By Robbie Powelson
A community of about 56 people living in tents at Camp Integrity in San Rafael have won a federal restraining blocking implementation of a new anti-camping ordinance that was passed by the City Council last August. Camp Integrity will continue exist for the indefinite future – months or years – pending conclusion of the lawsuit.
San Rafael PD patrolling Camp Integrity. Photo by Robbie Powelson
The result underscores the need for vehement litigation that seeks restraining order against City ordinances and policies – and not just individual evictions. Because we sued a new ordinance passed by the City Council, SMC § 19.50 (rather than the planned eviction itself) we have obtained a durable injunction that may last for a very long time.
The original lawsuit was that obtained an initial temporary restraining order was filed without an attorney. 13 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit. Much of the evidence of the lawsuit came from handwritten declarations and letters.
Even though the complaint was rough and full of typos, we obtained the injunction. Soon after, we joined up with California Homeless Union who entered into the legal fray with us to obtain the final preliminary injunction. The premise of the lawsuit which obtained was communities of people looking out for one another – i.e. “encampments” provide an immense health and safety benefit to the people living in there. Our declarations primarily focused on how women in the camp were protected from gendered violence such as stalking, domestic violence, and human trafficking. We wrote how numerous people had been saved from drug overdose because peers can administer Narcan. We talked about how camps provision food, water, and clothes. We also talked how we had set up two mobile bathrooms. All of these were necessities of survival that would broken up by the City’s legislation in SMC § 19.50 et seq.
SMC § 19.50 essentially was to force all unhoused people set up small, 10x10 camps across the city that would have to be spaced from all proximal campsites by 200 feet (two thirds of a football field). It also didn’t say where people could camp – leading people to guess what properties they could camp and what properties camping on would lead them to be arrested. Judge Chen basically agreed with us. The court entered in a restraining order against the City prohibiting it from breaking up Camp Integrity. The Judge Chen ordered the City to disclose what properties could be camped on – taking out much of the venom of the ordinance. After exhaustive briefing, Chen entered an injunction that increased the number of campsites, reduced the space between campsites, and ordered the City not to evict anyone with a disability who requested a disability accommodation until they could go through the interactive process under the Americans with Disability Act. The result is that people living Camp Integrity will remain on the Mahon Creek Path, and will remain here until the lawsuit ends.
The only caveat is that instead of the camp being on one block of the Mahon Creek Path, campers will have to be more evenly distributed across the general area. This means the mobile bathrooms we have been paying for will become more inaccessible because people may have to walk further. The Porta Potties are also far overused, because we only have two for dozens of people when a porta potty is only supposed to serve 10 people for a 40 hour work week. We need 10 porta potties and a handwashing station on the path, at a minimum. But this would cost several thousand dollar. We are barely scraping by paying $610.30 every month for two porta potties, not to mention incidentals.
If you have donations or leads on how we can continue mobile bathrooms at Camp Integrity, or money to donate – please reach out. You can donate here:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/encampment-mutual-aid-porta-potties-for-our-camp and you can get in touch with us by email CampIntegritySanRafael@yahoo.com
Thank you everyone for your continued support.