O.C Judge blocks plans to re-purpose Laguna Hills Inn as Project Roomkey Facility amid potential legal fight

(Kelly Smith EnjoyOC/Courtesy)

The County of Orange has announced a temporary pause to it’s plans to convert the Laguna Hills Inn into a facility for homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to pause the efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the vulnerable homeless population was made during a Orange County Superior Court hearing Thursday, April 16th. While a lawsuit had been filed on behalf of the City of Laguna Hills on the allegations that housing the homeless at the Laguna Hills Inn would cause irreparable harm to the surrounding communities, Judge Thomas Delaney noted that the decision to uphold the city’s allegations were not what motivated his decision.

Rather, the decision was made on the basis of the insufficient information available regarding California’s right to forgo existing restrictions that come into play when a state declares a state of emergency.

“The court understands every day that someone cannot be admitted or allowed to shelter in the hotel creates a greater risk to the people in Orange County,” said Delaney

However, Laguna Hills Mayor Janine Heft says she isn’t convinced that the postponement is enough and are will continue pursuing legal action stating;

“Our city took this extreme action because we have been put in an extreme position by this project, It is horrifying to propose to place a sustantial number of COVID-19 patients in the Laguna Hills and Laguna Woods vicinity, where there are over 20,000 of the persons most at-risk seniors. We could not stand by and watch this happen.”

On the opposite hand however, the opinions of people in favor of the decision made by Judge Delaney tell a different story.

“People don’t realize that the people most at risk are the ones who don’t have shelter to lock down in.,” says nurse Brandee Flores. “If we can get them housing, then we can keep them off the streets and maybe stop the spread from continuing. You help people stay safe by helping people shelter.”

A second hearing is currently scheduled April 20.