City Attorney David Chiu

City Attorney statement on political stunt in homeless encampment lawsuit

Plaintiffs’ public proposal is counterproductive and disingenuous

SAN FRANCISCO (August 10, 2023) — City Attorney David Chiu issued the following statement today in response to proposed settlement terms announced during a press conference held by the Plaintiffs in Coalition on Homelessness v. City and County of San Francisco. Despite daily communications between the parties, the Plaintiffs did not notify the City of their settlement terms prior to today.

City Attorney David Chiu
City Attorney David Chiu

“If the Coalition on Homelessness actually wanted to reach a settlement agreement, this political stunt is certainly not the way to go about it and counterproductive to their stated goals,” said City Attorney Chiu. “Legal parties do not engage in settlement negotiations via the press, particularly when confidential settlement discussions are required. Despite Plaintiffs’ antics, San Francisco will continue to advance our arguments in court and fight for our City’s ability to maintain a healthy and safe San Francisco for all. Today, Plaintiffs disrespected the Court’s efforts and discouraged thoughtful settlement discussions. Should Plaintiffs reconsider tactics and commit to serious and professional settlement discussions under the supervision of the federal court, San Francisco is ready to engage.”

Under the oversight of Magistrate Judge Lisa Cisneros, the City previously engaged in good-faith settlement discussions with Plaintiffs. Those settlement discussions are required to be confidential. If Plaintiffs truly wanted to settle, they would have re-engaged in settlement discussions with Judge Cisneros. Plaintiffs’ announcement today violates the structure and efforts made by the Court.

In recent years, the City has spent billions of dollars to address homelessness, investing more in permanent supportive housing and homelessness services than any other city in the Western United States. Each year, the City engages, shelters, and houses thousands of unhoused residents. The City has been committed to a services-first approach, as City employees work diligently to provide services and shelter to people experiencing homelessness to alleviate what is now a nationwide crisis.

As the City has strived to address the homelessness crisis, the actions by the Coalition on Homelessness and their attorneys have significantly exacerbated conditions on San Francisco’s streets. The preliminary injunction they obtained last December from Judge Donna Ryu prevents the City from enforcing a half dozen laws that otherwise prohibit sitting, lying or sleeping on City streets, even while over half of all unhoused individuals approached by City workers continue to reject repeated offers of shelter.

While the City has gone to great lengths to comply with the injunction, Plaintiffs have disseminated inaccurate assertions, riddled pleadings with false narratives, and distorted the enormous efforts by City staff to offer services and shelter to persons experiencing homelessness. Plaintiffs also claim the City “criminalizes” homelessness due the mere presence of law enforcement at encampment operations, but gloss over the dangerous and often disturbing situations City workers encounter.

The City will not be responding outside of confidential settlement discussions to the specific settlement terms proposed. However, contrary to an assertion in Plaintiffs’ letter, the City strongly disagrees that the injunction is warranted. The injunction has put the City in an impossible situation, straining the City’s ability to meet practical and legal obligations. It also creates absurd results, such as leaving the City unclear about whether it can enforce laws against those who refuse shelter or have shelter beds but choose to maintain tents on the street.

Due to the situation San Francisco finds itself in, the City had no choice but to file an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This matter is not only critical to San Francisco, but will have dramatic implications for cities across the Ninth Circuit, which is why the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and the International Municipal Lawyers Association filed an amicus brief in the City’s appeal. The City looks forward to discussing these matters with the Ninth Circuit on August 23.

The case is Coalition on Homelessness v. City and County of San Francisco, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 4:22-cv-05502-DMR.