Firm partners Michael A. Kelly, Richard H. Schoenberger and Matthew D. Davis acted as co-lead counsel in a Federal District Court action that forced the City and County of San Francisco to address the massive proliferation of tents and encampments on the sidewalks and streets of the City’s Tenderloin district. The positive impact suit was filed on behalf of UC Hastings College of the Law (which is situated in the Tenderloin) and five other Tenderloin individuals and businesses. Kelly, Schoenberger and Davis are all Hastings graduates. The firm performed the work pro bono.
The complaint in Hastings College of the Law, et al. v. City and County of San Francisco was filed in the United States District Court of Northern California, after many of the Tenderloin’s sidewalks became literally impassable due to the erection of more than 400 tents and makeshift encampments blocking sidewalks and doorways. The suit alleged:
The Tenderloin, always a community of tolerance and compassion, is now blighted; its sidewalks are unsanitary, unsafe, and often impassable. Open-air drug sales and other criminal activity, plus crowds of drug users and sidewalk-blocking tents, pervade and threaten the health and lives of all of the Tenderloin’s residents. What has long been suffered in the Tenderloin has become insufferable. The conditions now prevailing in the Tenderloin constitute a violation of the fundamental civil rights of those residing and working there.
The lawsuit sought no monetary recovery, focusing exclusively on injunctive relief, meaning that the Tenderloin plaintiffs demanded only that the City address the deplorable conditions in their neighborhood.
The suit was assigned to United States District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar, who quickly issued an order requiring the City to immediately make an appearance in the case. The City and the Tenderloin plaintiffs then entered into settlement negotiations, presided over by Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley. Following extensive and intense negotiations, the parties reached a settlement, set forth in a “stipulated injunction” which Judge Tigar entered on June 30, 2020, less than eight weeks after the lawsuit was filed.
Under the terms of the settlement, the City agreed to reduce the number of tents in the neighborhood and to “make all reasonable efforts to achieve the shared goal of permanently reducing the number of tents, along with all other encamping materials and related personal property, to zero.”
David Faigman, Chancellor and Dean at UC Hastings, commented that “the team of Mike Kelly, Rich Schoenberger and Matt Davis were spectacular. They brought enormous intelligence and extraordinary expertise to what was a delicate legal and political matter. They were a constant delight to work with and even during the most tense moments they brought perspective, calm professionalism, and blessedly, a sense of humor to our meetings. We were incredibly fortunate to have this team as our champions in this litigation.”
Monitoring and enforcement of the injunction continues as the City works to solve ongoing drug sale issues which have persisted notwithstanding resolution of the sidewalk encampments. Our team remains involved, continuing their quest to improve the quality of life for all who live or work in the Tenderloin.