United States District Court, N.D. California
WILLIAM H. ORRICK, District Judge.
The pervasiveness and intractability of homelessness remains a blight on the City and County of San Francisco and a scourge for its victims. The most recent count identified 6, 436 homeless men and women within the City limits. 63% report severe mental illness or chronic physical illness. 59% are unsheltered each night. 17% are under the age of 25. 11% are veterans. To consider only one effect of homelessness: it reduces one's life expectancy by 25 years.
Four homeless disabled men filed suit against the City and County of San Francisco and various officials on July 30, 2013, asserting that the City's reservation system for emergency shelter violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The City funds the operation of eight homeless shelters to provide at least 1, 126 beds each night. This program, one of several ways the City addresses homelessness, does not differentiate between those who are disabled and those who are not: instead, the beds are offered for 90 days as a transitional housing opportunity on a first come, first served basis. The system in effect when the suit was filed, which was then in the process of being changed and now has been changed, allegedly required the disabled homeless to line up in front of homeless resource centers to secure a bed in competition with the able-bodied homeless, with some accommodation for the disabled on a case-by-case basis for those who sought help. The new system is much less likely to burden the disabled homeless, who can now access the system by telephone instead of competing with the able-bodied in line.
The plaintiffs, current and former clients of San Francisco's homeless shelters, identified a number of issues regarding the shelters. While the problems of homelessness demand the attention of all of us, there are a variety of reasons why the plaintiffs' legal claims cannot succeed and why I will GRANT the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The reservation system challenged by the plaintiffs is no longer in use. What the plaintiffs seek would fundamentally alter the nature of San Francisco's shelter system, requiring that the available beds be prioritized for a portion of the disabled homeless population for the long term, rather than provide transitional shelter for anyone who is homeless on an equal basis-the ADA does not require the City to make such a change. The plaintiffs undoubtedly face difficult problems but they are not of the City's making-the plaintiffs have not presented evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that they were discriminated against because of their disabilities or that they were ever denied a reservation because of their disability. Moreover, the plaintiffs' claims are barred by an earlier settlement of a class action lawsuit regarding San Francisco's homeless shelters.
San Francisco, through its Human Services Agency, funds the operation of at least 1, 126 emergency adult shelter beds for the homeless through contracts with several non-profit providers. Walton Decl. ¶ 30 [Dkt. No. 116]. The emergency adult shelter system is intended to provide short-term support for homeless adults so that they can obtain a permanent housing placement; it is not intended to provide long-term housing for homeless adults. Id. ¶ 3. 90 days is the standard length for a reservation, but a shelter client can seek one automatic 30-day extension upon request at the shelter. Id. ¶ 11.
Pro se plaintiffs Donald Rose, Larry Richards, Elley Fore III, and Raj K. Judge filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction in July 2013, alleging that San Francisco's method for assigning 90-day bed reservations within the single adult emergency shelter system to homeless people in need of such beds discriminates against them on the basis of their disability. They contended that the only way to obtain bed reservations is to wait overnight in a line at a homeless resource center, that they cannot obtain a bed in this manner, and that this reservation system violates the ADA Act. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 1 at 6-7. The plaintiffs sought various changes to the shelter system, including automatic shelter extensions, transformation of shelter beds into medical respite beds, and dedicated shelters for people with disabilities. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 88 (alleging that telephone reservation system is "inherently discriminatory if there is no disabled only shelter system established").
The plaintiffs filed an amended motion for a temporary restraining order on August 5, 2013. Dkt. No. 41. On August 9, 2013, I held a preliminary hearing on the motion for a temporary restraining order. Dkt. No. 46. At the hearing, San Francisco agreed to preserve the status quo by continuing to make disabled access beds available to Messrs. Richards and Rose until the parties briefed and I addressed the merits of the motion for a temporary restraining order. Mr. Fore indicated that he was not then residing at the shelter, but San Francisco agreed to investigate whether provisions could be made to provide Mr. Fore with shelter accommodation.
Despite requesting, and receiving, two requests to continue the hearing on their motion for a temporary restraining order, the plaintiffs never responded to San Francisco's opposition to the motion. On October 31, 2013, I denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction,  finding that the plaintiffs had not met their burden to show that it was likely that they would prevail on the merits or that they faced irreparable injury. Dkt. No. 77.
Following the filing of their initial complaint, the plaintiffs filed several miscellaneous pleadings reiterating various objections to the emergency shelter system. See, e.g., Dkt. Nos. 41, 57, 58, 64, 65, 69, 88. The pleadings did not respond to San Francisco's arguments or otherwise address the deficiencies in the plaintiffs' complaint which formed the basis for the denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction. On January 31, 2014, plaintiff Rose filed additional pleadings containing various allegations and objections to the shelter system. Dkt. Nos. 93-96. I treat these filings as Mr. Rose's amended complaint.
In February 2014, San Francisco implemented a new shelter reservation system which changed the method of reserving emergency shelter. Walton Decl. ¶ 13. Under the new system, there is a waitlist for people seeking 90-day bed reservations. Id. ¶ 14. Each day, everyone who sought but failed to obtain a 90-day bed the previous day is added to the waitlist. Each day, 90-day beds are awarded to the people at the top of the waitlist, and when a person reaches the top of the waitlist, that person has 10 days to claim an available 90-day bed. Id. ¶ 15. In addition, San Francisco now permits people to make 90-day bed reservations by calling a 311 telephone information system. Id. ¶ 17. People who need the assistance of reservation station workers can still make reservations at the homeless resource centers and other reservation stations throughout the city. Id. ¶ 18.
San Francisco moved for summary judgment on March 4, 2014. Dkt. No. 114. The plaintiffs did not oppose it timely in writing. At oral argument on April 9, 2014, Mr. Rose stated that he had additional documents which he had been unable to file ahead of the hearing. He filed those documents the following day. Dkt. Nos. 124-127. I have reviewed those filings in detail and address them below.
Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party, however, has no burden to disprove matters on which the non-moving party will have the burden of proof at trial. The moving party need only demonstrate to the court "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.
Once the moving party has met its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to "designate specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (quotation marks omitted). To carry this burden, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence... will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).
In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Id. at 255. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge... ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Id. However, conclusory or speculative testimony in affidavits is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary judgment. See Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979).
For the reasons stated below, the plaintiffs are not entitled to injunctive relief or damages. San Francisco's motion ...