LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. - Civil-rights attorneys filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against this exclusive coastal town and accused its leadership of engaging in a campaign of harassment against the disabled homeless.
The American Civil Liberties Union alleged that a city ban on sleeping on the street is unconstitutional, particularly because there are no year-round city-sponsored shelters.
"There are even more art galleries than homeless residents," said Mark Rosenbaum, ACLU's legal director for Southern California. "Yet city leaders have chosen to attempt to eliminate the homeless, rather than eliminate homelessness."
The lawsuit seeks a change in policy, but no money for the homeless, Rosenbaum said.
Assistant City Manager John Pietig objected to the characterization of the city as an exclusive, oceanfront hamlet bent on driving out fewer than 100 chronically homeless people.
"We're a very tolerant community," he said.
The community of 25,000 people, with a median home price of about $1.3 million, was also the setting of MTV's hit reality show "Laguna Beach." *