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Top 10 News Stories of 2009:

Homeless at forefront

January 01, 2010

1 City agonized over homelessnessCity agonized over homelessness

Issues surrounding homeless people in Laguna Beach is at the top of the list for 2009.

The issue actually hit the city hard late December 2008, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit — the day after Christmas — alleging the city’s anti-camping ordinance was unconstitutional. The firestorm that resulted from the lawsuit — and the ACLU’s stinging rebuke of the city for alleged mistreatment of the unhoused — made city officials plea for “public calm” in early January, as settlement talks proceeded. Mayor Kelly Boyd quickly proposed a homeless oversight committee to implement reforms proposed by the earlier homeless task force.

By late February, the City Council had revoked an 81-year-old law against nighttime sleeping on public land, and soon complaints began to pour in from residents about an influx of people living — and carousing at all hours — on the beaches and in the parks. By June, the city had settled the ACLU’s claims, but had a long way to go to address residents’ complaints. As summer wore on, residents, visitors and hoteliers demanded action to remove the unwanted campers from beaches and parks. In September, city officials began to propose an authorized “sleeping zone” somewhere in the city.

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A stabbing incident between two homeless men lit a fire under the proposal to create an Alternative Sleeping Location and reenact the city’s anti-camping ordinance to move people into the sleeping facility. Various sites were proposed, and in October city officials decided upon the ACT V lot, which could only be used for that purpose until the festival season opens in June.

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