The Aug. 8 Westside Watch included a rather breezy report of the current state of the lawsuit brought by ACLU lawyers challenging the city of Santa Monica's recently enacted park-access permit scheme. Unfortunately, the abbreviated story conveyed a distorted report of the ACLU's position. As the letter sent to the city clearly stated, the ACLU remains open to discussing settlement. The only request the ACLU had made is that the city be willing to reconsider its steadfast demand for a provision in both the present and proposed law that would prohibit people from gathering in the same public areas of Santa Monica more than twice a month and then only for limited periods of time, even if no other group wanted to use the space.
The self-serving remarks of the attorney from the outside law firm hired to write and defend all of the city's "homeless" ordinances are a misrepresentation of both the ACLU's position and the city's. As she well knows, the ACLU has been engaged in discussions with the city for two months on these issues with little, if any, evidence of a willingness on the part of the city to accommodate on these issues.
Admittedly, the city of Santa Monica has certainly been more responsive than most other local communities to the problems of homelessness. Their demonstrated concern, however, has not earned them an exemption from the Constitution.
CAROL A. SOBEL
Sobel is senior staff counsel for the ACLU of Southern California.