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Politics & Policy

San Francisco is prepared to take homelessness case to Supreme Court, says mayor

The city is ‘not backing down’ in a high-profile case over homeless encampments, said Mayor London Breed. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco Mayor London Breed is fired up about a federal injunction that restricts the city’s ability to clear homeless encampments, saying the city is prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Breed is expected to speak at a protest outside the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, the same day that attorneys for the city are asking the federal appellate court to toss out the injunction. Members of the Board of Supervisors and San Francisco merchants and residents are expected to attend the rally.

During a meeting at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Breed said that the city has to be “able to clear the streets.”

“I get that people suffer from mental illness,” Breed said. “I get they suffer from addiction. And I know that those things are complicated. But if we have a place for people to move, you should not be forced to just allow people to be on the sidewalk.”

On Wednesday, City Attorney David Chiu’s office will ask a three-judge panel to invalidate the injunction, which prohibits the city from enforcing specific laws against sitting and lodging on the sidewalk.

The Coalition on Homelessness sued the city in September 2022, accusing city officials of violating federal precedent and illegally destroying unhoused people’s belongings during encampment sweeps. U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu granted the injunction in December 2022.

Among other objections, the city argued that the injunction conflicts with an earlier settlement that ordered the city to clear encampments near the University of California College of the Law and that the court has insufficiently defined what it means to be “involuntarily homeless.”

Attorneys for the Coalition on Homelessness say that people are unable to access shelter of their own accord, pointing to the city’s shelter waitlist, and allege that the city has continued to violate the injunction by disposing of people’s property.

Breed plugged the rally planned for Wednesday morning and asked the business community to support participants.

Members of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club are organizing an opposing protest that supports the Coalition on Homelessness’ lawsuit, according to an invitation circulated on Facebook and by email.