Chimney Sweep

California Democrats Need Courts to Let Them Clear Homeless Camps

Five years ago, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upended homelessness policies in California and across the West. In a 2018 ruling against the city of Boise, Idaho, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said cities could not enforce local laws against outdoor camping if they did not provide enough shelter beds for people living on the streets .

Since then, the ruling in that case, Martin v. Boise, makes it extremely difficult for cities to clear encampments in the nine states under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit. The decision has prompted state and local governments to address homelessness in new ways.

But billions in government spending have not yet solved the problem. And as tent cities have grown, political resistance has increased, even in cities dominated by liberal voters. Which brings us back to San Francisco.

In recent weeks, a related legal battle – the latest in a series – has sparked an uproar that went so far that San Francisco Mayor London Breed was at a rally outside the federal courthouse last month as homeless advocates demonstrated , of corpses called near.

Even some San Franciscans are confused by the excitement. Here are some frequently asked questions about the situation.

The Coalition on Homelessness, an advocacy group, filed a federal lawsuit a year ago claiming that enforcement of San Francisco's public camping laws was unconstitutional because the number of people sleeping rough – nearly 4,400 each night at the most recent count – is widening The number of available animal shelter beds has been exceeded. In December, a federal judge issued an emergency order temporarily banning enforcement of city laws against encampments, raising the stakes as winter approached.

San Francisco officials say the city's homeless situation is fundamentally different than that in Boise. The city has spent billions of dollars on housing and services for the homeless and created thousands of emergency shelters and housing units. But many campers refuse to sleep in available beds, the city says. Local laws prohibiting sleeping outside only apply for about four hours a day, not around the clock.

Advocates for homeless San Franciscans say the city has made little real effort to provide adequate housing and has instead criminalized homelessness. The fight comes as the cost of living in California continues to rise and affordable housing remains scarce.

The city this summer asked the Ninth Circuit to change the federal judge's interim order. One day in late August in San Francisco, as a three-judge panel heard the arguments, city officials and housing advocates staged dueling protests outside.

Breed, who had just returned from a ceremony to open an Ikea store in a commercially fragile part of the city, called it “inhumane” not to move people out of the tent camps. “We found bodies,” she shouted. “We found a dead baby in these tents.”

The same day, Gov. Gavin Newsom — a former mayor of San Francisco — announced that the state would send cities and counties an additional $38 million to “clean up encampments,” accusing the courts of “causing costly delays.” .

Two days later, Elon Musk and other tech personalities on homeless plaintiffs represent Bono. Newsom, who is not normally a friend of Musk, later said on X that Musk “raised a key issue” and that the federal courts were the problem.

The governor, a liberal Democrat who is widely considered a 2028 presidential candidate, told The San Francisco Chronicle that he was once so frustrated with legal decisions protecting camps that he considered approaching the judiciary directly to deal with complaints from the to be dealt with by the public. “I literally talked about putting up a big sign with the judge's phone number saying, 'Call the judge,'” he said.

Anthony York, a Newsom spokesman, compared the governor's current stance to his previous criticism of conservative federal judges who have sought to overturn gun controls in California – another group of “ideologues” whose decisions threatened public safety.

It is unclear when the Ninth Circuit will rule on the city's full appeal of the injunction. But late Tuesday, the court denied the city's request for modification, clarifying that homeless campers who are offered housing can be asked to move.

The next written arguments in the lawsuit are scheduled to be filed later this month, and it is unlikely there will be a hearing before then. Still, the outcry, even from Democrats like Breed and Newsom, is a sign that political pressure is increasing to reconsider the jurisprudence that emerged from the Boise decision.

Breed is fighting for re-election in 2024 and her poll numbers are declining; Political rivals see a great chance of defeating them. Critics on both ends of the political spectrum accused Breed and Newsom of trying to shift responsibility for the homeless problem to the courts.

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Locke Historic District.Credit…Sarah Stierch/Wikimedia

Today's tip comes from Joe Macpherson:

“One of the places we like to visit during a fishing trip to the Delta is Locke, also known as the Locke Historic District, an unincorporated community in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta on River Road. The 14-acre town was first founded as a Chinese community between 1893 and 1915. There are a few restaurants, gardens, shops, museums and Strange Cargo, a funky old bookshop which, if open, is worth a visit.”

Tell us about your favorite places in California. Email your suggestions to We will report more about this in future editions of the newsletter.

While the Strokes have become something of a shorthand for New York's downtown rock scene of the early 2000s, on the opposite coast, in Southern California, the group is enjoying a new fan base that is distinctly Californian.

Juicebox, Southern California's premier Strokes tribute band that draws enthusiastic multi-generational audiences, is leading something of a Strokes resurgence on the West Coast. The group's fans, as well as most of its members, are predominantly Latino.

As Eric Ducker wrote in the New York Times last week, the Strokes themselves have a large presence in Latin America, and it follows that Los Angeles, where more than 4.9 million people identify as Hispanic or Latino, has many Latino Strokes should have fans. But the band's particular appeal among first-generation Americans, Ducker writes, is also tied to their story of self-invention, an appealing message for those who have complicated feelings about their identity and the culture to which they belong.

“As people have moved away or outgrown certain subcultures or music scenes, it seems like in Los Angeles, Latinos have moved in to take the reins,” says José G. Anguiano, professor of Latina/o studies. said about the resurgence. “What's really cool is that they're taking the reins, not just in terms of being a fan, but fronting these tribute bands and producing their own music. They participate fully in these subcultures in every way.”

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