CHICO — Enforcement of anti-camping ordinances at Teichert Ponds in Chico resumed Thursday, but only after several delays and what an attorney said was an explicit refusal by city officials to offer pallet shelters without threat of application to people living in the park before the winter storms arrived.

From Dec. 21 to Jan. 17, very few, if any, in Chico living on the streets were admitted to the city’s official shelter spaces — either through the the city or by enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance – because the spaces had been set aside for a scheduled enforcement that did not begin until Thursday, January 19.

Disagreements between the parties to the Warren v. Chico extended the time that shelters and Pallet beds at Torres Shelter had been reserved for a scheduled application at Teichert Ponds since December 21.

From then until Jan. 17, daily shelter availability ranged from 25 to 30 places at Palette shelters and 23 to 26 places at Torres Community Shelter, according to Chico’s shelter arrangements webpage.

The city wanted to enforce the entire Teichert ponds area in December, but did not have an appropriate number of accommodation spaces for all who lived there, according to Cory Turner, staff attorney at California Legal Services of the North representing the plaintiffs in the settlement.

The law firm said it would be willing to discuss with the city the application of a smaller area of ​​the Teichert ponds before winter storms and at the same time strongly encouraged the city to provide shelter and a transport without application threat.

But Northern California Legal Services says Chico explicitly denied the request, saying it would not offer lodging spaces unless it could do so by applying the entire park.

Then, nearly a month later, the city began enforcement on Thursday, January 19 for a more limited section of the Teichert ponds.

According to the bylaw, if the city wishes to enforce anti-camping ordinances, it can only proceed with the removal of people and camps from public property if there is an appropriate number of shelter spaces for people targeted by the bylaw. ‘application.

The city sent a notice Dec. 21 to Northern California Legal Services that it intended to enforce the entirety of Teichert’s ponds, numbering 54 people and 52 shelter spots.

Chico Public Works Director Erik Gustafson said the city believed it would have enough capacity to enforce all of Teichert’s ponds and tried to speed up the process due to winter storms. He said the city made a special request to the LSNC, but was met with an objection and Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman upheld the objection.

“The terms of the settlement agreement are clear, and we understand that, but we were just asking for leeway or…forgiveness, can we move on, recognizing that not everyone will go” , Gustafson said.

The LSNC numbered at least 62 and at most 80, then responded to the city on December 27 opposing their application on the grounds that there were insufficient shelter spaces for the size of their application.

LSNC attorney Cory Turner said his firm concurrently asked the city to reduce the size of their app or allow people to enter shelters without threat of enforcement.

“We offered to discuss a more limited (scope) enforcement, and at the same time we strongly encouraged the city to immediately offer shelter and transportation without threat of enforcement due to these winter storms which quickly brought a statewide state of emergency,” Turner said.

Turner said the city is allowed to reserve shelter spaces and not let people in through the shelter interest waiting list if those spaces are needed for an intended application, for which the city provides the LSNC with a confidential notice like the one it received on December 21.

On Dec. 28, Turner said the city responded to LSNC by explicitly stating that it would not offer pallet shelters to people living in Teichert’s ponds unless it could do so through coercive action.

On Dec. 29, the LSNC and the Chico city attorney discussed a more limited scope of enforcement, but no city official could intervene because the office was away on vacation, Turner said.

The LSNC did not receive contact from Chico until the parties met at an informal conference on Jan. 5 when the city asked Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman, who is presiding over the settlement agreement, to contact him. enable the entire area of ​​the Teichert ponds to be respected.

“Instead of being willing to serve illegal camp notices on a smaller number of people, the city went directly to Magistrate Judge Newman to seek execution against everyone in the Teichert Ponds.” said Turner. “The city has never denied that there were more people than available accommodations, which is a clear violation of the settlement agreement.”

The January 5 informal conference led to Newman rejecting the city’s request.

After the informal conference, the LSNC informed city officials that it could not continue to reserve shelter spaces for an invalid notice and again asked the city to allow people from Teichert Ponds or anywhere else in the city to take shelter by non-coercive methods due to storms. and the state of emergency.

A few days later, the city told LSNC on Jan. 9 that it would resume shelter inputs through non-coercive methods, only to send a new notice on Jan. 10 of its intention to apply a smaller portion of the shelter ponds. Teichert.

Gustafson said the city recognizes it does not have enough accommodations, but first asked to move forward with confidence that it has enough accommodation capacity if one takes into account that approximately 20-30% of people refuse a place of accommodation based on previous law enforcement experience. .

The city estimated six people had already been assessed and refused a bed at the community shelter in Torres and six more people identified as couples – who could therefore fit into three Palette shelters given their consent is provided.

Gustafson said the city was worried about accepting LSNC’s request to enforce a smaller portion of Teichert’s ponds and declined because the city thought it would be more efficient to do the whole park in one action.

“In this case, we felt that if we only applied part of the Teichert ponds, it would be extremely difficult to maintain these demarcated lines,” Gustafson said. “The goal is of course to bring people to a better living situation, but also to sanitize the public space and to clean it and to do everything in one go.”

He said the city feels it would be difficult to keep enforcement areas demarcated from areas that aren’t enforced and could create issues where people could steal from each other or try to move around the area. of application to receive an assessment that they were not. assigned for.

Gustafson said law enforcement split into smaller sections could also create issues with maintaining a safe work area, as mechanized equipment is used to clear the area – another reason the city was concerned. .

With the judge denying the city’s request to enforce the entire park, the city moved forward by sending LSNC a notice to enforce a smaller area of ​​the park.

On January 17, the day enforcement was supposed to begin, LSNC and city officials met to clarify the scope of the smaller area.

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