Friction between Marin County city and homeless encampment continues

3 mins read

A city in Marin County and a homeless encampment were involved in yet another conflict.

An advocacy group, along with the homeless encampment residents, issued a lawsuit which Novato officials are going against, as a federal judge hindered the city’s enforcement of its new limits on homeless camping.

A tent encampment called the Camp Compassion in Lee Gerner Park, is at risk of being displaced according to the rules. Thirty-five people who have sought a space to live during the pandemic will be forced to move out.

In a statement to The Chronicle, Novato City Manager Adam McGill said that the city considers pushing for a motion to oppose the judge’s ruling.

The legal battle started when new camping rules were approved by the city in June. It was perceived by the California Homeless Union and encampment members as a crime against homelessness as they were left with no options.

But city agencies and the police chief said that business owners and the community are voicing health and safety concerns due to the encampment, which is located near business establishments and a library. According to the police, residents are making the creek their temporary toilet.

Under the new rules of the city, camping between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. will be banned and camping or similar activities will not be allowed within 50 feet of creeks, streams, and other “critical facilities”

“Their definition of critical infrastructure is so broad that it could theoretically encompass every single thing in the city of Novato,” California Homeless Union general counsel attorney Anthony Prince said. “It’s just outrageous.”

Officials will not enforce the city’s new rules, which was supposed to take effect last July 9, until the amendment of either the federal coronavirus guidelines on homeless encampments. The new rules can also be imposed if Marin County reaches at least 90% on vaccination among its residents beyond 16 years of age, San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Those conditions were included in order to prevent challenges posed against Sausalito this year when it also attempted to ban daytime camping and transfer a Dunphy Park encampment to Marinship Park, the Marin Independent Journal said.

Currently, Novato is blocked by the temporary restraining order to take any action.

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