By Barbara Diamond
The city of Laguna Beach has been victorious in a long-running action brought by Eileen Garcia charging that the day labor site on Laguna Canyon Road violated federal immigration laws and was a misuse of public funds.
The court decision was one of six in which the city was victorious in recent weeks, City Atty. Philip Kohn announced at the Dec. 2 council meeting.
“Garcia and others appealed the trial court decision in which the city had prevailed and a judgment had been entered,” Kohn said. “The trial court judgment was upheld.”
Opposition to the day labor center became a hot issue with folks dedicated to stopping illegal immigration.
In January 2006, the Minutemen rallied at the site and appeared at the Jan. 10 City Council meeting to protest the day labor center. Garcia was among the speakers.
The next month, Garcia applied for participation in the Patriot’s Day Parade, which was denied. The Minutemen went to court, but the judge ruled that the parade committee had the right to regulate participants.
Garcia then discovered in 2006 that Caltrans actually owned the parcel on which the day labor center operated and informed the agency. Caltrans ordered the center closed June 29. In July, the city signed a one-year lease for the use of the parcel.
Unable to sway city officials, Garcia and others took legal action in 2007. The case was assigned to be heard in November by Judge H. Warren Siegel.
City Manager Ken Frank said the city’s options were limited if the plaintiffs prevailed. Options included appealing the decision, designating another site, or rescinding the city ordinance that stipulates the present location of the center in the canyon.
“If we rescind the ordinance, the day workers can congregate wherever they want on public property,” City Manager Ken Frank said at the time. “Damn stupid.”
Under city law, day laborers are only allowed to solicit work at the designated site on Laguna Canyon Road.
Complaints by North Laguna residents about the disturbance of neighborhood tranquillity by the job seekers and potential employers led city officials to designate the canyon site as a day labor center in 1993. The South Coast Cross Cultural Council subsequently took over the operation, funded annually by a city grant and private donations.