I was present in the Council Chambers during the summer of 2014 when the Friendship Shelter’s proposal to expand the Alternative Sleeping Location (ALS) shelter in Laguna Canyon to include permanent supportive housing came before the City Council. Several public meetings had been held in advance of this City Council meeting so that the community at large could be informed and have their questions answered. I supported this proposal.
During that meeting in 2014, arguments in opposition to the expansion of supportive housing were made by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) that centered around the idea that the pinnipeds in their care would be “bad neighbors” for the humans seeking shelter if they (the humans) were to move closer to the pinnipeds’ supportive housing. I recall speaker after speaker saying that the loud “barking” of the pinnipeds, coupled with their smell, would make for unsatisfactory living conditions for the humans if they moved closer. The proposal for permanent supportive housing at this site was quashed.
Fast forward to today as a drive past the PMMC and the ALS Shelter confirms the expansion of the PMMC in the direction of the ALS. Local news also reports that the PMMC will be borrowing land at the northern end of the Dog Park for temporary shelter of the pinnipeds in their care during construction. It seems that the humans occupying the ALS shelter will have neighbors deemed by their caregivers to be unsavory, closing in on both sides.
I think that the work of the PMMC is noble and life-affirming. I wholeheartedly support it. Still, I cannot help but conclude that we missed a real opportunity in 2014 to provide life-affirming help for humans struggling among us.
Pitting one species against another for limited resources ends up being a failure of imagination with costs to us all.
Linda Brown, Laguna Beach