood control channel. Deputies also began strictly enforcing public access hours along the Santa Ana River Trail. Access is only allowed between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Deputies began slowly clearing the encampments in January, when they began going tent to tent along the Santa Ana River telling people the area will be closed and they need to move. The area was completely cleared out in February.
Costa Mesa council and residents deserve a voice in Fairview Developmental Center’s future
By ALLAN MANSOOR
I am disappointed to learn that state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) and County Supervisor Shawn Nelson are taking a position regarding the use of the Fairview Developmental Center without talking with the Costa Mesa City Council or getting input from residents first on how this would affect our city.
We all agree that we need housing for homeless people, but we need to look at how fair that would be to expect Costa Mesa to bear the burden of the entire county’s problems, which using Fairview Developmental Center would do.
This is especially true in light of the elected leaders and residents in Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel balking and threatening to sue if the county follows through with housing homeless people in their communities. It makes me wonder if the county even discussed their plans with those cities.
Costa Mesa has always been willing to do more than its fair share to help the homeless. But we expect other cities do so as well.
Costa Mesa has a privately run soup kitchen. Other cities, not so much.
Costa Mesa has free and low-cost medical assistance through a privately run organization. Other cities, not so much.
Costa Mesa has a Network for Homeless Solutions and is leading the way on permanent solutions. Other cities, not so much.
As a result of this network, consisting of the city, churches and local nonprofits, we have helped house almost 300 people since 2013 and reconnected more than 100 with family or friends. We help people up and out of homelessness on a regular basis and continue to do so every week.
Are other cities doing this?
In addition to all the work we do to help the homeless, Costa Mesa has additional challenges with an overconcentration of sober living homes, more than any other city in the county.
Many of the people living in sober living homes end up being “curbed” and as a result add to our homeless problem. We are starting to have some success in reigning this in. Will other cities take on some of this burden?
The people of Costa Mesa have consistently asked for more open and recreational space and when, and if, Fairview Developmental Center ever becomes available, we should make sure to include their voices in the discussion of the disposition and future of the center.
In conclusion, as much as I respect Sen. Moorlach, I believe this idea is bad for the residents of Costa Mesa. While Fairview Developmental Center is a state facility, it does reside in our city. Any development or changes that happen there need to be thoroughly vetted and discussed by all who would be affected.
ALLAN MANSOOR is mayor pro tem of Costa Mesa.
O.C. supervisors rescind vote to place homeless shelters in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel
By Jordan Graham
Bowing to public backlash, Orange County supervisors on Tuesday rescinded their recent plan that could have created emergency homeless shelters in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel to house up to 400 people.
But they’re likely to replace it within weeks with a second proposal to shelter the homeless in yet-to-be-selected local cities.
The board’s unanimous vote, which undid its March 19 approval of a three-city homeless shelter plan, came at the most crowded supervisorial meeting in recent memory. In attendance were a dozen leaders of those cities and hundreds of jeering residents, including a coordinated legion from Irvine that chartered as many as 20 buses to come voice their united opposition to the project.
Hundreds more anti-shelter protestors rallied outside the meeting, chanting, “No tent city!” In all, police estimated nearly 2,000 people were on the scene.
“The Great Park is not the place to take care of (the homeless),” Irvine resident Robin Deverich told the board to applause, saying her grandchildren played near the area proposed for a shelter. “They will be free to come and go wandering through our playgrounds and parks and nearby schools. … You will be responsible for any harm that befalls our children if you make that choice.”
But Santa Ana city leaders, school board officials and residents criticized many Orange County cities for not doing their part to shelter the homeless. They called for a more equitable distribution of shelters throughout the county, noting that other cities have pushed homeless people into Santa Ana, Anaheim, Orange, and Fullerton – allegations that echoed recent criticisms from a federal judge. Santa Ana is home to the county’s largest year-round shelter.
“We have taken the brunt,” Santa Ana Unified School District president Valerie Amezcua said to cheers. “All children matter. Not just children in certain cities. I appreciate all the city leaders that came forward to talk about schools and daycares… But guess what? Santa Ana has them, too.”
Despite the board’s reversal, it’s likely supervisors soon will vote again for a plan to site a homeless shelter in at least one Orange County city. That’s because Tuesday’s action leaves the county without a plan to implement U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter’s request to find appropriate shelter for what could be a few hundred homeless people.
Carter, who is overseeing a civil rights lawsuit filed by homeless people against the county, has called on supervisors to house people living in and around the Santa Ana Civic Center and others who were moved by county health workers last month into motels from the dismantled Santa Ana River encampment.
