The City of Phoenix filed notice it would be appealing a ruling compelling the city to clear out the homeless encampment known as “the Zone” by July and filed a motion to stay the ruling amid the appeal.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled in late March, mandating the city clear tents, biohazardous materials and “individuals committing offenses against the public order” by July 10, the first day of trial in the case.
According to filings, the city “does not dispute” the circumstances in “the Zone” “require urgent action to improve the conditions for residents, businesses, and the unsheltered.”
But it argues the court’s order requiring “the City to forcibly remove hundreds of homeless people and their property” is an overreach of judicial power.
City attorneys claim the order issued is a violation of the separation of powers doctrine as the decisions on “how to spend taxpayers’ money, deliver services, and create new infrastructure for public housing is a legislative, not judicial, function.”
They also argue the order “intrudes” into law enforcement and prosecutorial discretion in requiring mandatory enforcement action.
Aaron Arnson, attorney for the city, writes, “the public interest would not be served by the City abruptly changing course in an attempt to abide by the Court’s Order rather than proceeding with its well-researched plans and procedures developed by City Staff with input from many stakeholders and experts.”
When Judge Scott Blaney issued the ruling, he allowed the city discretion in how to achieve the requirements he set forth, but he, much like the plaintiffs in the case, strongly advocated for structured outdoor campgrounds.
The city has continuously opposed outdoor structured campgrounds as it wanted to ensure unsheltered people had access to air conditioning.
Arnson noted, “with the triple-digit heat of the summer approaching, the City must retain discretion to create shelter, heat relief, and public service programs without the burdens of a judicially imposed cleanup.”
Attorneys for the property owners and residents living near “the Zone” did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether they would oppose the motion to stay the ruling.
Dan Wilson, public information officer for the city of Phoenix Law Department, said attorneys have yet to file the appeal and said they have no timeline on when it would be filed.
Wilson again emphasized the decision to appeal “technical aspects, as opposed to challenging the material decision from the court.”
In the filing, the city said it would be continuing enhanced clean-ups of “the Zone” this month and are continuing to fund efforts to increase shelter beds.
“The appeal process does not change at all our commitment to follow through with cleanings, with the plans that we have that we’re expediting to get people that live in the area services that they need and to get them to more permanent opportunities or shelters,” Wilson said.