Her Grace, Duchess Carol

It is the particular folly of Los Angeles to allow itself to be ruled by people who do not live here.

Carol Sobel was counsel in Jones vs. Los Angeles which ushered in the Era of City Wide Street Camping.  Her co-counsel was Ben Wizner of San Francisco, subsequently more famous as Edward Snowden’s lawyer.

The consequential local policy decision of this century was undertaken without a vote of the City Council or public referendum.

Surrendering a winnable case is as much an action as an appeal.  Los Angeles folded in Jones not because it had a bad hand to play, but a strong one. With victory comes the responsibility to act, and who wants that?  Better a log rollers paradise of service provider patronage and self-serving explanations for why people camp on the street and it’s never incentives.

Rocky Delgadillo, Carmen Trutanich, Mike Feuer, and their deputies need to explain themselves.

Since the Jones agreement, Duchess Carol has enriched herself mightily by way of nuisance lawsuits against the city: for confiscating the “possessions” of homeless people, for detaining activists disrupting city-sponsored walking tours of Skid Row, for police sweeps and drug searches.

The cases don’t go to trial. Carol files a claim and the City Attorney cuts her a settlement check.  She has pocketed millions in the past decade while establishing a de facto veto over action undertaken by the city to clean up encampments.

All while living on the swanky side 0f Santa Monica, off Montana, in Larry David-ville.

We must do as she dictates or “open the keys to the reserve fund”, to quote Councilman Mike Bonin.

My question for the people in City Hall underwriting the Duchesses peerage is:  where do you live?  Are you residents of the City of Los Angeles?  Or do you like so many others who profit from our present chaos, slip away at the end of the day to a tidier jurisdiction?  Who in this arrangement is representing my interests?

Mike Bonin doesn’t live in the Valley, but the schoolchildren are told to paint murals of him here.   His visage presides over the hole in the chain link fence next to the Pacoima Wash, welcoming the crackheads to their shanties.

Mr. UpintheValley is feeling a bit woke this week.

16 thoughts on “Her Grace, Duchess Carol”

  1. Strip away all the palace intrigue and partisan Us vs Them blah, blah, blah. What does society do with the folks who current live on the street?

    A significant number of people can’t afford to pay rent on income earned from part time minimum wage no benefit jobs. (I was one of them at one time.) Raising the minimum wage, building public housing, rent control, Section 8 vouchers, increasing the market supply with greater density, et cetera are all considered “social engineering” by the “Nanny State” by many voters. That’s not going to work.

    Some homeless people are alcoholic schizophrenics. The tax payers won’t pay for expanded mental hospitals. Full stop. Not an option.

    Other homeless people prefer hard drugs to productive activity. The prisons are already full up after California went on a lock ’em up binge beginning in the 80s and the state can’t afford to maintain the prisons we already have. Private prisons still depend on tax payer funds one way or another.

    Some homeless (a fraction) are in the country illegally. Deportations of illegals are already well underway and began in earnest under Obama. That process will accelerate given the general mood of the country.

    So where do these folks go? Are you really bothered that tent cities exist, or are you bothered that they exist near your home and you can’t afford to live in a posh part of LA where the authorities keep them out? Send them to Palmdale?

  2. what posh part of LA doesn’t have vagrants? i haven’t seen it. Beverly Hills is about the only place where they seem scarce, because, i’m guessing, BHPD makes them want to keep moving, kind of like Burbank PD.

    as for the mentally ill, it’s extremely difficult to put anyone into one involuntarily, as it should be, but, once there, you cannot force them to accept treatment, take their meds, etc, so there’s little reason to build more facilities.

    they’re everywhere, and yet we spend tax money to attract more of them. and all the agencies involved in “addressing” the problem have a vested interest in perpetuating it. no government agency wants to reduce headcount or their budget, and the NGO’s would need to find another cause to request grants and donations to “fight”.

  3. If you are someone who can only secure part time minimum wage employment, there are thousands of places where yuh can have the same jobs but that are much more affordable, Vegas Fresno, Phoenix Bakersfield etc If you can’t afford to live in LA than don’t.

    1. This is an honest question. But it isn’t always as simple as moving to a cheaper place. I know because I’ve had to do it myself a few times.

      It costs money to move. Even if you’re single, only have a backpack of possessions to relocate, and hop a Greyhound bus to Vegas you still need first and last month’s rent and security deposits plus utility hook ups to get even a cheap apartment. You could go with a room mate situation, but there are barriers there too. Credit checks and such which not everyone can pass – especially if you’ve been struggling financially enough to have to leave town.

      If you have children or other dependents it gets much more complicated. There’s a big ugly reality here that comfortably middle class (or even uncomfortably working class) people don’t want to acknowledge.

      1. These are good points, Johnny. But….
        1) There is no natural “right to live in LA”, or SF or any other coastal enclave
        2) The moral hazard of what we have have been doing outweighs the benefit to the city or the vagrants
        3) the resources of government are finite. The price point of housing derelicts in this city is expected to be $400K per head. If we are going down the road of “free rent” those funds can go ten times as far in other parts of the country.
        4) I am not opposed to using the Prop. H tax to pay relocation costs to the Rust Belt, or any place which would take them.
        5) I suggested, rather tongue in cheek in a post last year, it would be more cost effective for the city to buy cheap houses in other parts of the country and transfer the deeds of ownership as a condition of permanently leaving town. This also would be a moral hazard, but still more rational than what we are doing now.
        6) At the Sheman Oaks bridge housing meeting someone suggested a sober living trailer city in the Antelope Valley (not necessarily in Lancaster). If people are serious about addressing the personal crises driving addiction and self-defeat, this is not a bad idea.
        7) Any solution begins with an end to street camping NOW. Whatever the solution, we cannot allow their numbers to be replaced as fast as we house people. Enforcement of that edict would be a necessary requirement on both sides.

