In mid-July Attorney Anthony Prince of the California Homeless Union successfully applied for a restraining order to stop enforcement of a thinly-disguised anti-homeless Novato city Camping ban designed to work around the Martin v. Boise decision. Perhaps activists in Santa Cruz can take similar action, long promised by the Santa Cruz Homeless Union, either with or without an attorney. WHY AND HOW To assist and inspire any would-be legal eagles and/or simply lay activists interested in following in successful footsteps, here’s both Prince’s application for the court Injunction as well as the Court’s positive response in Novato. Hard work by S.C. Homeless Union president and workers in large part compiled the evidence. Long-time Court survivor Keith McHenry of the allied Food Not Bombs organization has repeatedly suggested that the legal arguments, gleaned from prior applications could be mustered fairly quickly. This is something ordinary mortals could do without relying on cowed or overworked attorneys.
THE DOCUMENTS Prince’s Application for a Restraining Order: file:///C:/Users/Robert/Downloads/516121476-California-Homeless-Union-et-al-v-City-of-Novato-et-al-complaint(1).pdf [put this link in your browser to see the full document]
BACKGROUND STORIES Attached are several stories giving background (from an establishment perspective of the Novato City Council’s conniving against Camp Compassion and the unhoused folks in that town: from the Marin Independent Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. For completeness and amusement, I add the Novato and Police Chief’s statements as well.
The grim news of sweeps removing homeless-run encampments in Sausalito and San Rafael, as well as the RV rousts in Seaside, in recent weeks is now counterbalanced by a ray of light from a federal court in the Warren v. City of Chico case, which I transcribe here. In mid-December, City Manager Martin Bernal unilaterally sent in Andy Mills’ SCPD last December to oust the homeless population living in San Lorenzo Park, ignoring the winter weather, COVID crisis, and lack of City shelter.
Bernal and his staff had decreed such removals with false promises of adequate alternative shelter and services from the Benchlands, 1220 River St., Ross Camp, and Phoenix Camp in prior years.
In response, community organizations set up their own tents and showed up in large numbers to interpose themselves between armed police and the threatened homeless residents. A day later the California Homeless Union and its attorney Anthony Prince got a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) blocking the removal. The order was turned into a longer term Preliminary Injunction on January 20th.
In negotiations with the City, Prince agreed to squeeze the homeless encampment into the Benchlands in March where it has grown over the last few months receiving limited support from City authorities and from Food Not Bombs and other charitable groups.
“Given the great disparity between the number of beds and the number of unhoused persons, the Court need not get into the weeds of whether the existing beds are “practically available.” There was simply not enough shelter available for the community to opt to enforce its criminal sanctions.” –quote from the decision
The federal court ignored the City Manager Bernal’s failure to fulfill the terms of the modified Preliminary Injunction to meet regularly with the Homeless Union to improve Benchlands conditions. Magistrate Susan Van Keulen lifted the Court’s protection of the encampment Tuesday afternoon, discarding more than several hundred people into the City’s predatory “care”. Download PDF (611.0KB) HEARING ENDS MONTHS OF PROTECTED CAMPING An earlier 11 AM zoomed hearing before Susan Van Keulen provided few surprises. The magistrate, who’d previously protected the encampment from the City’s dispersal-without-alternatives strategy, stated at the outset the purpose of the hearing was the lifting of the Injunction.
In so doing, all parties paid little heed to the elephant in the tent–the lack of shelter, campground space, or housing for the majority of the homeless in the Benchlands–to say nothing of the wider city population.
Some activists–like myself–had been pressing SC Union officials to persuade their attorney Anthony Prince to focus on City’s lack of available shelter and prior history of false promises by the City in prior “relocation to nowhere” sweeps.
Though mentioned in the Declarations of Keith McHenry and Alicia Kuhl, the no-place-to-go arguments were not strongly raised by Prince in his pleadings. With the COVID shelter-in-place arguments predictably likely to be rejected by the Court, more fundamental issues had to be raised.
Other cities like Chico–which Prince did mention in his verbal presentation to the Court–had been granted a city-wide Injunction–something some activists had been urging. The strongest point Prince made was the City’s failure to follow the Court’s urging that the City authorities meet regularly with Union activists–something that reportedly only happened once in the course of several months.
