San Diego’s Plan to Crackdown on Encampments Hits a Legal Challenge

by on March 29, 2023 · 0 comments

in Homelessness, San Diego

by Cody Dulaney/ inewsource / March 28, 2023

A Superior Court judge could undermine San Diego’s strategy to clear homeless encampments from city sidewalks and parks.

This afternoon, Judge Yvonne Campos is set to hear final arguments in a pretrial hearing for a misdemeanor case against a 59-year-old unhoused woman charged with encroachment. It’s a city law that was intended to prohibit trash cans from blocking a sidewalk, but San Diego police have increasingly used it to break up tent encampments that officials say pose a risk to health and safety.

Two local attorneys, who are representing the woman for free, are asking the judge to dismiss the case. Their argument is that this law is unjust at its core and the way police are enforcing it violates constitutional rights. As written, the city’s law makes it illegal for anyone to place anything in any public right of way.

“If the goal here is enforcing the encroachment law,” said Coleen Cusack, the lead defense attorney, “then we wouldn’t have any beachgoers on the beach. We wouldn’t have any park goers in the park. Because everything down on the ground anywhere is a violation of the law. They’re selectively applying this law to homeless people and they’re not applying it to anyone else.”

Deputy city attorney Steve Hansen said that’s wrong, it’s not about briefly setting something down on the ground. He said there has to be some aspect of permanence — even though the law doesn’t say that.

The pretrial hearing spanned five days, with meandering and sometimes combative arguments that touched on the nation’s founding, capitalism, the rights of property owners and the causes of homelessness.

For the balance of this article, please go here.

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