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Santa Ana Asks for Camping Law Review : Petition: State Supreme Court may examine ordinance drafted to clear homeless off city property.

March 12, 1994|LEE ROMNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — The City of Santa Ana on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to review a controversial anti-camping ordinance criticized in a state appellate court decision as "a blatant and unconstitutional infringement on the right to travel."

The city drafted the 1992 ordinance to clear homeless people off city property, particularly the Civic Center plaza, which at that time was filled with makeshift dwellings.

In its petition, the city says the 4th District Court of Appeal's decision last month "completely emasculates (the city's) constitutional police power to regulate and maintain public property for the benefit of the public at large."

The court has 90 days to decide whether to hear the case, said Assistant City Atty. Robert Wheeler, who filed the petition Friday.

The American Alliance for Rights and Responsibilities, a Washington-based group that is an advocate for the rights of cities, also filed a letter Friday with the state Supreme Court urging it to hear the Santa Ana case, said Mike Schroeder, the group's attorney in Santa Ana.

"We argue that you can't take a look at the issue of the rights of the homeless in isolation," Schroeder said. "If you take away the parks and the public areas, you are disenfranchising and taking away the rights of another group. We argue that those rights should be considered."

William Wise, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, which challenged the ordinance, said he thinks the case is specific to Santa Ana and that it therefore would not be appropriate for the higher court to hear.

"Justice (Thomas F.) Crosby (Jr.) made his decision specific to the way Santa Ana has treated its homeless," Wise said of the appellate ruling. "He spends a lot of time talking about the history of Santa Ana, beginning with homeless sweeps in 1988, and the taking of possessions from the homeless. There are a series of actions that predate this ordinance and indicate the city's hostility toward the homeless."

Crosby's decision also said the ordinance would "turn the county jail into a poorhouse and thus . . . destroy liberty."

While the 4th District Court of Appeal was considering the matter in December, the city drafted another anti-camping ordinance that was narrower in scope, dealing specifically with the Civic Center area. The Legal Aid Society has challenged that ordinance as well and the matter will be heard in Orange County Superior Court in August, Wise said.

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