Update 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Apr. 11, 2021 – On Sunday a federal judge with the U.S. District Court Eastern Division granted a temporary restraining order that will, among other things, put an immediate halt to the City of Chico’s planned eviction of campers at the Comanche Park Greenway. 72-hour enforcement notices were given to campers at that location on Apr. 8, 2021.
The court order issued Sunday by federal court Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. also prohibits the City of Chico from issuing or enforcing any other 72-hour illegal encampment notifications to unhoused people on public property in the city.
Judge Morrison also ordered that the City cannot destroy property of unhoused people that is seized, even if the value of the property is less than $100.
In the court order, the judge said the plaintiffs (represented by Legal Services of Northern California) have “carried their burden of demonstrating that they are likely to succeed on the merits, that they would be irreparably harmed in the absence of a temporary restraining order, that the equities weigh in favor of grant the requested temporary restraining order, and that the temporary restraining order would not be against the public interest.”
Judge Morrison also said that there are no other adequate legal remedies that would “preserve the status quo.”
The order is based, according to Judge Morrison, on the finding that there are not enough available emergency shelter beds or other emergency shelters for the number of unhoused persons in Chico, California.
Attorneys for the City of Chico can apply to the Eastern District Court to request modification or dissolution on two days’ notice or “such shorter notice as the court may allow.”
CHICO, Calif. – Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District on Thursday on behalf of eight unhoused Chico residents and are seeking an injunction that would halt the city’s current spate of encampment sweeps.
The eight plaintiffs represented by LSNC, the non-profit civil legal aid provider for 23 northern counties of California, include Camp Fire survivors and other indigent residents who they said “cannot afford housing and who live outdoors because they have no other shelter options.”
The plaintiffs are identified as Bobby Warren, Andy Lambach, Johnathon Williams, Michael Samuelson, Tracy Miller, Tona Peterson, Carol Beth Thompson, and Christa Stevens.
All of those listed as plaintiffs are subject to the city’s “methodical encampment eviction and property confiscation efforts launched in January,” according to LSNC.
A motion has been filed with the Court for a Temporary Restraining Order. If they are successful that would block imminent enforcement. LSNC has asked the city government to “voluntarily pause enforcement” to permit the motion to be heard first by U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller.
The city has not responded to their efforts to engage in discussions regarding a pending 72-hour notice enforcement that were given out to people staying at the Comanche Creek Greenway on the south end of Chico off of Park Avenue, according to LSNC. The notices were given out on Apr. 8 and a sign has been posted that says the parking lot is closed from Apr. 8 to Apr. 23, 2021, for “public safety” reasons.
The grounds for the injunction that would bar enforcing the 72-hour “illegal Encampment Notices” is stated by LSNC attorney Cory Turner as a violation of the “Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution as defined under two recent federal court decisions that struck down similar ordinances – Martin v. City of Boise (2019); City of Boise, Idaho vs. Martin (2019), and Blake v. City of Grants Pass (a 2020 case being heard in the US District Court for the District of Oregon).
According to Turner Chico lacks sufficient emergency shelter for the hundreds of unhoused city residents, and the few existing shelter options are inaccessible to many unhoused people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, even when beds are available.
“Nevertheless, the city and its police department have undertaken aggressive sweeps of public areas where unhoused people rest and sleep and have refused, repeatedly, to tell unhoused people where they may lawfully reside until they are able to secure shelter,” said Turner.
“As a result,” Turner further explained, “unhoused Chico residents, many of whom have physical and mental disabilities, are thrown into a cycle of constant movement from one location to another to avoid arrest, citation, and destruction of what little property they have.”
Action News Now has reached out to the City of Chico for a comment on the suit and request for the injunction. When we receive a response we will publish it on our website.