SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge on Monday rejected a lawsuit bid to block Albany's plans to evict homeless residents from the Albany Bulb.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer issued his ruling shortly after a 55-minute hearing on the request at the federal courthouse in San Francisco.
Albany Housing Advocates and 10 residents of the Bulb sued Nov. 13, seeking a restraining order and jury trial.
"The court, having thoroughly reviewed the papers and declarations, and having considered the arguments made at hearing, finds that plaintiffs have failed to establish likelihood of success on the merits," Breyer wrote in his ruling denying the restraining order request.
Attorney Maureen Sheehy argued for the plaintiffs that the city's plan to house 30 of the estimated 60 residents of the Bulb in a temporary shelter to be located nearby violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because several of the Bulb's residents suffer from physical and mental disabilities. Those disabilities would preclude housing them in the temporary structure.
Breyer questioned Sheehy's assertion that the city had violated the disabilities law. The city, represented by outside counsel Toussaint Bailey, argued that the ADA does not apply in this case, and that even if it did, it would not be triggered until the disabled individuals made a specific request for accommodations.
The suit also claims that the city's plans to evict the homeless violated the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. Breyer was dismissive of that claim during the hearing.
Bailey also argued that the plaintiffs did not meet the federal standard of being likely to suffer irreparable harm if the city evicted them from the Bulb. Breyer was sharp in his questioning of Bailey, noting that whether the plaintiffs had a legal right to occupy the Bulb was a separate legal question from whether they would suffer harm if they were evicted.
The city's supporting documents included one from the state water board that said the encampments are a health risk. The city also asserted that as long as there are no beds available in city shelters -- including the temporary one to be set up at the waterfront -- nobody will be cited.
A hearing on the actual case has not been scheduled.
Undaunted, several supporters of the Bulb residents appeared at the Albany City Council meeting later Monday night, interrupting the meeting with a call and response chant before marching to the Bulb, where they camped overnight.
"Residents of the Bulb have proposed their own alternatives, but they have been rejected," the protesters chanted. "Again and again you have ignored us. ... We do not intend to let this community and art center be destroyed."
The Bulb is owned by Albany and scheduled to be turned over to the East Bay Regional Park District as part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. The city is responsible for cleaning up the park before the transfer.
In May, the City Council voted to begin enforcing the city's anti-camping ordinance starting in October. However, to this point, no action has been taken to evict the homeless population. The city also has allocated more than $500,000 to create the temporary shelter and to find permanent housing for the homeless.