SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — City Attorney David Chiu filed a motion Tuesday seeking clarification on a judge’s order that barred San Francisco from enforcing “sitting, lying, and sleeping laws” against unsheltered people.
Judge Donna Ryu’s ruling was made on December 23 in response to a lawsuit, Coalition on Homelessness v. City and County of San Francisco, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Critics of Judge Ryu’s order say they anticipate San Francisco will soon become a “tent city.”
An estimated 8,000 people live on the city’s streets, according to the lawsuit.
Ryu’s order prohibits San Francisco from threatening to enforce certain laws against “involuntarily homeless individuals” as long as the number of people experiencing homelessness exceeds the number of available shelter beds.
“However, whether the court meant ‘involuntarily homeless individuals’ to include all people in San Francisco who are experiencing homelessness is in contention, and is what the city is seeking clarification on,” Chiu’s office wrote.
In addition to the practical implications, Judge Ryu’s order potentially conflicts with another federal court order that the city is subject to, Hastings College of the Law v. City and County of San Francisco. In that case, the court mandated San Francisco to conduct enhanced enforcement in the Tenderloin neighborhood against individuals who have refused shelter offers.
The judge’s order “defies logic,” the city attorney asserted. Chiu added, “Without clarification, the court’s order puts San Francisco in an impossible situation, practically and legally.”
“It defies logic to require that San Francisco have shelter for all persons experiencing homelessness before San Francisco may enforce these laws against any one person, even after that individual has refused adequate shelter. It would take years and an additional $1.45 billion to build the required shelter beds and provide homeless services,” Chiu wrote.
San Francisco should be allowed to balance both addressing homelessness with services and shelters, while also maintaining “healthy and safe streets,” the city attorney asserted.
Chiu pointed out San Francisco’s history of making heavy investments for supporting unsheltered people with housing options.
“San Francisco has invested more in permanent supportive housing and homelessness than any other city in the western United States. The city engages, shelters, and houses tens of thousands of people each year. City employees work diligently to provide services and shelter to people experiencing homeless to help alleviate what has become a nationwide, intractable problem. The city will continue to offer services and shelter and is committed to addressing our homelessness crisis for the good of all San Franciscans,” Chiu said.
Currently, one federal court order limits the city’s enforcement, and another federal court order mandates enhanced enforcement. These two orders cannot exist harmoniously without further clarification, the city attorney stated.
Last month, the Coalition on Homelessness cheered the judge’s decision to grant an emergency order against the city for “criminalizing homelessness.”
The coalition argues that the city’s current homeless crisis was created by the city’s failure to build affordable housing for decades.
Homeless advocates wrote, “The Court recognized that San Francisco has effectively closed its shelter system — even while there are hundreds of people currently on the waitlist. The city suggested that all unhoused people engage in drug sales, that their belongings create health hazards, and that they refuse to accept shelter when it is offered. The court flatly rejected these allegations.”