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Judge blocks Oakland from clearing homeless camp after shelter snag

Oakland must finish opening cabin shelters for people to live in before clearing a West Oakland encampment, a federal judge said.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — About 60 people got more time to stay at a homeless encampment in West Oakland, after a judge ruled Friday that the city has not met his conditions to clear the site. 

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco ruled the city cannot post notices, start closing or sweep the 1707 Wood Street site where people are still living until it meets conditions from his prior order. 

The city-owned, three-acre site by the highway is located on the same street where this past fall, Caltrans got the OK to remove more than 200 people on its portion of the property. Residents have filed multiple lawsuits claiming Oakland has not offered enough shelter options to justify moving them from the site. Now plaintiffs say the city must first demonstrate that there will be enough shelter for all evicted people, and that it has no urgent reason to clear Wood Street.

Orrick activated a temporary restraining order in January, prohibiting the city from closing the encampment and removing people from the site. He then ruled on Feb. 3 that the order would be dissolved Friday, after the city promised there would be a cabin site ready for move-in on Monday and an RV site for move-in ready by Feb. 13. 

The judge said the city's intent to build an affordable housing development on the site is in the public interest. He said the dissolution of the temporary restraining order would be based “on the representations made by the city’s counsel in the papers and at the hearing, including that the cabin site will be open and ready for residents, with a final living agreement, on Feb. 6.”

California Highway Patrol officers monitor as city workers sweep an encampment in West Oakland in Oct. 2022. (Natalie Hanson / Courthouse News)

In the hearing on Feb. 3, Oakland’s supervising deputy city attorney Jamilah Jefferson told Orrick that the city is finishing a cabin shelter on Wood Street to house about 100 people for six months, and that 29 of 125 RV parking spaces on 66th Avenue and Coliseum Way will open by Feb. 13. Jefferson promised that the city will not start evicting people until the RV site is open Feb. 13, and that cabins would be open on Feb. 6. 

However, it appears the cabins did not open. 

A supplemental brief filed by plaintiffs John Janosko and Jackson Blain says that the city did not comply with court orders. Janosko said that he and an advocate visited the Wood Street Community Cabins on Thursday and spoke with three workers, asking if the cabins were ready for people to move in. 

“One worker responded that the cabins were not ready. The other worker confirmed this and stated that they were still working on the insides of the cabins,” the brief said. 

Site workers informed the plaintiffs that the site was actually scheduled to open Feb. 13, but there were further delays due to more work being needed and the site may not open by then. 

“Thus, there is no clear timeline for when the site will be open,” the plaintiffs said. They asked Orrick to reinstate the temporary restraining order to prevent further harm to people living at Wood Street. 

Orrick agreed Friday.

“Because the condition for dissolution is not met, the TRO remains in place," Orrick wrote in his brief ruling. “The city shall not proceed with posting notices or beginning the closure of the 1707 encampment until the conditions from my prior order are met. When the city attests that the cabins are open and the other conditions are met, the TRO can be lifted.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and Oakland's city manager and attorney's office did not respond to requests for comment on the new ruling before deadline. 

Categories:Government, Regional

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