San Rafael bans camping at Albert Park, but judge blocks action

The San Rafael City Council has voted to ban camping at Albert Park over public health and safety concerns connected with a growing homeless congregation.

The unanimous vote on Monday expanded a ban that prohibits camping at Boyd Park, city open spaces and parking garages. The action followed increasing community complaints and police calls related to illicit activity involving the homeless people living at the site.

On Feb. 21, city officials ordered the occupants of the camp to vacate by March 13. However, on Thursday, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the city from enforcing the closure.

The downtown park, situated at the corner of B Street and Albert Park Lane, is considered a community park because it serves multiple neighborhoods. It is part of a campus with a community center, several ball fields, tennis courts, a playground and bocce courts. The facility is used by schools, little league, the Pacifics baseball team and the general public.

Shardae Barb, right, a worker with Community Action Marin, stops for a chat near the camp of homeless people at Albert Park in San Rafael on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

As of last month, the camp had grown more than 20 tents, city officials said. Chris Hess, the city’s assistant director of community development, said six of the campers were offered shelter and were housed.

Parents from Parkside Preschool and Children’s Center and neighbors told the council Monday that they are concerned for their children who use the park. The city has received complaints about alcohol and drug use, littering, fights, human waste and sanitation issues, among other concerns.

A number of people spoke in defense of the homeless people, too.

Lucie Hollingsworth, an attorney with Legal Aid of Marin, said that “lifestyle” tickets given to homeless people for issues such as illegal camping make it more difficult for them to get help.

“While we agree that the city…


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