SLO overrules judge on homeless raids

July 11, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo City Council voted 4-1 in favor of adopting an emergency ordinance that allows police to ticket homeless sleeping in their vehicles in an attempt to overrule a judge’s ban on the late night raids.

After determining a July 3 ruling by San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall was a misinterpretation of the city’s intent to use a development code to ticket people sleeping in vehicles, the city rewrote the ordinance and placed it in a health and safety code section.

In February, police started a program of late night forays using scare tactics and threats to stop homeless from sleeping in their cars. Two months later, 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.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, one person spoke in favor of the ban noting her fear of the homeless and the trash they leave behind. The remaining 16 public speakers said they were opposed to the city reinstating the anti-camping ordinance.

“We are human and it is hard to be harassed every day by the cops,” Barbara Walker said and then began to weep. “It sickens me that people want to treat us like trash. We are human.”

Explaining her support for the emergency ordinance, Mayor Jan Marx said she was concerned the city would become a magnet or a target for people who want to camp out on public streets.

John Ashbaugh said he was in favor of enacting an anti-camping ordinance, but was concerned with the emergency ordinance’s language and wanted a rewrite. He voted against the ordinance.

The ordinance includes a statement that the city’s intent is to “overrule any ruling to the contrary.”

City attorney Christine Dietrick said the new ordinance dealt with all the judge’s concerns. However, in his ruling, Crandall says his second concern is that the previous ordinance did not require the city to  provide reasonable notice to local and state residents of the street camping prohibition. The new ordinance does not require the city to put up signs noting that it is a crime to sleep in a vehicle.

Crandall’s third concern has to do with criminally enforcing a zoning regulation, which  is ordinarily investigated by code enforcement officers. In its emergency ordinance, the city notes police enforcement is required because the city’s code enforcement officers do not work at night.

Attorneys Rizzo and Jenkins said they are contemplating amending their complaint against the city and asking the judge to enact a temporary restraining order again banning the city from ticketing homeless for sleeping.

“Fighting the city is like going fishing in a 12-foot skiff and catching a 9-foot shark,” Jenkins said. “After getting it into the boat, it just keeps trying to bite your ankles.”







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25 Comments

  1. MaryMalone says:

    Unless SLO City and its police officers are ready to give citations to ALL people (including babies and children) sleeping in ALL vehicles SLO City will STILL be discriminating against one class of people.

    The city is unwise to do about everything it has done so far regarding its transportable-housing residents. However, trying to make the issue about “sleeping” in a vehicle is just short-sighted idiocy.

    (6) 24 Total Votes - 15 up - 9 down
  2. Slowerfaster says:

    Judge Belle Schuman of Daytona Beach, Florida ruled on February 14, 2012 that an anti-public sleeping ordinance being enforced in Daytona Beach is unconstitutional. I think her ruling is worth repeating here:
    “In a civilized society, it is not a crime to be unemployed, without funds,without shelter, in a public place. (and ) …the ordinance criminalizes essentially innocent conduct that every member of the animal kingdom must do each day: sleep.”
    The judge correctly observed that Grandpa would never be arrested or ticketed for dozing off while sitting on a park bench; but for the homeless, they are inevitably ticketed with humiliating and devastating results.

    (13) 27 Total Votes - 20 up - 7 down
  3. Sulla says:

    ” . . . the city rewrote the ordinance . . . ” —– Not at all! The City “RENUMBERED” the ordinance. —– The new ordinance is “a Parallel provision” of the ordinance before the Superior Court. The language of the new ordinance is identical to the other.

    (13) 15 Total Votes - 14 up - 1 down
  4. The Gimlet Eye says:

    How can they overrule a judge?

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
    • hijinks says:

      they can’t but they can annoy him enough so he throws the book at them a second time

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  5. bobfromsanluis says:

    I would have suggested an additional word inserted in the headline for this article; I would suggest that the city is attempting to overrule the judge on this ordinance. I don’t doubt for a second that attorneys Jenkins and Rizzo will take this “new” ordinance back before Judge Crandall and ask him to rule on it as well. It seems like the city attorney Ms. Dietrick has not learned from the earlier slap down by Judge Crandall and address his concern that the ordinance was unconstitutional. Other cities have enacted anti-city street camping successfully without resorting to trampling anyone’s Constitutional rights; why not study what they did and copy them with modifications for our particular needs? It almost seems like the question for Ms. Dietrick is: Are you just lazy or do you not understand what the Constitution means? It seems like Judge Crandall may need to require that the city bone up on what it means to follow the intention of the Constitution and respond with a whole new ordinance.

