Aly: Dear Tustin Legacy Neighborhood

Laguna Beach, CA: Alice Court by Jamboree Housing

You took the podium on November 20, 2018 because you felt the need to protect your families, your livelihood, and your neighborhood from an uncertain future. So, with voices shaking, some of you spoke at your first public meeting.

“I am here in opposition to… the homeless shelter. I am here, like many others, for our children.”

Tustin City Council, as required by the Brown Act, provides the public with an agenda at each meeting. Accompanying the agenda, staff prepared a report  for Item 11A, which read: “The Developer will construct 54 affordable rental units for families and 60 permanent supportive affordable rental units for the homeless with an average density of approximately thirty-two (32) dwelling units per acre. Amenities include a pool, tot lot, community garden, half-court basketball court and 6,600 square foot community building.”

To be clear: The City Council did not address any shelter on November 20, 2018, but rather planned to discuss a proposal to develop medium-density homes with amenities. These homes would alter neither the safety nor character of the Tustin Legacy neighborhood.

“We’ve been promised different things every year… Tustin Legacy is not getting developed, and now the development that is going on is all in regards to the homeless.”

The Tustin Legacy Specific Plan “provides an overall understanding and rationale for what is envisioned in the Specific Plan area, the quality and character of the uses, and the level of services and infrastructure to be provided.” As section 2.2.9 of the Specific Plan states, “Public benefit conveyances were a requirement of the base closure.”

The City of Tustin has been following its federally-mandated Specific Plan by developing some sections of the former military base for commercial and residential use, while dedicating a portion for public benefits such as shelter and housing.

 “I’m worried about my house values.”

Studies have rebutted the public perception that affordable housing negatively impacts nearby property values. Jamboree Housing has constructed affordable and supportive housing across Orange County; these newly-built homes have actually raised nearby property values.

Brea, CA: Birch Hills by Jamboree Housing

 

Buena Park, CA: Clark Commons by Jamboree Housing

 

“As a child… I couldn’t go to the park safely, because there were more homeless people hanging out in the park than children playing there.”

On October 25, 2018, the City of Tustin announced that pursuant to a settlement agreement it would “provide 50 temporary emergency shelter beds to be available within 120 days.”These beds would be located temporarily in Tustin Legacy, adjacent to already-existing shelters, consistent with the Specific plan.

The City of Tustin entered into this settlement agreement because plaintiffs would otherwise seek  an injunction against Tustin’s continued enforcement of its camping ordinance. As the Ninth Circuit has recently held, “an ordinance violates the Eighth Amendment insofar as it imposes criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors, on public property, when no alternative shelter is available to them.”(Martin v. City of Boise (9th Cir. 2018) 902 F.3d 1031, 1035.)

Insofar as Tustin’s homeless population outnumbers the available shelter beds, plaintiffs could seek an injunction against its camping ordinance. As a result, Tustin would be forced to allow homeless encampments on any park, sidewalk, or other public property. Shelters are necessary because the Constitution does not allow for the criminalization of involuntary homelessness.

“I urge you… to find a solution that takes care of the problem and keeps the safety of our community intact”  

The proposed shelter in Tustin will pre-screen clients and not allow walk-ups. Tustin’s settlement agreement term 3.1 provides that its shelter “will be operated by referral only and subject to the same admission requirements as Bridges at Kraemer.” The County of Orange’s Bridges shelter in Anaheim has operated without incident since April 2017. Bridges has established the following intake process: “Once a referral is received and pre-screened clients are given a time and directions to one of several pick-up locations. A shuttle will pick them up and transport them to the shelter.”

By modeling its procedures after Bridges in Anaheim, Tustin will see a similar level of safety and order nearby its shelter.

“The City of Tustin is already and inarguably accommodating homeless persons beyond its jurisdictional boundaries all within Tustin Legacy”

As an ongoing federal lawsuit progresses, only the cities that provide enough shelter beds for their homeless population will be allowed to enforce their camping ordinances. All 34 cities in Orange County have adopted laws prohibiting public camping. Across Orange County, at least 2,584 people go unshelteredon any given night. Therefore, all 34 cities in Orange County have become liable for criminalizing involuntary homelessness. Cities that do not share responsibility will lose their ability to force their burden on cities that do take responsibility, like Tustin.

The affordable housing crisis is another regional challenge, and policymakers have created a regional solution. Passed this year, AB 448 (Daly et al. 2017-2018) creates an OC Housing Finance Trust. State and federal funds will be available for cities to develop supportive housing, the key to ending homelessness, as well as affordable housing, the key to preventing homelessness. Cities have set a goal of developing 2,700 supportive housing units across Orange County—not solely in Tustin.

As Tustin addresses both the housing crisis and shelter crisis, it will face neither challenge alone.

“Tonight, I am here to announce… we have completed our notice of intention to recall Allan Bernstein… Charles Puckett will be next, and we’ll continue down the line until we have a City Council that puts children first.”

We will never solve homelessness by recalling public officials who try.

Decades of inaction on homelessness has killed a family of four this year in Garden Grove, and hundreds of others, every year, in Orange County.

But doing nothing is no longer an option. Cities cannot refuse to provide shelter, then send police to move homeless people under threat of arrest. This violates the Constitution, and his Honorable Judge David O. Carter will no longer allow it.

Instead, the City of Tustin can preserve civil liberties and serve all of its residents, including the most vulnerable. Tustin can show inclusivity, intelligence, and compassion. It can only do so with your support as residents.

As Tustin Legacy residents, you have decided to assert yourselves in the political process. By doing so, you have taken a degree of responsibility over the outcome.

Whichever path Tustin chooses, you, the residents, are Tustin’s legacy.

Mohammed Aly, a lawyer and executive director of Orange County Poverty Alleviation Coalition, can be reached at alym@ocpoverty.com.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org