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Homelessness Strategies and Solutions

Legal Settlements

There are certain legal settlements that have been reached over the years that the City must adhere to when addressing homelessness. 

Spencer Settlement (2007)

The 2007 Spencer settlement concerns the City’s enforcement of illegal lodging (Penal Code 647(e)). This law prohibits sleeping or staying in a public or private place, building, structure, or vehicle without permission. 

The lawsuit claimed the City violated the rights of homeless individuals when enforcing that law due to the involuntariness of homelessness and the necessary human acts of sitting, lying down or sleeping. 

As part of the citywide settlement, the City agreed to not enforce illegal lodging between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

The settlement was modified in 2010 to allow enforcement in the downtown area between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. if: 

  • SDPD responds to a complaint;
  • SDPD confirms there is a bed available within the downtown area; 
  • SDPD offers the bed to that person; and 
  • The person refuses to accept the bed. 

Isaiah Settlement (2011)

The 2011 Isaiah settlement concerns clean-ups (known as waste abatements) when the personal property of an individual experiencing homelessness is involved.

The lawsuit claimed the City violated the rights of homeless individuals by not providing adequate notice before waste abatements occurred and by not using adequate procedures for determining which property was waste (to be disposed of immediately) and what property should be stored by the City for 90 days. 

The settlement included:

  • A one-time settlement payment.
  • A pilot program to house storage bins in the downtown area where homeless individuals could store personal belongings.
  • Updated City waste abatement procedures when personal property of homeless individuals is involved, including a 72-hour noticing requirement and a detailed property sorting and storage procedure. 

The settlement was amended in 2018, with the opening of a second permanent storage facility, to allow the City to give a minimum 3-hour notice before abatement occurs when storage bin space is available. The City also agreed not to abate personal property between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

Arundel Settlement (2019)

The 2019 Arundel settlement involves a challenge to the City’s encroachment ordinance (SDMC §54.0110). This ordinance generally prohibits storing any object on public property.

Similar to the Spencer lawsuit, this lawsuit claimed the City violated the rights of homeless individuals when enforcing the ordinance because homeless individuals have no place to put their belongings. 

The settlement included: 

  • Opening an additional storage facility for use by individuals experiencing homelessness to store their personal belongings. The third City-funded storage facility is located at 5453 Lea Street.
  • SDPD adoption of written procedures for progressive enforcement when engaging with homeless individuals who are encroaching on public property with personal belongings.

Other Legal Considerations

In addition to these settlement agreements, the City complies with applicable federal, state, and local law in addressing homelessness. For example, in 2018, in Martin v. Boise, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that governments cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors on public property if there is no option of sleeping indoors.