Prince also used a closed if not secretive process in gathering information and framing documents, which made broader Union input problematic. He refused to release court papers, which finally had to obtained, ironically from the opposition City Attorney through a Public Records Act request,
Previous dispersals of the Benchlands (2018), the 1220 River St. camp (2018), the Ross Camp (May 2019), and the Phoenix (Desiree Quintero Memorial Camp November 2019) were accompanied by a bevy of non-existent “alternatives” from Susie O’Hara and Megan Bunch. The attempted mid-epidemic Xmas-time removal of hundreds from San Lorenzo Park featured more false promises by Lee Butler’s staff.
Judge and attorneys alike failed to focus on this well-documented history of bad faith and broken promises. Both sides laid emphasis on the “good management” of the Benchlands camp, without answering the obvious–what kind of guarantees was the City providing that it wouldn’t disperse the camp–say on July 4th when the new Camping Law goes into effect.
Nor were survival sleeping area alternatives provided in the recent camp demolitions at Hiway 1 and Hiway 9, the Camp Paradise “Hell’s Trail” bulldozing and the proposed July 1st deadline for Pogonip evictions.
The City Council has gone on July vacation, leaving all emergency powers in the hands of the City Manager and his subordinates. Few if any specifics were revealed at the last City Council meeting about storage and shelter alternatives supposedly being developed to provide reassuring backdrop to the harsh enforcement provisions of the new Camping Ban.
WILL THE COMMUNITY RESPOND? On December 28th after an ineffectual earlier attempt on December 17th, community members in numbers came out to challenge the punitive “removal to nowhere” response of Mills’ SCPD. That day’s victory was followed the next day by a successful Preliminary Injunction from Prince and the Santa Cruz Homeless Union–something Union activist Alicia Kuhl said was put together in short order.
Recent activist and community response to the Highway 1 sweeps-to-nowhere has been sparse, but given the history of numbers of people in the Benchlands, the response may be stronger. The Homeless Union has been organizing there for some months, though meeting attendance has been limited (but spirited).
Tent residents, housed supporters, and Santa Cruz Union members met Tuesday night to discuss survival strategies for the Benchlands community survival encampments. A 2nd Benchlands camp meeting is planned for Friday July 2nd at 5 PM on the tables in back of the courthouse..
The most recent documents to follow the arguments of attorney Anthony Prince representing the Santa Cruz Homeless Union and the City Attorney Anthony Condotti can be found at https://cityofsantacruz.sharefile.com/d-s911ada8e59964e4c891a8e9690536bb9 . The link will be active for 30 days, according to the Deputy City Clerk Administrator Julia Ward. The documents were released in response to a Public Records demand. Previous such requests to attorney Anthony Prince were met with refusal or silence.
Tomorrow, Tuesday July 29 at 11:00 am The Federal Judge will hear the case to decide if she will lift the injunction
There will be a demonstration at San Lorenzo Park at the Benchlands at 7 pmto discuss what the ruling means to the folks living in the tents at the Benchlands. The Santa Cruz Homeless Union will meet under the Footbridge there. Thanks to LawWatcher Laura Chatham for this additional information. An audio of the July 29th hearing–if someone makes it available–will be posted at http://www.huffsantacruz.org/Lostshows.html .
Community focus must shift from the prefabricated public-excluded City Council meetings to direct action and legal support to defend the many survival encampments (Meyersvilles) that have sprunt up around Santa Cruz as emergency housing. The massive street protests of last summer tore down Chief Mills fences against Food Not Bombs and the Cooper encampment next to the Post Office. But recent attempts to rouse the righteous have failed to contest the mass camp evictions of June 4th and June 21st along Highway 1.
Chico Shines a Light, But Activists Here Must Do the Heavy Lifting Down Chico way, a Senior Sacramento Judge of the Eastern Division of the Federal District Court has stopped encampment sweeps dead in their tracks city-wide with a TRO in the Commanche Creek Greenway case. This was justified not by the fading COVID-19 shelter-in-place concerns, but rather by lack of shelter or campground alternatives for those being rousted.
NEW HOPE FOR THE HOMELESS IN CHICO In a sweeping Temporary Restraining Order, Federal Judge Morrison C. England has blocked Chico cops and bureaucrats from ***Moving on the Comanche Creek Green Way encampment ***Blocking all such sweeps City-wide in Chico ***Freezing anti-homeless Municipal Codes in the City ***Banning enforcement of the state’s anti-panhandling law (647c) ***Protecting all property of the City’s homeless, even that valued at $100 or less. The text of the Court order can be read at https://npr.brightspotcdn.com/e7/18/db7ea75b4afe9870d05ba2cf8d79/lsnc-tro.pdf
CAN THE CONSCIENCE OF SANTA CRUZ LAWYERS… …be roused from its deep sleep whether we’re talking S.C. Union of the Homeless or the local ACLU?
