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City of San Luis Obispo files for dismissal of lawsuit alleging criminalization of homelessness

A homeless encampment near San Luis Creek
Courtesy of the City of San Luis Obispo
A homeless encampment near San Luis Creek

The City of San Luis Obispo is filing for dismissal of a lawsuit filed back in September alleging the city is criminalizing homelessness.

The lawsuit, filed by a group of nonprofit legal firms, claims the city is violating the constitutional rights of the unhoused population by breaking up encampments during the pandemic and illegally seizing and destroying individuals’ property.

Christine Dietrick is the attorney for the City of San Luis Obispo. She said the city views the lawsuit as a misdirection of resources and a division of the community.

“What our basic argument is is that even if you take everything that the plaintiffs have said to be true, they simply haven’t sufficiently plead legal claims or constitutional claims against the city and therefore the lawsuit should be dismissed,” Dietrick said.

Dietrick said the city has done the opposite of criminalizing homelessness by spending millions of dollars to address the issue and partnering with organizations like 40 Prado Homeless Center, People’s Self-Help Housing and Transitions Mental Health.

But, Dietrick said, the city is also working to prioritize health and safety.

“There are conditions out on the ground that the city has an obligation to address," Dietrick said. "That includes the sprawl and the garbage and unsafe conditions and people living in locations where, when we’ve had rainy conditions like we have for the last few days, it’s unsafe.”

Frank Kopcinski is the directing attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance in San Luis Obispo, which is one of the nonprofits that brought the lawsuit.

Kopcinski declined to comment on the file for dismissal but previously told KCBX News that the lawsuit is based on the notion that it is cruel and unusual punishment to criminally prosecute people for living, sleeping, or resting outside when they don’t have adequate shelter within a jurisdiction.

According to the 2019 Point-In-Time Count, there were 326 unhoused individuals living unsheltered in San Luis Obispo. The maximum capacity of 40 Prado, the city’s only homeless shelter, is 124.

The City filed its motion to dismiss on December 8, 2021. The motion is scheduled for hearing on February 14, 2022.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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