Written by Angela Landes (News Writer)
In a lawsuit against the City of Santa Cruz (put forward by the Santa Cruz Homeless Union and other plaintiffs), concerns about the safety of the local houseless community in the event of a sweep, if brought up. City Manager Martin Bernal had issued an executive order last November ordering the eviction of 200+ unhoused residents for the purpose of grass restoration and other things, citing voluminous garbage and human waste in the executive order. After protesters had illegally prevented the park residents from being evicted by blockading the park against police, the Santa Cruz Homeless Union (a group unaffiliated with the protesters) filed a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the city, which prevented the city from telling park residents to leave.
The plaintiffs claimed that irreparable harm would be caused to the park´s residents if they were evicted, arguing in the federal court case that residents would not only be exposed to COVID-19 but would also be unable to access resources that are proved at the park such as showers, food, and information. The city’s attorney on the court case argued that this harm would not be significant and that the park residents living there cause great harm to the environment and prevent the public from enjoying the park, just like Martin Bernal´s executive order cited. The Homeless Union and the other plaintiffs presented great amounts of evidence however showing that the park was clean, children and the wider public still utilized the park, and that park residents in fact actively guard the park and environment the park sits in by cleaning up garbage and caring for the plants in the park. Evidence was also presented proving that the city had not been providing proper garbage services to the park and that the 200+ residents had been handling their garbage despite not having adequate garbage service from the city. ¨The city simply lied,¨ an anonymous resident of the park who worked on the court case said, ¨there is very little garbage- you can see it in the photographs. The grass is clean and green and there are constantly children, elderly folks, and other people enjoying the park-like normal. The only difference is that homeless people are also utilizing the park, and the city doesn’t want us to be visible.¨
The federal judge ruled against the city of Santa Cruz, deciding that there was not in fact voluminous garbage like the city and City Manager claimed and that the unhoused community there would in fact be irreparably harmed if they were to be evicted. The court ordered the park to not be swept by the city until at least after March 16, when the court will re-assess the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and make a decision to extend or not extend the restraining order past that date.