While the SC Homeless Union has been gathering Declarations of damage in the local encampment destructions ever since Ross Camp was rousted back in April 2019, it has failed to move on a City-wide Injunction protecting the homeless.
In its most recent successful Injunction protecting the San Lorenzo homeless, Union attorney Anthony Prince has simply signed on to City Attorney Condotii’s “move ‘em to the Benchlands” order with few proposed modifications. He recently grew enraged with my questions at a Union meeting and refused to answer them.
The local ACLU has been even worse, pleading impotence unless it can “get permission” from the regional ACLU up North. When asked why lawyers and activists on the local Board couldn’t take matters into their own hands, Former ACLU Board member Steve Pleich stormed out of a homeless activist meeting refusing to discuss the matter. Pleich reportedly seeks a position on the restrictive Association of Faith Communities Safe Parking program (but has also declined to respond to written criticisms and concerns about their program).
Hopefully, the Chico TRO will lead to a Preliminary Injunction that will embolden the terminally timid attorneys here to move, if only to collect some money, to protect the constantly crushed civil rights of those outside.
MORE POSTURING AND PONTIFICATING AT SANTA CRUZ SHITTY COUNCIL? Meanwhile the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Mayor are playing peek-a-boo politics with the Martin v. Boise decision. Dustyheart Donna Meyers’ City Council tightens the noose around the homeless citywide with its ludicrous TOLO law up for further fascist formfitting on Tuesday April 13.
That law bans homeless survival camping in parks, greenbelts, neighborhoods, downtown, at the beach…hell, everywhere but on narrow sidewalks where they’ll be subject to “blocking the sidewalk” citations. Bellowing bigots from Seabright and the West Side are demanding their sidewalks be swept clean of “the homeless menace.”
Meyers’ Council majority has signed on to Chief Mills’ clever but callous 7-point program. One device seems to be not providing specific safe zones in the TOLO law while retaining and augmenting the massive enforcement apparatus of the old unconstitutional Camping Ban.
This intentional cloudiness about safe zones was perhaps meant to reassure “drive the homeless out of sight, out of town” NIMBY activists in the neighborhoods but ironically has had the opposite effect. Or was the ambiguity intended as a device to stoke their fears in order to mobilize them into potential future vigilante action imperiling the homeless still further, but solidifying the racist anti-homeless electoral strategy with an eye on the 2022 elections?
The Mills-Meyers-Bernal TOLO law would have been laughed out of Judge Keulen’s court. Keulen, the federal judge who previously granted the San Lorenzo Park residents a 3-month reprieve, demanded specific shelter alternatives for those being rousted (though unfortunately didn’t clarify for how long).
ACTIVIST OPPORTUNITIES The TOLO law can only survive in the reactionary echo chamber of City Council if activists do nothing other than complain among themselves and shoehorn themselves into Mayor Meyers 1 minute gag rule. Or if we wait for attorneys to come out of hiding. Meanwhile, do we hope for Mills’ cops, Deborah Elston’s RV rousters, and Elliot’s Parks and Rec wrecking crew to see the light or act fairly?
MEAN MOVE-EM-ALONG MADNESS IN THE BENCHLANDS Meanwhile, City Manager Bernal has apparently authorized activation of City Attorney Tony Condotti’s “Move ‘Em Along” order bullying Benchland residents to move by 9 AM today (4-12) . Bernal’s bumbusters reportedly posted illegal notices for Benchlander residents to vacate the park entirely (violating Judge Keulen’s court order).
When SC Homeless Union attorney Prince caught wind of this, he reportedly passed on the word to Food Not Bombs activist Keith McHenry,who then put up some “Don’t Be Fooled” signs clarifying that Benchlands residents only had to move to the Upper Park area. Then, McHenry reports, the City altered its signs to more accurately reflect the Judge’s order.
However the City’s Clear the Park Plan is in motion. The entire “musical chairs” move-‘em-to -the-122-Benchlands sites may be very temporary if Keulen dissolves the protective Injunction at the April 27th hearing. This will force all Park residents…to the imaginary accommodations that overpaid well-spoken city liars like Lee Butler and Susie O’Hara have told tales of.
Will the Chico TRO however, if upheld as a Preliminary Injunction, stiffen the spines of ACLUsters and Union activists alike to demand a broader Injunction here that protects all the homeless and relies on the obvious lack of shelter space?
