Law.com, June 26, 2020
By Alaina Lancaster
Dowling & Marquez in San Francisco is representing real estate investors who claim the sidewalks in the neighborhood during the COVID-19 outbreak have become “unsanitary, unsafe and often impassable.”
The owners of apartment buildings in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood are suing the city and county of San Francisco for treating the working-class neighborhood as a “containment zone” for its drug and homelessness issues, creating unsanitary and unsafe conditions that have worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday, follows a similar lawsuit brought by a group of Tenderloin businesses, as well as the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Dowling & Marquez in San Francisco is representing Daniel, James and Richard Giosso, which own a mixed-use building in the Tenderloin, and Mike O’Neill and Sons, which own two different apartment buildings in the neighborhood.
“What has long been suffered in the Tenderloin has become insufferable,” wrote Dowling & Marquez’s Curtis Dowling and Jak Marquez in language echoing the earlier suit. “The conditions now prevailing in the neighborhood constitute a violation of the fundamental civil rights of those residing and working there.”
The real estate investors claim that the city and county have violated their due process and equal protection rights and that the city’s negligence has created a public nuisance, mirroring allegations UC Hastings made in its lawsuit. They assert that the neighborhood’s sidewalks have become “unsanitary, unsafe and often impassable.”
In a May filing, lawyers at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco and Greenberg Gross in Los Angeles wrote that UC Hastings and the coalition of businesses had reached an agreement with the city to settle the 14 claims laid out in the suit. As part of a stipulated injunction, which has yet to be approved by the San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California, the city would relocate up to 300 tents and encampments in the Tenderloin to hotels, safe sleeping villages outside the neighborhood or off-street locations such as parking lots by July 20.
Plans to remove the neighborhood’s homeless population have been opposed by a group of more than 125 UC Hastings students, who wrote a letter to Chancellor and Dean David Faigman claiming the lawsuit “defines the community in a way that implicitly excludes our unhoused neighbor.”
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in support of intervening groups advocating for the unhoused individuals in the community.
“The proposed settlement threatens to push from the City the very individuals who could most benefit from the resources and support available in San Francisco and in the Tenderloin specifically,” said Abre’ Conner, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, in a statement. “Before considering any proposed settlement, the Court should consider the perspective of individuals, specifically Black and TGI individuals, who are the direct targets of this case and of the proposed settlement.”