San Francisco Tenderloin Lawsuit Over ‘Insufferable’ Sidewalk Conditions Amid COVID-19

UC Hastings, Other Tenderloin Residents Sue San Francisco Over ‘Insufferable’ Sidewalk Conditions Amid COVID-19 – Article in The Recorder accessed below…

“The conditions now prevailing in the Tenderloin constitute a violation of the fundamental civil rights of those residing and working there,” wrote lawyers for Tenderloin residents suing to force the city to confront encampments and drug-dealing on neighborhood sidewalks.

A coalition of businesses and residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, led by the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, have sued the city and county claiming that government officials have allowed the area to become “a containment zone” for drug and homelessness issues in the city.

The federal lawsuit, filed Monday by lawyers at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco and Greenberg Gross in Los Angeles, claims that the number of homeless people in tents on sidewalks in the working-class neighborhood has more than doubled since March when local “shelter in place” orders took effect to combat the spread of COVID-19. The plaintiffs, who include a local resident confined to a wheelchair, a manager at a single-room-occupancy hotel, and the part-owner of a local cafe, claim that the increase of people residing in the streets has combined with the open-air drug sales in the neighborhood to make conditions “insufferable.”

“This is a matter of fundamental fairness; what is a citywide problem should not be allowed to weigh disproportionately on a low-income working-class neighborhood,” the complaint says. “San Francisco should be prohibited from abandoning a single neighborhood, in an apparent effort to spare other neighborhoods the burdens that confront the city at-large.”

The complaint brings 14 claims for relief against the city and county including claims that San Francisco’s policies regarding the Tenderloin violate the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution and that the conditions on the streets in the neighborhood violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and amount to a public nuisance. The plaintiffs, in announcing the lawsuit Monday, said they are seeking to force the city to provide solutions for those who currently occupy the sidewalk encampments that take into consideration the safety and health of both those on the street and other neighborhood residents.


The lawsuit notes that students who decline offers of admission to the law school frequently cite the conditions in the neighborhood as a significant factor in their decisions. According to the complaint, one such student responded to a 2020 survey from the school saying: “One of the big reasons I did not go to Hastings is the homeless population surrounding the campus. I quite honestly did not feel safe, and I could not imagine walking home alone at night. I was looking forward to living in San Francisco but was shocked by the magnitude of the drug use surrounding the campus. … My family was harassed and approached by a drug dealer when walking around the campus. I could not imagine attending school in a place where this is a daily occurrence.”

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Melanie Nathan
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