A city of San Diego worker puts a "No Camping" sign on Commercial Street in the outskirts of downtown on July 31, 2023.
A city of San Diego worker puts a "No Camping" sign on Commercial Street in the outskirts of downtown on July 31, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

A city in Oregon wants the nation’s top court to weigh in on the legality of its camping ban. Now, San Diego is joining the case. 

Background: A few years ago, three homeless people in Grants Pass, Oregon, sued the city and sought to overturn its camping ban. In 2020, a court sided with the homeless residents and said it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment to restrict camping and sleeping in public if there’s nowhere else for homeless people to go.

The court’s decision was based on a 2018 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Fox 5 reported. The ruling found the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the Eighth Amendment prevents governments from punishing homeless people for camping in public if they have nowhere else to go.

But Grants Pass wants a re-do.

After unsuccessfully appealing the rulings of the lower court and the Ninth Circuit court, Grants Pass is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. This time, though, it’s going to have a little help from the city of San Diego.

“Friend of the court:” San Diego, which recently implemented its own camping ban, will now join the case as an “amicus curiae,” or a “friend of the court.” This means the city isn’t party to the case, but can get permission to submit briefs and arguments supporting the city of Grants Pass. 

After yesterday’s vote, San Diego will file an amicus brief, or a written submission with legal arguments and recommendations about the case.

According to the petition by Grants Pass, the city wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide: “Does the enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ prohibited by the Eighth Amendment?”

The San Diego City Council voted 6-2 in a closed session Monday to move forward with the case. Councilmembers Monica Montgomery Steppe and Vivian Moreno were opposed, and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera was absent.

The Latest on San Diego’s First Safe Sleeping Site

View of the city's 20th and B Street maintenance yard on May 8, 2023, that could become a safe sleeping site for unhoused people. The city previously used the site as a temporary campground during the Hepatitis A outbreak in 2017.
View of the city’s 20th and B Street maintenance yard on May 8, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

It’s been about 12 weeks since San Diego opened its safe sleeping site for homeless people in Balboa Park and it’s been a bumpy road, according to an inewsource report.

The Safe Sleeping Program opened in June once the city of San Diego started implementing its camping ban. 

The latest: As of two weeks ago, 147 people were sleeping at the site in 129 tents. They have access to food, restrooms, hygiene supplies, a mobile shower truck and more. At least eight people have found housing while staying there, a spokesperson told inewsource.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. The site’s first several weeks saw a heat wave, a hurricane and a lot of growing pains. There have been reports of confusion and fear among homeless participants who struggled with getting into the program. And many homeless people still aren’t sold on the idea – 91 homeless households have left the site for various reasons without securing permanent housing.

Critics of the program said the city rushed to open the facility just so it could start enforcing its camping ban. The city, though, is working on opening a second safe sleeping site later this year.

Border Report: Migrants from All Over the World Are at the Border 

A Mylar blanket can be seen against the border wall in San Ysidro on Sept. 12, 2023.
A Mylar blanket against the border wall in San Ysidro on Sept. 12, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Voice of San Diego contributor Sandra Dibble writes that in the many years of covering the border, she has witnessed different groups of migrants crossing at the Tijuana-San Diego border. 

For decades, they were mainly Mexicans, heading north to find work or reunite with family members. But things are different now. 

“This year people seem to be coming from everywhere all at once. From Ecuador, Turkey, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, India, China and Vietnam,” she writes. 

She visited the U.S.-Mexico border and a transit stop where U.S. Border Patrol officers were dropping off migrants. Here’s what she saw. 

In Other News 

  • The San Diego City Council is expected to approve water-rate increases today, meaning San Diego water bills would increase by almost 20 percent by 2025. City leaders say they need more money for importing water, fixing aging pipes and upcoming capital projects. The increase would be the first comprehensive rate hike approved by the council in almost eight years. (Union-Tribune)
  • All 18 mayors in San Diego County sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom last week urging him to declare a state of emergency over the Tijuana sewage crisis, and it’s not the first time leaders have sought an emergency declaration from the state and federal government. But, as the Union-Tribune reports, there’s a lot that goes into a declaration, and the sewage crisis may not fit the criteria – at least not at this point. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego is now the most competitive rental market in Southern California, surpassing Orange County for the first time in two years. A new report found that San Diego is the 18th busiest rental market out of more than 130 markets across the country. The increase is largely due to a severe shortage of housing amid significant population growth. (Fox 5)
  • Correction: Saturday’s Politics Report incorrectly noted only one candidate had received the endorsement of the Labor Council in the race for the 79th Assembly District. The group recommended support for both Colin Parent and LaShae Collins. 

The Morning Report was written by Tigist Layne and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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1 Comment

  1. “91 *homeless households* have left the site…”
    now there’s an oxymoron for our times.

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