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Santa Ana removes Laguna Beach from homeless lawsuit; changes claims against Brea, La Palma

In a court document filed earlier this week, Santa Ana accused Laguna Beach of dumping 286 homeless people in its city since last year.  The lawsuit termed it a “staggering” number.

On Wednesday, Santa Ana took that back.

In an amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Santa Ana removed Laguna Beach from the lawsuit as one of the cities that is transporting its homeless to the county-run Intake Release Center.

RELATED: Santa Ana provides new data that Orange County is ‘dumping’ homeless

“Laguna Beach specifically was removed because its arrestees transported to Santa Ana were just general arrestees, not specifically homeless people,” city spokeman Paul Eakins wrote in an e-mail Thursday.

Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig said, “It was a mistake and we appreciate Santa Ana amending the complaint.”

The amended complaint that will be heard by Judge David O. Carter also clarifies that Brea and La Palma transported people to the county facility in Santa Ana, but it no longer identifies those people as homeless. The complaint does say Brea transported four homeless people to shelters in Santa Ana.

In total, 125 homeless people from Buena Park, Cypress, La Habra and Placentia were brought to the Intake Release Center, where they’ve been processed and released into the streets of Santa Ana since July of 2019, according to the amended complaint.

Santa Ana officials and residents have long complained that Orange County and other cities are unfairly targeting Santa Ana as the local community to house and serve homeless people. Santa Ana officials accuse the county of violating an agreement stemming from a lawsuit known as the Orange County Catholic Worker case.

The city filed a lawsuit against Orange County in January.  A month later, Judge Carter denied the city’s request for an injunction, saying the city needed to provide better statistics. Earlier this week, Santa Ana sought to do just that by filing an amended complaint that included specific numbers of homeless people transported to Santa Ana.

Eakins, the Santa Ana spokesman, said the updated complaint has not weakened the city’s argument.

“We stand by our case,” Eakins wrote in an e-mail.

Data from Buena Park, Cypress, La Habra and Placentia “show clear instances in which the county is receiving and releasing inmates into Santa Ana without providing transportation back to the cities where they were arrested,” Eakins wrote.

It’s been difficult to assess exactly how many cities send homeless people to Santa Ana. Many of those cities, Eakins said, “simply don’t track the number of homeless individuals arrested and transported.”

“That lack of data is one of the issues,” Eakins wrote. “If the number of homeless arrestees being transported to and released in Santa Ana isn’t being documented, then how can the county assure the city and the court that it is complying with the settlement agreement to not transport homeless individuals to Santa Ana?”

Source: Orange County Register

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