        1. These are really hard questions. I’m trying to find a coherent framework to sort it all out.

          This isn’t the first time America has had tent cities. Back in the 1930s there were Hoovervilles. Somehow, by the 1950s those same individuals were no longer living in shanties. If you were an able bodied man who could keep his drinking under control until the factory whistle blew at 5PM you could afford a decent home. That shift involved structural changes in society.

          What you’re proposing isn’t a structural change. Sending the tent dwellers to the Rust Belt or the desert (as totally rational and cost effective as it may be) is no different from people in Palos Verdes or Century City shifting the problem off to Van Nuys.

          1. I think we can agree a trailer compound would have to be well off the beaten path. Not downtown Palmdale. Something like Slab City, but with structure. There’s a lot of rural space up off the 138 in northern LA county.

            Again, thinking off the top of my head, if you start enforcing the law against street camping, you can tell people there are two buses: one to Soberville. The other to a city of your choice, including an EBT card for relocation costs.

            An imperfect plan, admittedly. The Rajneeshees tried importing homeless people to their compound in Oregon in the 1980s, but made the fatal error of allowing them to continue to drink, then were compelled to drug their beer to maintain order.

            But….we would have two options on offer in lieu of sleeping on the sidewalk, and we would have them at a price point well below LA housing costs.

        2. So…. What’s stopping you and your wife from cashing out and taking a fat wad of LA equity to a better place? It’s that easier and more satisfying to your personal goals than trying to change something as huge and sclerotic as LA?

  4. You added to the palace intrigue (I’m not arguing) but didn’t address the question. Where do the street people go if not in tent cities under the freeway? Shall they be ground up into dog food? That kind of technique has been used before and is highly efficient…

  5. It seems to me the broken people are symptomatic of a broken social system – that the issue is who bears the burden of the breakage that is likely exacerbated from the fact that toxic and otherwise dysfunctional relationships are often disproportionately functional for at least one individual dictating the terms of the relationship. Having dependencies and patronage is not generally a functional type of relationship as far as notions of human dignity and potential are concerned. The abstract goal is that in realizing human dignity and potential within the contexts of a broader contributive social contract quality of life improves with minimal disparity between involved parties. The machinations of leadership sometimes allow this outcome, though most often it’s a mashup of periods of function and dysfunction. In this blog entry, it would appear that Carol Sorbel is being portrayed as something of a feudal lord or robber baron of sidewalks – the destitute as her serfs. It is an expression of frustration that city service funds that might otherwise have been used toward more effectual policy of supportive housing, boarding, medical care, and vocation befitting of a people with particular special needs to offset the costs of providing for them while allowing for civic/social engagement within a more functional social contract is instead paid out in legal fees, self defeating legal interpretations and patronage. There is also an expression of frustration at the fact that the motivations of someone like Carol Sorbel frequently are not critically evaluated by government institutions and the voting public. Since fingers are being pointed, as a counter point, might critics of the current formal and informal arrangements be at fault for lacking the charisma and assertiveness of other California luminaries such as Jim Jones and Robert Rizzo or should we wax optimistically instead content in shifting beauty standards in the Golden State as was visible at this year’s Rose Queen coronation.

      1. We are generally in agreement but my assessment is more consistent with the views of Erin Pizzey. Taking the controversial point a step further, it seems to me most frequently, popular culture and popular governance is toxic or abusive in nature. As a nine year old, my teacher had a golden apple on her desk. It took me 20 years to recognize the significance – μῆλον τῆς Ἔριδος.

  6. Sanitary and living conditions for an estimated 2,000 homeless people in Los Angeles’ Skid Row are so severe that the United Nations recently compared them to Syrian refugee camps.
    It’s the largest concentration of the destitute in the country.
    Even New York’s Bowery is a shadow of it’s former self.

    Okay, Duchess Carol and other civil rights lawyers, have been getting rich filling lawsuits for skid row “residents” who claimed they were forced to sleep on the sidewalks because the city provided no other shelter. A federal appeals court in 2006 ruled the ban on lying or sleeping on public sidewalks amounted to cruel and unusual punishment because there were not enough shelter beds for the city’s huge homeless population.

    When William Bratton was Chief of police, he set up a special task force of 50 officers who aggressively arrested homeless people for quality of life infractions like jaywalking and urinating in public. Homeless numbers on skid row dropped, but then, their civil rights were being violated said the Duchess.
    “More police didn’t work in downtown,” she said. “Homeless people are being pushed around the city, and that’s not a solution.”

    So is providing beds for the people living on the fringe of society an obligation for Los Angeles?

    The rogue group of homeless that are attracted to downtown and other areas of the city, DO NOT want services, they do not want out of their situation and they do not want “help”. Their addiction or level of mental illness is something they want to manage themselves on the streets with no accountability to laws. They don’t want to be in a City program, they don’t want to “check in” anywhere or stay in a place where they can’t get drunk, do drugs or have their contraband. This is a group of folks that were not able to manage their lives enough such that they now live on the streets. They don’t do well in programs because they miss reporting, meetings and showing up for anything above the level that gets them free food or general relief. They are ok with being surrounded by containers of their own waste… and don’t really care if you are bothered by it.

    Is it illegal to block the sidewalk?

    Yes. In California, it is illegal to intentionally block the free movement of another person on a street, sidewalk or other public place.
    Also, in the city of Los Angeles, you can’t stand in or on any street, sidewalk or other public way open for pedestrian use or otherwise occupy any portion in such a manner as to “annoy or molest” any pedestrian or to obstruct or unreasonably interfere with the free passage of pedestrians.

    Except if you actually live on the sidewalk it seems.

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