Facing pressure from Carter, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett last week said it’s possible the board’s next step would be to consider a plan to open a single 400-bed shelter, comprised of portable structures, to be located on 108 acres south of the Great Park in Irvine. That county-owned parcel already is zoned for a homeless shelter. And a 2003 agreement between Irvine and the county specifically lists an emergency homeless shelter as a legitimate land use.
But Bartlett backpedaled Tuesday, saying she wouldn’t support an Irvine shelter unless city officials backed the plan, according to her office. Instead, she said she wants cities to collaborate at an upcoming April 3 court hearing – which will double as a countywide summit on homelessness – to propose locations for the shelters. All Orange County city leaders are invited attend to that hearing.
Bartlett has said she already spoke to city leaders about possible sites but has declined to name the locations. Meanwhile, Supervisor Shawn Nelson is backing State Senator John Moorlach’s push to house homeless at the Fairview Development Center in Costa Mesa, a soon-to-be-shuttered facility for the developmentally disabled. The Costa Mesa City Council will host a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss that proposal.
“We’ve got to work cooperatively and collaboratively and let the group at large come up with some good solutions to homelessness,” Bartlett said.
The board could vote on the new plan as soon as April 10.
The recent uproar over the homeless camps is the latest fight in a months-long saga over how the county and cities should attend to several hundred homeless people who were living along the Santa Ana River.
It’s also part of a much longer trend in which city residents and leaders in Orange County often recognize the need for homeless shelters but don’t want them located in their respective cities. Carter and other public officials have said that pattern has pushed homeless people disproportionately into Santa Ana and Anaheim.
County staff in February moved nearly 700 homeless people living along the riverbed in Anaheim and Orange into motels on 30-day vouchers, which recently began to expire. On Tuesday, at least 70 of those people remained in motels; and different population of 175 homeless people has been living in the Civic Center, according to county officials.
County leaders have insisted they already have enough shelter capacity to house the former riverbed inhabitants. They repeated that assertion on Tuesday, noting vacancies at Santa Ana and Anaheim facilities. But Carter wrote in court documents that the county lacks adequate shelter space and recently accused staff of irresponsibly “cramming” homeless people into already-full facilities, potentially to their detriment. That harm, Carter wrote, includes mentally-ill people being triggered by crowded shelters and domestic-violence victims being sexually harassed in them.
To address the judge’s concerns, supervisors last week passed the three-city shelter plan, which would have located 200 homeless people in Irvine, then 100 in Huntington Beach and 100 in Laguna Niguel, if needed.
The pushback to their decision was widespread and immediate.
Within a day, the Irvine and Laguna Niguel city councils voted to sue the county, and Irvine filed its lawsuit on Monday. At least 250 protestors rallied outside Irvine City Hall on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. More than 24,000 people have signed two petitions opposing the plan. And at the March 20 city council meetings in Laguna Niguel and Irvine, residents berated the board – their fears stoked partially by Supervisor Todd Spitzer, the lone vote against the plan, who told one crowd they were being asked to shelter sex offenders and “the worst of the worst.”
Supervisors Bartlett and Steel soon buckled to backlash and decided to reverse the vote.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson has accused Spitzer of lying and fear-mongering to back his run for district attorney. OC Probation said only one homeless sex offender was living in motels on county vouchers and another three were in the Civic Center encampment.
In response to Nelson’s allegations, Spitzer defended the substance of his concerns, saying Tuesday that there are 66 homeless parolee sex offenders who he’s worried could enter low-barrier shelters. Spitzer didn’t have evidence those parolees are currently among the people waiting to be housed, though he said he was told that three parolee sex offenders recently were removed from the Civic Center.
Nelson said that no Orange County city “wants to have or host this difficult population.” But he called on city leaders to propose solutions at the upcoming court hearing.
“I’m anxious to hear on April 3 who steps forward and says we want emergency shelter, we want to take some of the load off Santa Ana,” Nelson said.
The county said it is set to finish moving homeless people out of motels by the end of Wednesday. In addition to shelters, the former riverbed inhabitants have been moved to mental-health facilities, recuperative care beds, residential detox centers and sober living homes. The county has declined to release numbers of how many people have been transferred to each option.
Brooke Weitzman, attorney for the homeless plaintiffs, said regardless of what county leaders decide in coming weeks, supervisors should admit they were wrong when they said people in the riverbed encampment didn’t want help.
“The old narrative that people are service resistant – that narrative is dead,” Weitzman said. “Now the only question is what is the county going to do to step up, and how are cities going to support that?”
Staff writer Tomoya Shimura contributed to this story.
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