    (12) 30 Total Votes - 21 up - 9 down
  6. Slowerfaster says:

    Thankfully, John Ashbaugh has a conscience and a brain. An anti-camping ordinance for undesignated areas makes sense, and falls within the purview of public safety / greater good for the greater number. But an anti-sleeping ordinance is just wrong. Everyone has to sleep. and for any governmental agency to deny or prevent this basic human need that does no one else any harm is not only just plain wrong….it falls under the aspect of the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Costitution:
    “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted”.

    Just watch: the city will have to fork over big bucks for this insulting breach of human rights and dignity.
    Then, what will the four geniuses that voted for this and the hatchet person have to say ?

    (11) 39 Total Votes - 25 up - 14 down
    • SLORider says:

      >> “Thankfully, John Ashbaugh has a conscience…”

      Don’t get all excited. Ashbaugh supports the city position. He only opposed pushing it through as an emergency.

      (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
  7. whatdouno says:

    Boy the SLO City Council must be really proud of themselves. Perhaps the ghosts of Christmas past will be at their door this year. One can only hope!

    (12) 28 Total Votes - 20 up - 8 down
  8. Booty JuJu says:

    Why not be honest and just toss them directly in jail where for every 30 lives ruined we can create 1 or 2 LE jobs with bloated salary and pension?

    Targeting people with zero ability to pay is simply a backdoor method of achieving the same result.

    (17) 33 Total Votes - 25 up - 8 down
    • CalCoastOutrage says:

      Booty JuJu and others of the same mindset,
      Although I do feel for the homeless being ticketed, we cannot become a society that ignores violations of the law simply because of an inability to pay. Although the argument has been tossed around on this board and boards like it that this is a victimless crime and we should therefore make special accommodations for violators, that’s a slippery slope. Should we not fine Poly students for being drunk in public? Should we waive sales tax for those earning under a certain household income? Should we not ticket litterers in pre-90s cars because obviously these people could not afford newer cars? I know some of my examples here are a little iffy, but you get my point.
      There are rules of our society, and we are all obligated to comply with them, whether we like them or not.
      If enough people do not like the laws, there are remedies to address the process of changing them, but until the laws are changed, I congratulate the city for doing what needs to be done to enforce the spirit of these laws.
      The city of SLO is not condemning these people to death, they are just saying “if you want to live here, you have to follow our rules.” If these people need to park somewhere, they are welcome to find an area on our lovely central coast that allows camping on the streets.
      As far as I’m concerned, financial abilities should have nothing to do with the enforceability of a law.

      (-15) 37 Total Votes - 11 up - 26 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        Let’s see how self-righteous you’ll be about “rules of our society” when your baby and/or child is cited for sleeping in the car on the way home from the beach.

        (6) 18 Total Votes - 12 up - 6 down
      • OnTheOtherHand says:

        Sorry CCO, when a government body enacts a law that is unconstitutional, the courts are supposed to overrule them. That is the case here as the judge in Daytona Beach stated quite succinctly (see SlowerFaster’s post). I know lawyers love to show off their “expertise” by twisting facts and logic with warped interpretations, but I can’t bite on Dietrick’s version of legality. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is almost certainly a duck — and this ordinance certainly has a “foul” odor to it.

        This is not to make light of the need to deal with problems caused by elements among the homeless. However, this “solution” is simply wrong. In tight budgetary times like these, doing the right thing may be more expensive but being sued for violations of constitutional rights is not exactly cheap either. It is time that the SLO City Council and City Attorney make a honest effort to achieve an ethical solution — difficult as that may be.

        (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
        • The Gimlet Eye says:

          You make some very good points here, OnTheOtherHand.

          One other point that it seems nobody else has brought up is: who is ultimately responsible for all this economic upheaval and social friction?

          I say it is corrrupt bankers and corrrupt government officials working hand in hand.

          This “economic crisis” is a total scam, a deliberate and giant looting scheme the likes of which will make us small fries suffer and quarrel with each other like this for years to come.

          (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
  9. SLOBIRD says:

    This is going to be interesting. SLO takes on the judical system… hummmmmmmmmmmm

    (25) 29 Total Votes - 27 up - 2 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      I think they’re going to need a bigger attorney.

      (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down

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