Sacramento County DA issues 30-day notice; homeless lawsuit against City of Sacramento likely

Sacramento County DA Thien Ho is likely to file homeless lawsuit against City of Sacramento

SACRAMENTO - The Sacramento district attorney appears set to sue the City of Sacramento over the downtown homeless crisis. District Attorney Thien Ho sent a 30-day notice to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Monday with a list of demands for the city of Sacramento.

Ho's demands include:

  • Requiring the City Attorney to prosecute all city codes that are out of the DA's jurisdiction -- things like blocking the sidewalk and public storage of personal property.
  • Prohibit daytime camping between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and provide secure locations for the unsheltered to store their necessities during the day.
  • Find emergency shelter and safe camping space for 75% of Sacramento's homeless population, compete with 24-hour security, garage, and sanitation services.
  • Track real-time data on available shelter beds and people who refuse them
  • Audit the money used to address homelessness over the past 6 years. 

The DA's office provided the following statement:

"This local crisis has been made worse by local decisions and indecisions.  Therefore, we have taken the first formal step towards litigation against the City of Sacramento.  However, we are providing the City an opportunity to adequately address this public safety crisis." - DA Thien Ho

In response, Mayor Darrell Steinberg held an impromptu press conference Tuesday blasting the DA for political theater and issuing a press release citing his own list of demands for Ho, including: 

  • Asking the DA to fund more community prosecutors. 
  • Report the number of misdemeanor cases prosecuted and sent to diversion instead of jail.
  • Report the reasons for cases not being filed and the outcome of cases countywide. 

The mayor's office provided the following response:

"Mayor Darrell Steinberg held a media availability Tuesday to discuss the mayor's July 26 offer of partnership to District Attorney Thien Ho in efforts to address unsheltered homelessness. The District Attorney did not respond directly to the mayor's substantive proposal. District Attorney Ho issued a letter to the city this morning that deflects responsibility, takes credit for programs the city initiated, lacks basic understanding of existing shelter management systems and funding structures, and includes a series of demands that would cripple the city financially. The District Attorney offered no substantive partnership in which the courts would work with the city to increase the ability to prosecute quality of life crimes. Instead, the District Attorney demands that the city shoulder the financial burden for prosecuting criminal offenses."

Read the DA's letter here: 

Read the Mayor's response here: 

This story will be updated throughout the day.

ALSO WATCH: Sacramento DA "gathering evidence" for possible homeless lawsuit against city

Sacramento DA takes steps toward possible homeless lawsuit against city

As we've previously reported, the Sacramento County District Attorney began collecting evidence for a possible lawsuit in July. 

District Attorney Thien Ho sent out a neighborhood nuisance questionnaire to downtown neighbors and businesses asking them to describe how the homeless encampments are impacting their businesses — and lives.

He said the results of this survey could be used as evidence in a criminal or civil suit alleging the city is violating nuisance laws by failing to enforce city ordinances that ensure health and safety.

CBS13 spoke to the owner of a café near the District Attorney's office who told us he's had to call the police at least 20 times. He said his window and door have been shattered three times and he cited repeated incidents of unhoused individuals stealing food, bothering customers or urinating outside his front door.

These are the types of stories Ho is hoping to compile.

"I've opened an investigation to see whether or not the City of Sacramento has violated the law, and we are gathering evidence," he said in an interview with CBS13 on Monday.

Ho said his biggest concern is selective enforcement, noting that California Highway Patrol officers clear homeless encampments around the State Capitol during the day, and city officials clear the grounds around Sacramento City Hall. But elsewhere, encampments remain all day, disproportionately impacting certain people and businesses.

"What I see is selective enforcement and inconsistent enforcement, and that simply needs to change," Ho said.

He points to his employees, and court employees, who have been attacked by unhoused people. 

Ho cites several recent lawsuits where cities were successfully sued for failing to abate a public nuisance caused by homelessness or to address the issue of tents breaking disability access laws.

ALSO WATCH: Could the Sacramento DA sue the City of Sacramento to clean up the downtown homeless encampment?

Could the Sacramento DA sue the City of Sacramento to clean up the downtown homeless encampment?

In a July statement, the City of Sacramento said:

"The City of Sacramento is working urgently and diligently to address the current homelessness crisis and all its complexities. We are bringing to bear all available resources to help resolve the hardships faced by unsheltered individuals while working to protect the health and safety of our communities.

The City and County of Sacramento currently are deploying joint outreach teams that provide intensive outreach, assessment, navigation, service delivery and housing to as many people as possible in encampments within the City limits. These teams include mental health workers from the County who have the ability and qualifications to provide a behavioral health assessment and enroll or link people to an appropriate level of mental health and substance use services.

In addition, the City's Code Enforcement team and the Sacramento Police Impact team also respond to calls for service related to vehicle violations as well as sidewalk and critical infrastructure enforcement. 

In June, the City of Sacramento responded to more than 300 calls for service involving people experiencing homelessness in District 4, which includes downtown.

Here is an FAQ of what the City can do to legally address encampments on both public and private property:

The City of Sacramento remains committed to providing support to its most vulnerable residents while also enforcing its laws and ordinances. This commitment is underscored by both the new City/County partnership as well as the City's willingness to explore new and innovative ways to address the homelessness crisis with a variety of community partners.

Lastly, it is expected that the City Council will be reviewing/discussing the City's response protocols in the coming weeks."

Sources note that several business and community members are considering separate suits against the city. They would likely all be consolidated with the DA's case should any of these suits move forward.

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