COVID-expanded shelter space is reportedly contracting significantly with the cutting off of out-of-county funding with River St., Laurel St., the Armory, and other such places being shut down.
REMINDER TO THE RESISTANCE In Chico, Sausalito, and here, it took direct ground resistance from the Conscience Community to delay police persecution long enough to get Court action. That is likely to be the continuing case here. Unfortunately groups like Stop the Sweeps, NOMAD, and others are less visible if not missing entirely. But resistance has often come unexpectedly in waves. The roar of the righteous may yet be heard again. Add Your Comments§Text of the Chico Temporaty Restraining Order by Judge Morrison C. England (posted by Norse) (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com) Monday Apr 12th, 2021 8:04 AM
UPDATED: Unhoused individuals launch lawsuit against city of Chico; restraining order granted District judge sets April 23 for hearing
By Natalie Hanson | nhanson [at] chicoer.com | Chico Enterprise-Record PUBLISHED: April 11, 2021 at 6:17 p.m. | UPDATED: April 11, 2021 at 8:40 p.m.
CHICO — A legal aid provider filed suit against the city’s enforcement operations sweeping unhoused individuals and filed an additional temporary restraining order, which was granted by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. on Sunday.
That decision, which came three days after the city gave 72-hour notices to people who have been camping in violation of city ordinances at Comanche Creek Greenway, delays any evictions by the city until at least April 23.
Legal Services of Northern California, a non-profit civil legal aid provider for 23 northern California counties, officially filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on Thursday. Attorneys Cory Turner and Stephanie Goldberg are lead litigators on behalf of eight plaintiffs against the city and the Chico Police Department.
Chico City Manager Mark Orme said Sunday “City staff does not comment on current or anticipated litigation.” The city attorney was not available to comment before this paper’s deadline.
The plaintiffs include Camp Fire survivors and other indigent Chico residents “who cannot afford housing and who live outdoors because they have no other shelter options,” and are subject to the city’s methodical encampment eviction and property confiscation efforts beginning in January, according to a news release Sunday.
The suit seeks an injunction barring the city from enforcing 72-hour eviction notices issued to unhoused people sleeping and resting on public land, such as one issued at Chico’s Comanche Creek Green Way park April 8. It also seeks ending continued enforcement of city ordinances “that criminally penalize the plaintiffs’ homeless status in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as defined under two recent federal court decisions that struck down similar ordinances – Martin v. City of Boise, Idaho, 2019 and Blake v. City of Grants Pass, 2020.”
Turner said Chico lacks sufficient emergency shelter for hundreds of unhoused residents and that existing shelter options “are inaccessible to many unhoused people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, even when beds are available.”
“Nevertheless, the city and its police department have undertaken aggressive sweeps of public areas where unhoused people rest and sleep and have refused, repeatedly, to tell unhoused people where they may lawfully reside until they are able to secure shelter. As a result, unhoused Chico residents, many of whom have physical and mental disabilities, are thrown into a cycle of constant movement from one location to another to avoid arrest, citation and destruction of what little property they have.”
The plaintiff’s suit seeks to prohibit the city’s enforcement operations sweeping camps “until such time that it develops more appropriate community solutions to meet the needs and honors the civil rights of all Chico residents, including those who cannot afford shelter.”
Turner said Sunday the city has not yet responded to several invitations Thursday to discuss the pending 72-hour notice enforcement at Comanche Creek Greenway, which he said triggered the need to file the lawsuit and the restraining order. This notice expired noon Sunday.
“We hope this can help lead to solutions that meet the needs our clients — and the community as a whole,” Turner said. His clients are hoping to secure housing and need to know where outdoors they can stay until they secure it, he said. But Chico police have advised they do not tell people where they can stay, beyond not camping in parks and greenways.
“They’re not telling people where they can be safely and legally,” Turner said. “They (clients) just want to be in a location where they can avoid arrest and citation and potential destruction of their property.
“You can’t expect people to be able to help themselves when they can’t be sure of those basic needs to begin with.”
RESTRICTING ORDER GRANTED By 5 p.m. Sunday, the request for the restricting order was granted by the judge as the District Court found Sunday a temporary restraining order is warranted.
According to the brief released Sunday, “Plaintiffs have carried their burden of demonstrating that they are likely to succeed on the merits, that they would be irreparably harmed in the absence of a temporary restraining order, that the equities weigh in favor of granting the requested temporary restraining order, and that the temporary restraining order would not be against the public interest. The Court also finds that Plaintiffs have no other adequate legal remedy to preserve the status quo.”
