SLO seeks to dismiss lawsuit over criminalizing homelessness

December 16, 2021

Trash and debris from a homeless encampment covered public land and open space near San Luis Creek on Dec. 1. Photo from SLO City


The city of San Luis Obispo filed a motion in federal court last week seeking to dismiss a lawsuit over homeless individuals being allowed to sleep in tents and vehicles.

In September, a group of homeless individuals sued the city in federal court, asking that they be granted the right to sleep in tents and vehicles in public places without facing destruction of their property, harassment, fines and criminal charges. The San Luis Obispo City Council has passed multiple ordinances barring overnight access to parks and public spaces.

Even though San Luis Obispo has a policy of not destroying personal property seized during raids of homeless encampments for at least 60 days, the lawsuit alleges the city has repeatedly discarded items such as tents, cooking utensils and sleeping bags. The suit accuses the city of violating the Eighth Amendment by punishing people for being homeless and the Fourth Amendment for seizing and destroying personal property, as well as the California Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

On Dec. 8, the city filed a motion to dismiss the case. The city denies it criminalizes homelessness while alleging the lawsuit aims to prevent officials from enforcing SLO’s health, safety and environmental protection ordinances for public spaces, according to a city press release.

“Being homeless is not a crime in San Luis Obispo. We share the concerns about the growing homelessness crisis in California, but we believe that we all need to work together to solve the problem,”  said City Attorney Christine Dietrick in the release.

“Instead of criminalizing homelessness, our city has spent millions of dollars and untold time and energy on innovative solutions to address the problem within our city limits,” Dietrick said. “We will continue to defend our community’s right to enforce our own conduct-related laws for the health, safety and welfare of our entire community. While some may disagree with our policy choices, case law supports the legality of the city’s ordinances, and the facts reveal that we enforce them with a balance of compassion for people and accountability for harmful conduct.”


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After 50 years of restoring San Luis Obispo Creek it is now a third world open sewer with the full endorsement of homeless advocates and some on the city council.


City says they have spent Millions on homeless problem obviously money wasn’t spent well what was it spent on. Hiring more people or firms to review the problem?


If the criminals were incarcerated as we used to do, how much less of this problem would be visible? My thought is that many of these people used to be incarcerated and have chosen this lifestyle. We called them Hobos or Bums when I was a kid. There is a difference between someone who is homeless & down on their luck versus what we see along sides of our creeks & freeways.


Under the reign of terror of Derek Johnson and Christine Dietrick the homeless continue to be victimized. It was just a few years back that San Luis Obispo was sued and lost the case to those members of our community that find themselves homeless. During that time Dietrick chastised and berated the judge overseeing the case in the press. Fast forward the homeless with Stew Jenkins won costing tax payers millions of dollars in lost staff time, attorney cost and a judgement against the City. Fast forward to today Johnson and Dietrick are back at it – terrorizing the homeless population. Now they are trying to get the case dismissed because the lawsuit is without merit. They tried this same stunt last time. Don’t this people learn or is it simply because us tax payers flip the bill they can ignore the law, ignore case law and keep wasting tax payer money?

Now, I don’t condone the mess, but the City could simply provide dumpster services and portable toilet services at key locations to eliminate the mess. But no, Johnson and Dietrick want to pound on their chest and terrorize the homeless in violation of the US Constitution. Untruthful police chiefs at SLO City keep playing their role – simply lie and have staff terrorize community members who are disadvantaged. We tax payers will pay again. It is time to get rid of Johnson and Dietrick they have cost our community too much during their reign of terror.


In my OPINION, as a non-professional in the subject, just an observant citizen, we mostly have a mental illness problem that manifests itself in many ways, most notably homelessness. Until this County, this state, this country addresses that issue with a concerted, wholistic strategy I suspect our great grandkids will still be talking about this.

Congalton recently had a guest on that was knowledgeable about this, a psychologist. Part of her thesis is we need to get back to a reinvented, improved way of institutional remedies for the mentally ill. Yes, residential, psychiatricI facilities. I would recommend looking for her podcast, it made a lot of sense to me.


The photo accompanying this article is problematic and misleading being that it is not representative of the way all homeless people live in San Luis Obispo county. The photo is likely to inflame emotions and reinforce anti-homelessness prejudice in our community. There are many faces of homelessness. Not every homeless person litters or camps illegally. Let’s have some balance please, in the articles and in the comments.


You’re wrong, this pic is not misleading cause it is accurately depicting and documenting the way most encampment ppl live. You think some of these encs are orderly and decorated? It’s literally a picture of what we all see when we drive around SLOs freeways; underpasses, or deep brush.


So you want to censor photos? The homeless, many drug addicted and/or mentally ill, are flocking to SLO. Don’t theorize with me. I live here. I have always lived here. Mitchell Park is a block from my house.


Littering, illegal and dangerous fire use, sanitation, and others are the issues here. We cannot let people do whatever they want wherever they want to, that’s just chaos. Homelessness itself, is not being criminalized.


You just described a number of the tourists who visit here as well…..


And? …the laws do apply to everyone. That is the point.


Does one automatically become a complete pig when one becomes homeless? I lived in my car for 8 months. Washed my car every week. Had clean laundry regularly. Showered often.

I didn’t litter or shit in the streets or collect trash. Oh! I didn’t drink or do drugs either. Imagine that.


Look at that mess…its even worse in Morro Bay…this is not compassion its the complete opposite…