File photo: AG

Frequent city-suing local attorney Peter E. Martin has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the City of Eureka’s plans to evict more than 140 residents from the large, illegal homeless camp on the City-owned Palco Marsh property by May 2. The eviction, announced on March 18, aims to clear the area for construction of a waterfront trail through the marsh.

In the 82-page complaint, filed Monday afternoon, Martin argues that Eureka lacks sufficient housing alternatives, so the eviction will force most of the camp’s residents to leave the city entirely. This violates his clients’ rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the suit claims.

Defendants include the City of Eureka, the Eureka Police Department and Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills. The plaintiffs are 11 homeless people who have been living in the Palco Marsh.

Here’s a summary of Martin’s six claims for relief:

  • Because the City lacks enough affordable housing, the eviction — coupled with existing municipal ordinances — will make it “impossible for a homeless person to live in Eureka and perform the functions necessary for his or her survival without breaking the law,” thereby violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
  • The City is violating the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, which sets minimum standards for people relocated through federally funded projects. (This is a confusing allegation since, as the Times-Standard notes, the eviction is not federally funded.)
  • Forcing the homeless out and destroying their dwellings and possessions will deny them the due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • The City’s plans to confiscate all property and structures still in the marsh on May 2 constitutes an “unreasonable seizure” in violation of residents’ Fourth Amendment rights.
  • Without allowing the homeless a formal hearing before seizing their belongings, the City is denying their right to procedural due process of law.
  • Forcing homeless out of the marsh will effectively deny them of their right to privacy.

City officials seem unfazed by the legal threat, and plans to remove the homeless continue apace. “They’re causing environmental damage to sensitive wetlands in the bay,” Mayor Frank Jager tells T-S reporter Will Houston. “We’ve got plenty of places for people to go,” he added “We’re bending over backwards to try to find places for people to go.”

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DOCUMENT: Stacy Cobine, et al. v. City of Eureka, EPD, Andrew Mills