CITY HALL — A tentative deal has been reached to resolve a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Santa Monica that accused City Hall officials of harassing and intimidating homeless residents in an attempt to drive them out of town, according to a document ACLU attorneys filed in federal court on Monday.
“The parties have now reached a proposed resolution to dispose of the case,” the attorneys wrote in court papers.
The document was a motion to drop five of the six plaintiffs named in the complaint and to withdraw a motion to certify the case as a class action.
Reached on Tuesday, Santa Monica Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner confirmed the case was close to resolution but declined to discuss the details of the proposed arrangement.
But she said the ACLU’s latest motion, which City Hall is not opposing, is the final barrier to resolving the case. She said she hopes to finalize its resolution within two weeks.
Reached briefly on Tuesday, Bradley Phillips, an attorney with Munger Tolles & Olson who worked with the ACLU on the case, declined to comment on details of the proposed resolution. Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, could not be reached before deadline on Tuesday.
Filed last July, the ACLU’s complaint alleged that City Hall had “for all intents and purposes … made it a crime to be homeless within [Santa Monica’s] borders and instituted a policy and practice of using its police officers to harass and intimidate homeless residents in order to force them to leave Santa Monica and relocate to nearby communities such as Venice, Malibu, and downtown Los Angeles.”
It went on to allege that City Hall had violated homeless individuals’ civil rights by “selectively and discriminatorily” citing homeless people for minor offenses like sitting, sleeping or smoking cigarettes in public while failing to provide adequate shelter and services to its homeless population.
The suit was met with scorn at City Hall, where officials denied the claims had any merit and said it was a waste of resources to sue a city that supports nonprofit groups that provide homeless services and invests millions of dollars a year building affordable housing.
Six homeless individuals were named in the original lawsuit, but in a document filed in court on Monday, an ACLU attorney stated that five of the plaintiffs could not be found to approve the proposed deal to end the case. One homeless plaintiff, Alejandra Solana, agreed to the deal, according to the ACLU.
The ACLU had sought an injunction against City Hall enjoining police officers and other officials from enforcing laws that criminalize sitting or sleeping in public against homeless individuals.
The ACLU also sued Laguna Beach and Santa Barbara over similar issues last year, reaching settlements with both cities.
The Laguna Beach settlement required police officers to refrain from citing, arresting or harassing people under state law for sleeping in public places, as long as there are no reasonable public health or safety concerns.