This means until a hearing April 23, the city cannot legally enforce sweeping operations to enforce city ordinances. The city cannot enforce city code Waterways Ordinance – Camping, Staying, Storage of Personal Property, Entering and Remaining on public property, or any “destroying property of unhoused persons seized by Defendants even if Defendants value the property at $100 or less and/or determine it is not of reasonable value.”
RESCINDING SHELTER CRISIS The suit was filed two days after the Chico City Council voted 5-2 in favor of rescinding the shelter crisis declaration in the city, on the grounds that there are shelter beds available.
In an email obtained by Chico Enterprise-Record, Housing and Homeless Administrator Don Taylor advised city staff Wednesday an official rescinding of the crisis “immediately makes that jurisdiction ineligible for the use of Homeless Emergency Aid Program, Coalition for Adequate School Housing 2018 and 2019 funds.
“We are reaching out to the state to inform them and ask for specific direction. There are several contracted agencies we will need to inform that they can no longer use funds as of today.”
Taylor said the decision would impact programs like True North Housing Alliance, Chico Housing Action Team and Caminar and could impact Ampla Health and Catalyst Domestic Violence Services programs. He said he will be communicating with contracted agencies “so they don’t incur costs that won’t be covered.”
“At a minimum, they will be aware the costs they are incurring will not be reimbursed by these funding sources so it will be up to them whether they continue to provide services.”
Councilor Alex Brown, who proposed discussing sheltering opportunities on two city properties which was rejected 5-2, reacted to other councilors’ intention to rescind the shelter crisis. Brown said the proposal was used “as an opportunity to undo great work that has been done up until this point, under the mistaken belief you can whittle down the experience of people on our streets being, they simply do not want shelter.” “The irony is not lost on me that the vote to rescind the shelter crisis has led to this consequence to the very people (shelter providers) who are facing extreme cutbacks to their ability to do that,” she said Wednesday, calling it “the results again of hasty reactive decision making.”
“This massive decision was brought up on an item that was related to providing shelter which gave no opportunity for the public to weigh in on the proposal,” she added.
The city confirmed Thursday the shelter crisis is not yet rescinded and an official resolution would be needed to properly rescind the shelter crisis declaration in Chico.
“Whether or not they (the Chico City Council) choose to have an active shelter crisis declaration doesn’t change whether there is a shelter crisis in the city,” Turner said. “There are more people who are unsheltered than there are available shelter in the city. That is obvious.”
Natalie Hanson | Reporter Natalie Hanson covers the city of Chico, seniors and general assignments for the Chico Enterprise-Record after previously editing and writing for A&E. She has written and edited for multiple publications including The Orion at Chico State and is studying journalism and international relations. She is passionate about student journalism, covering the community and quality coffee. nhanson [at] chicoer.com …
Modified Injunction is Bad News for the Unhoused;Resist Now, or Regret Later Judge Susan van Kuelen’s March 30th modifications in the 1-20-21 Preliminary Injunction previously protecting the San Lorenzo Survival Campground was published April 1st. It allows a week or two relief, if that, before the unhoused population faces restored confinement or persecution.
I’ll have to examine my notes and the formal order (when Van Keulen issues it). However at first glance, it’s seems more like a two week’s reprieve for those currently in the upper Park, immediate relocation up into the park for those currently in the Benchlands or along the Riverbank until the camp is opened and then eviction to…nowhere, and then another two week’s reprieve for those who get permits to move into the 122 spaces in the “managed campground” in the Benchlands after which there’s no provision for shelter for them, and no provision other than eviction for those who don’t chose to use the “managed campground”.
As I remember it, the order will likely allow use of the infamous cop-issued stay-away orders for anyone in the vicinity without a permit. And, of course, there was no mention of the looming TOLO law and little mention of the shelter absence with a likely step-up in “hide out or get out” enforcement as COVID shelter-in-place protections lessen.
Also missing from public view as the Code of Conduct imposed on those in the “managed campground”.
Most of the documents filed with the Court by both City and the Union have not been provided by the SC Homeless Union in spite of repeated requests.
HUFF will be discussing the situation in the Park as well as the broader situation tomorrow Thursday 4-1 11 AM to 1 PM at its usual Sub Rosa coffee-and-complaints meeting at the Sub Rosa (next to the Bike Church at 703 Pacific).