Group Sues Los Angeles Mayor Over Homelessness Emergency Orders

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Group Sues Los Angeles Mayor Over Homelessness Emergency Orders

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass speaks at the podium at the Lorena Plaza affordable housing project site where she signed an affordable housing executive directive in Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 2022. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

9/28/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

A nonprofit group is suing Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass for enacting emergency powers to address the city’s homeless crisis.
Fix The City, a government accountability group, filed the lawsuit Sept. 25 in Los Angeles Superior Court challenging the city’s adoption July 5 of Ms. Bass’s emergency order on homelessness, which allowed her to declare a local emergency.
The lawsuit alleges that the order violates state laws regarding declaring local emergencies, requiring competitive bidding for contracts over $5,000, and allowing the mayor to “commandeer property” in violation of constitutional eminent-domain protections.
“This law simply puts too much power in the hands of city officials,” said Mike Eveloff, president of Fix The City, in a statement. “As we have already seen, city officials seem to believe that in the name of the declared emergency, they can hold secret negotiations and make vendor selections without notifying the public until the project is a ‘done deal.’ This eliminates due process and excludes the public from being involved in any way.”
The group claims the emergency order violates state law by allowing the mayor to issue new rules, regulations, and orders that take effect immediately, commandeer property, unilaterally execute contracts, and suspend competitive bidding.
The Los Angeles City Council first approved the emergency declaration by the newly elected mayor in December 2022. Since then, Ms. Bass has signed directives to streamline approval of certain affordable housing projects and initiate a program to bring residents indoors.
Similar to the health emergencies declared in most cities and states in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, the homelessness emergency allows some approvals and reviews to be shortened.
Although the group claims it has no issue with the declaration of a crisis of homelessness, provided that the action does not deprive the public of its rights. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the current emergency declaration and all actions related to it.
A homeless encampment surrounds Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles on March 25, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

A homeless encampment surrounds Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles on March 25, 2021. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

An estimated 41,980 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles, up 1.7 percent from 2020, according to the latest count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Another Democratic official, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is facing a call for impeachment after declaring a similar emergency order to address gun violence by banning the carrying of firearms in one city.
Ms. Grisham has also been sued by numerous gun groups asking the court to rule that gun violence and drug use are not public health emergencies, and that the order violates the constitutional separation of powers.
Ms. Bass’s office did not return a request for comment.
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

Author

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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