Friday, September 22, 2023
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No more delays in cleanup of Oakland homeless camp

Two extensions appeared to be enough time for the city of Oakland to find beds for the residents of Wood Street Commons while the city builds new permanent affordable housing in the space.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A San Francisco federal judge has refused to extend a temporary restraining order to protect the property of residents of what was once the city of Oakland’s largest homeless encampment.

Plaintiffs John Janosko and Michael Blaine sought the extension of a restraining order to prevent Oakland from moving forward with its plans to clear the 29-acre site, which residents had dubbed Wood Street Commons, to build affordable housing. In their April 13 filing, the two asked the judge to bar Oakland from proceeding with the cleanup until “it agrees to store bulky item possessions it seizes in the course of the eviction in a manner that comports with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”

The bulky items in question included Janosko’s tiny house on wheels and a trailer, along with similar items owned by others facing eviction from the encampment.

“Many other residents face a similar loss of the only property that keeps them from literally living on the street,” the plaintiffs said in their request.

Multiple lawsuits have claimed Oakland has not offered enough shelter options to justify moving the plaintiffs from the site. U.S. District Judge William Orrick III cleared Caltrans to remove 200 people this past September, but twice blocked removal plans after a series of storms and delays in the city’s cabin shelters in January. 

City officials said last week the Wood Street encampment must close residents along with their pets and belongings will be moved into shelters for about two weeks. The city has said it must close the site to begin construction of 170 units of permanent affordable housing for up to 500 residents. 

Plaintiffs’ attorney Brigitte Nicoletti argued that Oakland places “extreme limitations” on the amount and type of property that can be brought into temporary shelters.

“You know, for example, at the cabin, Mr. Janosko is not allowed to bring his trailer but he could bring a passenger vehicle of about the same size,” Nicoletti told Orrick. Meanwhile, the city’s RV site will only allow residents to bring in one vehicle and limits the quantity of property individuals can bring with them.

Besides not providing additional storage containers as promised, Nicoletti said, the encampment management policy allows only one square yard of belongings to be stored. She called the city’s policies arbitrary.

Although Oakland began clearing out the 29-acre encampment at Wood Street a week ago, there remains much work to do. Orrick declined to step in and stop the work again.

“I’m not going to end up granting the temporary restraining order; as you know, it’s a very high bar in order to get one,” Orrick stated after both sides had made their arguments. He called the city’s policies reasonable although he agreed “it’s a little illusory to rely on notice if the plaintiffs don’t have the capacity to move things along.”

None of the parties responded to requests for comment after the hearing.

Categories / Civil Rights, Government, Regional

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