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LA Taxpayers Sue City Over Enforcement of Illegal Beach Closure

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9, 2015 — This morning two Los Angeles taxpayers filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for unlawfully closing the beach, using a law that was never properly enacted. The ordinance, which makes it a crime for anyone to access the city’s 11 miles of coastline from midnight to5:00 a.m., was never cleared by the California Coastal Commission, which has oversight over any actions that restrict access to the California coastline. Coastal Commission staff have repeatedly advised the City that this ordinance, LAMC 63.44(B)(14)(b), is illegal and void. Yet the City of LA continues to expend significant taxpayer resources to cite and arrest individuals who violate this illegal law. The plaintiffs,represented by Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton, are seeking an injunction to stop the City’s enforcement of this invalid ordinance.

“As a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, I do not want to see my hard earned tax dollars going to LAPD to ticket and arrest people for an illegal law that restricts access to one of the best parts of our City, our beautiful beaches,” said Francesca De La Rosa, one of the plaintiffs. “At a time when the City is struggling to come up with the money it needs to address the City’s housing crisis, not to mention adequately maintain our schools, parks, streets and other public goods, LA should not be wasting money this way.”

The lawsuit was announced on Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach’s historic boardwalk, which is now closed to the public at night. The Beach Closure Ordinance makes it illegal for local residents and tourists to fish, surf, walk, stargaze, or otherwise access one of the most important and beloved public beaches in the country. In 2014 the city issued a staggering 1,265 citations in the Pacific Division area alone for violations of the Beach Closure Ordinance. The city is on a similar pace in 2015.

Plaintiffs in the case expressed concern that their tax dollars were going to enforce an illegal law that has been used to disproportionately target homeless residents in Venice.

“Enforcement of this beach closure is illegal, but enforcement that specifically targets homeless people is just wrong,” said Jataun Valentine, another plaintiff who has lived in her Venice home for over 25 years. “People love Venice because of its vibrant culture and diversity. So I stand firmly against the use of this law to in any way punish or push poor people away from the boardwalk. If the City wants to do something, it should focus on increasing housing and services. It should not use an illegal ordinance that makes it a crime to appreciate one of our city’s jewels.”

Since 2009, Coastal Commission staff has repeatedly advised the City that the Beach Closure Ordinance is invalid and violates the Coastal Act. In addition to Commission staff, various members of the public and organizations such as the Venice Justice Committee, have consistently advocated and attempted to convince the City to cease enforcement of the unlawful ordinance. Yet to date the City has not made an effort to apply for a Coastal Development Permit (CDP), which is required for any law that restricts beach access.

“The City of Los Angeles continues to enforce its illegal beach closure ordinance and wrongfully deny the public access to the coastline,” said Shayla Myers, an attorney with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. “The City has ignored the community, the Coastal Commission, and its obligations under the law. The only recourse left is to bring this lawsuit.”

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