Judge Denies Phoenix Request Seeking Extra Time to Clean Up ‘The Zone’

Judge Denies Phoenix Request Seeking Extra Time to Clean Up 'The Zone'

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 2: A person's tent on 11 Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona on May 2, 2023. Nearby business owners recently sued the City of Phoenix to force them to displace community members experiencing homelessness and hardship in The Zone, a place where people congregate around the Human Services Campus, where there are several major shelters, a medical center, and respite centers during extreme heat. (Caitlin O'Hara for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Associated Press

October 4, 2023

Lawyers for the city said the cleanup process takes time, including making sure those who live there have somewhere else to go.

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge on Tuesday denied the city of Phoenix’s legal request seeking extra time to clean up the city’s largest homeless encampment.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney ruled in September that Phoenix must permanently clear the encampment, known as “The Zone,” on the edge of downtown by Nov. 4. The city asked for a stay pending a second appeal over that timing.

But Blaney ruled that Phoenix had already appealed the court’s March 27 preliminary injunction and the order “relied upon nearly identical factual findings and legal conclusions.”

The judge said the plaintiffs “face much greater hardship if the court were to delay implementation of its ruling.”

Business owners and residents near the encampment have called it a public nuisance that subjects their properties to damage, litter and crime.

City officials began shutting down the homeless encampment in May under an order by Blaney, but they had asked to be given until April 2024 to complete the job.

Lawyers for the city said the cleanup process takes time, including making sure those who live there have somewhere else to go.

They said Phoenix is developing a space nearby with tents and temporary restroom facilities as an alternative, has increased the number of police officers working in the area and has nearly tripled its funding on confronting issues of homelessness.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30 to verify that Phoenix complied with the November deadline.

In summer 2022, as many as 1,000 people lived in the tent city that exploded in size during the pandemic.

Like several other major cities, Phoenix has been challenged to balance the concerns of businesses and homeowners with the rights of homeless people.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that homeless people cannot be criminalized for sleeping outside if no alternatives exist.

RELATED: Phoenix Police Pin Homelessness Advocate to Pavement Amid Heatwave

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