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Press release from Legal Services of Northern California:

Humboldt County agreed to assist renters who are displaced by public projects in a settlement of Humboldt County Superior Case Martinson, et al. v. County, et al. Resolution of the lawsuit requires the County to compensate current residents who claimed that the County failed to follow State relocation laws when it attempted to purchase the property where they live, and to adopt rules to protect residents in future projects. The settlement requires the County to plan for and assist with the relocation of residents who are displaced as a result of County activities as required by the California Relocation Assistance Act (CRAA).

The residents, as well as Plaintiff Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, are represented by Legal Services of Northern California, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Disability Rights California.

Among other provisions, the CRAA requires that residents displaced from their homes by government projects receive (a) payments to cover the cost of moving and securing new housing; (b) help with finding new housing; and (d) comparable replacement housing, that is affordable and with similar access to transportation.

In 2017, the County identified the property on Fourth Street in Eureka for a parking lot as part of its jail expansion project. The County negotiated a purchase agreement that required the sellers to deliver the property vacant of all tenants. The residents say that theowners then stopped making repairs and started evicting the tenants. In November, some of the last remaining tenants sued the County and the owners on the eve of their evictions.

After the residents sued, the County cancelled its purchase of the building. The settlement requires the County make payments to compensate residents who were threatened with displacement because of the parking lot project. It also mandates the County to create a relocation policy to apply to future projects, including a promise to locate affordable replacement housing, with similar access to public transportation and amenities, prior to asking the residents to move out.

“Our clients were able to save their housing, obtain payments that they should have received before they were asked to move out, and protect future tenants of properties identified for County development,” said Legal Services of Northern California attorney Gregory M. Holtz. “We look forward to reviewing the County’s new policy, and to seeing the current owners address the repair needs at the property.”

“This agreement will ensure that the County lives up to its responsibility to provide relocation assistance for any future residents who may be displaced by its actions,” said Colin Fiske, Executive Director of CRTP. “Critical to the Coalition’s mission, and in keeping with the law, that assistance will include maintaining access to public transit and other transportation amenities. This is what we’ve wanted the County to do all along. We’re pleased that they’ve agreed to it, and we look forward to seeing their plan to follow through.”