City adopts resolution in hopes of gaining significant State monies to help with shelter funding

At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council voted to adopt the Resolution as follows: “A resolution…declaring a shelter crises (sic) pursuant to SB 850 (Chapter 48 Statutes of 2018 and Government Code §8698.2) required by the State of California in order to be eligible to receive funding from the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).”

Prior to the vote, Mike Morris spoke of his frustration at the negativity he has seen on the Nextdoor website about homeless challenges and the efforts of the City to find solutions. 

Morris noted that the rhetoric on the site was all about “…getting tough on the homeless, and yes, we need to get tough on the problem, but we need [mostly] to be tough on neighboring cities and the County, who aren’t doing their fair share – they’re the ultimate NIMBYs when it comes to funding, locations, and housing.”

Not everyone was thrilled about the prospective adoption of this resolution, despite the significant funding its approval could bring to the City’s coffers from State funds.

Paul Merritt expressed the concern that as a result of this Resolution, the Canyon would potentially become the “next dumping ground” for the homeless population and that these people would then be there permanently. “It opens up a trapdoor of [potential] problems,” he added. “Where will the City put the permanent housing?” 

Location of future permanent housing is at issue

City Manager John Pietig responded that that he had been assured by Judge David O Carter that Laguna had met its commitment and that the onus for providing permanent housing would land on the shoulders of neighboring cities and the County.

“Friendship Shelter has [placed] 100 people in permanent housing – outside Laguna Beach,” Pietig noted. “That’s the approach we are supporting. Adopting this resolution means that we’ll get more money for what we are already doing – it’s not fair for our community to have to pay.”

Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede made the point that if all OC cities agreed to build 45-bed shelters – similar to Laguna’s Alternative Sleeping Location (ASL), “It would ease the burden on Laguna Beach. That’s what this Resolution is about, getting the other cities to step up,” he said.

All who voiced their opinions agreed that it was a complex problem. 

Councilmember Dicterow made the point that residents need to appreciate that the City Council makes decisions “in the context of a legal environment” and to ignore this fact could risk lawsuits “in the tens of millions of dollars.”

“It’s a complex issue,” Zur Schmiede concluded. “But I’m optimistic about what will come out of Judge Carter’s courtroom.”