California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday the state will intervene in an ongoing federal court case that's barred San Francisco from cleaning up homeless encampments until more shelter beds are available, saying the judge has gone too far and is preventing the state from solving a critical problem.
“I hope this goes to the Supreme Court,” Newsom said. “And that’s a hell of a statement coming from a progressive Democrat.”
Newsom made his remarks during an interview with news outlet Politico in Sacramento. He previously blasted U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle but had not disclosed his administration's plan to file an amicus brief supporting the city's efforts to overturn the ruling.
Ryu granted the injunction in December after homeless advocates argued the city had been violating the law by clearing homeless encampments without offering shelter and improperly throwing out peoples' belongings such as cellphones and medication.
Her decision has drawn rebuke from Democratic leaders in San Francisco, who argued in appellate court last month for a reversal of the decision. They say the ruling has made it nearly impossible to clean up the city’s streets and that more people are refusing shelter even when it is available.
Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, said he’s personally worked on cleaning up three encampments near San Francisco but that his staff stopped him from cleaning up a fourth due to a court ruling. More broadly, Newsom said federal judges are ruling with a “perverse interpretation” of a court ruling stemming from a case in Boise, Idaho, that said cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go.
“I think they’ve gone too far,” he said.
California is home to roughly one-third of the nation's population of homeless people, a problem that has dogged Newsom since he took office. Newsom touted that his administration has spent billions aimed at cleaning up streets and housing people but acknowledged the stubbornness of the issue.
“People’s lives are at risk; it’s unacceptable what’s happening on the streets and sidewalks,” he said. He added, “We’re now complicit, all of us, at all levels of government and all branches of government.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Newsom reiterated his support for Democratic President Joe Biden to run for reelection. He has repeatedly said he has no plans to challenge Biden or run for president, instead traveling the country as a surrogate for Biden. He's also been raising money and campaigning alongside Democrats in Republican-led states, a move that also serves to build his national network of political support.
Newsom also said he plans to travel to China in the coming weeks to discuss joint efforts to tackle climate change. He provided no additional details about the trip.
Newsom was asked about the newly disclosed effort by Silicon Valley billionaires to build a new city between San Francisco and Sacramento. He said the project's leaders need to win back trust from officials if they hope to move forward after keeping the project secret for years as they bought up massive amounts of land in Solano County.
“They start a little behind in my book" because of all the intrigue and questions created by their secrecy, Newsom said. “So there’s a lot more doubt now and a lot less trust.”
He added people were asking him, “What the hell is going on?" and that he learned who was behind the project just minutes before it was reported in the New York Times.
He declined to offer comments on the substance of the proposal and said he will meet with one of the project’s representatives next week, though he didn’t say whom.