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Tentative Settlement Reached in Beach Curfew Litigation

Today, plaintiffs Francesca de la Rosa and Jataun Valentine and attorneys from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton LLP, announced the tentative settlement of their lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. Ms. Valentine and Ms. de la Rosa filed the lawsuit in 2015 against the City for its refusal to obtain a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission for an ordinance that closes 14 miles of coastline within the City of Los Angeles for five hours every night. The lawsuit was filed after attempts by activists, community groups, and the California Coastal Commission itself failed to move the City to seek the necessary approvals for the beach curfew.

The announcement of the tentative settlement comes after the City Council in June instructed the Department of Recreation and Parks to apply for the necessary Coastal Development Permits from local agencies and ultimately, from the Coastal Commission. That decision came on the heels of a ruling by the Superior Court that the Coastal Act did apply to the ordinance. As a result, the City had to apply for a Coastal Development Permit unless it could prove that an exemption applied. In August, the Court also ruled against the City in a separate motion and dismissed a number of the City’s defenses and arguments that the Plaintiffs should not have been allowed to bring the case. The Court ruled that although the ordinance had been passed in 1988, the plaintiffs still filed the case in time because the City’s continued enforcement of the ordinance was an ongoing violation of the Coastal Act.

As a condition of the stay of the litigation while the agreement is awaiting final approval by the City Council, the City has agreed to limit enforcement of the ordinance by issuing warnings to individuals before they can be cited for violating the curfew.

“The City’s decision to seek a Coastal Development Permit is the right one, not only for the plaintiffs and the City, but for every resident of the City and the state.” said Jim Burgess from Sheppard Mullin who is counsel to both plaintiffs. “It would have been the right decision in 1988 when it enacted the ordinance, in 2009 when the Coastal Commission first informed the City that one was necessary and activists began demanding that the City seek a permit, in 2015 when this case was filed. And although it took years of litigation and vigorous opposition by the City to get to this point, it is the right decision today.”

Shayla Myers, attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, who represents Jataun Valentine, explained “The City had an obligation to consider the public’s right to access the coastline when it took the drastic step of closing off access to the coastline overnight. The process the City has agreed to undergo will ensure the beach closure is subject to public debate and discussion, and that this important right will be considered, not only by the City, but also by the Coastal Commission.”

The first hearing in the Coastal Development Permit process is scheduled for October 5, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. at Westchester Senior Center in Venice.

Francesca de la Rosa, a plaintiff in the lawsuit says “we brought this lawsuit only after activists tried for years to convince the City that it could not simply close its beaches as a way to address the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles. If it feels a curfew is necessary, it should have to prove it. We are looking forward to participating in the public process we had to fight for so hard just to get the City to conduct.”

A copy of the original complaint can be found here and the Order staying the litigation pending settlement can be found here.

About Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA)

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles is the frontline law firm for poor and low-income people in Los Angeles and Long Beach. It provides direct legal representation and other legal assistance for low-income people in civil legal matters. www.LAFLA.org.

About Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton

Sheppard Mullin is a full service Global 100 firm with more than 770 attorneys in 15 offices around the world. Among other things, Sheppard Mullin handles corporate, healthcare, entertainment and technology matters, as well as complex commercial, real estate and intellectual property litigation. (www.SheppardMullin.com) It is a longtime LAFLA partner, and has served as pro bono counsel on several cases.