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By Eric Heinz
Although San Clemente was dropped from being named in a lawsuit along with every other city in Orange County, regarding homeless shelters, city officials are keeping their ears to the ground in case something else comes up.
On Friday, Nov. 2, the settlement agreement between the County of Orange and Orange County Catholic Worker was finalized after the county was sued for its removal of more than 1,000 homeless people from the Santa Ana riverbed encampment.
Federal Judge David O. Carter has mentioned his displeasure with there not being a more regional shelter available for the homeless populations south of Santa Ana.
Scott Smith, city attorney for San Clemente, said Carter hasn’t mentioned San Clemente directly in his assessments of the situation.
Smith said Carter had mentioned south county cities in the past regarding the lack of a shelter and the disproportionate burden the north cities have had to shoulder.
“He was concerned about that dating back to the current case, even though we weren’t parties in the case,” Smith said, adding he said he’s heard of possible new lawsuits that would target south county cities, but as San Clemente settled a lawsuit earlier this year regarding its zoning for such shelters, Smith said he doesn’t know if a lawsuit would force the city to do anything different than it has recently.
A recent U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit decision recently ruled cities could not remove homeless people from public land unless they had an immediate place to house them.
“We’re making sure that anything we do is compliant with that decision. And looking at the elements of that, what does that require before anyone is arrested, and that’s what we’re doing,” Smith said.