Dietrick slams judge’s ruling as judicial misinterpretation

July 9, 2012

Christine Dietrick

By KAREN VELIE

Frustrated by a judge’s ruling that bars San Luis Obispo police from ticketing homeless people sleeping in their vehicles, the city council Tuesday will consider an emergency ordinance seeking a way to continue the practice. City Attorney Christine Dietrick called San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall’s decision “judicial misinterpretation.”

The city attorney is recommending council adoption of an emergency ordinance adding to the health, safety and welfare section of the city’s municipal code, which would specifically allow police to immediately restart its program of ticketing sleeping homeless.

To a clause in the present ordinance that reads, “Existing and new structures should reflect adopted safety standards,” Dietrick wants to add new language in order “to prevent the immediate threats to the public health, safety, and welfare associated with the conduct of living in vehicles in unsuitable areas within the city, including on local public streets.”

Dietrick has not yet produced a staff report or draft ordinance for public review. Instead, Dietrick says she will make the staff report and draft ordinance available prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

In April, local attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins filed a lawsuit accusing the city of San Luis Obispo and the chief of police of discrimination, harassment and the criminalization of homeless people because of its January-enacted plan to ticket homeless using a 30-year-old development ordinance prohibiting people from living in vehicles on private property.

Rizzo and Jenkins also noted that a vehicle code ordinance implemented by Santa Barbara that prohibits people from sleeping in their cars and RVs on city streets was deemed illegal by an appellate court because of insufficient signage. In San Luis Obispo, there is no signage prohibiting people from sleeping in vehicles.

In May, Judge Crandall took motions from both the city and the attorneys for the homeless residents under submission, and urged the city to voluntarily refrain from issuing citations while the issue was under discussion. The city elected instead to ramp up its late night raids.

Last week, Crandall granted Jenkins and Rizzo a preliminary injunction that prohibits police from ticketing homeless who sleep in their vehicles until the end of the trial noting the city’s unconstitutional treatment of the homeless.

“In addition to using an enforcement strategy that appears to be singling out poor and homeless people for harsher treatment, the court is very uneasy with the specific manner in which the police have apparently been enforcing Standard 015 and issuing criminal citations,” Crandall said. “These methods include but are not limited to, the use of late-night police forays needlessly utilizing flashing lights, blaring horns, intimidation, threats and other scare tactics.”


40 Comments

  1. leatherpink says:

    The City voted to reinstate the ordinance and they did for the safety and wealthware of our town. I am glad that our City attorney acted right away to stop anyone (not just homeless) who sleeps in their vehicle because the City is not equipped to house motorhomes or people living in their cars or motorcycles or campers and etc. With no ordiance that means the City is responsible and could be held liable if anyting happens to anyone living in their vehicles, so I support the ordiance 100%

    >>this comment in the article is not true …..“These methods include but are not limited to, the use of late-night police forays needlessly utilizing flashing lights, blaring horns, intimidation, threats and other scare tactics.”…. (the police do not blare their horns and use scare tactices or intimidate, they respond to dispatch calls on complaint of people living in their vehicles, not specifically targeting homeless people but anyone in their vehicle sleeping or drinking or smoking pot or doing odd things around their vehicle for example.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  2. MaryMalone says:

    QUOTING THE ARTICLE:
    Dietrick has not yet produced a staff report or draft ordinance for public review. Instead, Dietrick says she will make the staff report and draft ordinance available prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

    According to the Brown Act, Dietrich would have to make it public (maybe by including it in the meeting packet) by COBD Thursday, no?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

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