Two hotels in the Tenderloin, the Phoenix and Best Western, as well as a group of residents, have filed a lawsuit against the city that's similar to one filed four years ago by UC Hastings.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says that the city actively treats the Tenderloin neighborhood as a "containment zone" for drugs, "herding" fentanyl users and dealers into the area. The suit, as KRON4 reports, also notes that drug users are easily able to receive "drug kits" like foil and smoking devices from nonprofits in the neighborhood.

Both the Phoenix and Best Western Red Coach Inn, along with four area residents, are parties to the complaint.

The suit mentions the rampant drug activity on Willow Street — the alleyway that borders both the Best Western Red Coach Inn and several other hotels — and also calls out a sanctioned safe-consumption site set up by local activists, and city officials "made no effort to punish or reprimand those who operated it."

Much like a lawsuit that the UC Law school formerly known as Hastings filed in 2020, the new suit is not seeking monetary damages, but is demanding that the city address conditions on Tenderloin streets. In the UC suit, the goal was to make the city address the growing number of tent encampments on the sidewalks surrounding the school's campus — which school officials said the city was condoning in the early pandemic.

The result was a settlement agreement in July 2020 in which the city agreed to make "all reasonable efforts to achieve the shared goal of permanently reducing the number of tents on Tenderloin sidewalks to zero," and to "discourage additional people from erecting tents in the neighborhood."

Drug users and dealers were not the specific target of the suit, and the settlement mostly pushed the city to be more active in moving tent-dwellers into the established hotel shelter-in-place program. But at the time, the school's law chancellor and dean David Faigman said in a statement, "We need the tents and the drug dealers removed and the unhoused moved to safe and temporary housing, such as large tents or other shelter, until a permanent solution is accomplished."

Regarding the new suit, the businesses say they are similarly pushing for real change in the neighborhood.

"The real impetus for this is to create some positive change,” said managing partner of the Phoenix, Isabel Manchester, speaking to the Chronicle. "We want the residents, the employees, the tourists and the businesses in the Tenderloin to be treated the same as everywhere else in the city."

In response to the suit, Jen Kwart, a spokesperson for the City Attorney's Office, tells the Chronicle, "While we understand and share the frustration of Tenderloin businesses and residents, the City is making progress in reducing crime, disrupting open-air drug markets, and addressing homelessness, all while complying with the preliminary injunction issued in the Coalition on Homelessness case."

Kwart is referring to the controversial lawsuit, filed in the fall of 2022 by the Coalition on Homelessness and the ACLU, that led to a federal judge issuing an injunction against the city in December 2022 barring it from forcibly clearing homeless encampments. City Attorney David Chiu has, responding to comments from the Ninth Circuit, taken the stance that encampments may legally be cleared if and when campers have been given offers of shelter and they refuse them — which means they are not "involuntarily homeless."

The city has also filed an amicus brief in another case that's before the Supreme Court which could have a serious impact on cases like this going forward. In that case, the justices have agreed to hear arguments regarding local enforcement of homeless camping on city land in a small town in Oregon — with San Francisco and other cities hoping that the conservative majority will come down on the side of more enforcement of no-camping laws.

The Chronicle spoke to several addicts on the street in connection with the new lawsuit, and they were mostly undeterred by recent crackdowns on drugs that the city and police have tried.

"When it comes to quitting dope, it’s gotta be up to the individual and when they want to stop," said one man named G. "And it doesn’t matter how many police you’ve got out here, we’re gonna still do what we want to do."

Previously: UC Hastings Proves That If You Want Homeless Moved Off the Streets in SF (During the Pandemic), You Should Sue

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