Sausalito managed to clear a sprawling encampment in Marinship Park this month that had been growing more unsanitary and problematic over the last two years, but they did it via a court settlement that included cash payments.
There's already been plenty of tweeting to the effect of "Why doesn't San Francisco try this?!", but what the City of Sausalito just did to clear a city park of some 30 homeless residents seems like a pretty short-term, one-time solution.
As KRON4 reports, it was once a one-mile-long encampment in 2020. And later it consisted partly of unhoused individuals who had previously been living in the city's Dunphy Park — the usual venue for Sausalito's famed art festival and from which they were evicted last summer.
Six months ago, the city declared a state of emergency around the encampment following a fire there — though efforts to clear encampments in the city have previously been met with court injunctions. (A judge in March also affirmed one of the campers' rights to use his own tent and shade structure for two pet cats, rejecting a city order that he use one of their provided, tan-colored, REI tents — which sounds like it was an aesthetic issue.)
Earlier this month, the city finally reached a settlement with a group representing the campers, the Sausalito Homeless Union, agreeing to pay each qualifying camper a one-time $18,000 stipend to find alternative housing elsewhere. As the Chronicle earlier reported, the Sausalito Homeless Union will be responsible for distributing the funds, and providing a monthly accounting of their use to the city.
"The agreement is an innovative way to get people out of tents and into housing in advance of inclement weather," said City Manager Chris Zapata, speaking to KPIX. "It's the right thing to do."
And Sausalito Mayor Janelle Kellman said in a statement, "I am confident we have paved a humane course of action that allows each person's unique needs to be met. This agreement will allow us to help folks restore their lives in a way that is far more compassionate and safer than the unfortunate circumstance of living outdoors."
If all 30 people qualify for the grants, the settlement will cost the city $540,000. The city says that it has already incurred $1.5 million in unanticipated costs related to the encampment, including legal fees, sanitation, and management.
The Sausalito Homeless Union had sued the city on behalf of the encampment's residents — the latest in two years of legal battles over homelessness and where to humanely allow people to exist in the small, bayside city. An earlier battle had been waged over boat dwellers (or "anchor-outs" in adjacent Richardson Bay, whose boats were deemed hazards by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which began enforcing 72-hour anchorage rules — rules these boat dwellers couldn't abide by because their boats were non-operational, in many cases. Some of those people ended up in Dunphy Park, and then, Marinship Park.
Since February 2021, tent-dwellers were forced to remain in a fenced, sanctioned area on the tennis courts, and the city was ticketing residents who tried camping outside of that area. As Pacific Sun reported last year, the nonprofit Urban Alchemy that managed several of San Francisco's sanctioned tent camps was managing the site, and residents made anonymous complaints that alleged misconduct by Urban Alchemy staff including drug use and sexual harassment.
The park and its adjacent tennis courts now have to be cleaned and tested for public-health hazards before they can be reopened to the public, and KRON4 notes that no cleanup plan has yet been finalized.
Oakland faces a similar, though much larger-scale problem with the sprawling Wood Street encampment in West Oakland. With some of the encampment existing on Caltrans property, and following a steady stream of fires there including two on Tuesday this week, Caltrans ordered the camp cleared and began the process of evicting people in mid-July. That effort was met with a court injunction, and a federal judge gave Caltrans and the City of Oakland until tomorrow, August 26, to provide a relocation plan for the 300 or so people living at the encampment.
Top image: Google Street View ca. April 2019