Pro “Dams on the Eel” Fennell trying to pull a fast one at tomorrow’s Supervisors meeting

Image result for Potter Valley Project

The Potter Valley Project

Last week, PG&E finally publicly announced its intent to auction the Eel River dams/Potter Valley Project this Fall.

Also last week, Friends of the Eel River learned through a series of Public Records Act requests that Humboldt County Supervisor Estelle Fennell and her fellow Eel Russian River Commissioners (county supervisors from Sonoma and Mendocino counties) have held a series of at least five secret meetings with PG&E over the last year to put together a plan to keep the Eel River dams in place. They are planning to move the dams out of federal licensing so as to avoid having to provide additional protection for fisheries (passage over 138’ Scott Dam being the main issue here). Under what’s called a “non-power license,” they’d keep operating the project primarily as a water transfer project, but they’d keep the hydropower running as well. They think they’d even get state Renewable Power credit for running these infamous fish-killing dams.

Supervisor Fennell is asking the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to move TOMORROW to appoint her and Supervisor Bohn to an ad hoc committee that would continue to meet in secret to push this secret plan to avoid protecting Eel River salmon and steelhead. Please, if you can, make time to attend tomorrow’s Board meeting to speak against this move.

As a policy minimum, Humboldt County should be pushing for a solution that would remove Scott Dam and restore fish access to the Eel River headwaters. But at the most fundamental level, we deserve the opportunity to discuss and debate the positions our elected representatives are taking on our behalf. Democracy cannot function when leaders make policy in secret.

We would suggest speakers ask for a full public discussion of the potential options and Humboldt County’s official position on the Eel River dams / Potter Valley Project. We would urge you to request that the Board delay a vote on this proposed ad hoc committee pending such a discussion of costs, benefits, and risks to Humboldt County’s waters and fisheries. Of course, we’d strongly prefer that Humboldt County not be represented by anti-environmentalists like Fennell and Bohn, but that’s probably not a point we’re going to win. We can at minimum demand a transparent process.

The meeting begins at 9am at the usual location in the Supervisors Chambers in the Humboldt County Courthouse. The item is near the end of the agenda, but since they don’t always follow it, we recommend being there by 9:15.

Action Alert from 

Stephanie Tidwell, Executive Director




The crime wave in Eureka and Humboldt continues to grow unabated

The crime wave of theft, home invasions, assaults, even homicides, continues to reign here locally.  Every other day we continue to read about violence and predation in our communities.  The Examiner has also found and posted about, the overwhelming amount of unreported crimes happening in our communities, especially in the Cannabis industry.(see links at the bottom)  The forecast is only expected to get worse as the local cannabis economy goes through its painful realignment. We believe the Times-Standard story today about the overnight closers of Safeway store is yet another sign of how bad it’s getting.

Small signs on the front doors of the Safeway store in Eureka let customers know about its new open hours. Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard

Safeway stores cut back on hours, stores see hundreds of calls for service from local law enforcement

Safeway shoppers on Tuesday were greeted with signs on some entrances stating the grocery stores will no longer be open 24/7.

“New store hours,” a green sheet of paper taped to the inside of a sliding glass door of the Eureka Safeway reads. “Opens 5 p.m. daily … Closed 1 a.m. daily.”

“Our store operations are continuously reviewed and adjusted where needed based on observations from our division management and customer feedback. We recently modified the hours of operation at over 80 locations throughout the Northern California division,” Safeway Northern California spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall wrote in an email to the Times-Standard on Tuesday.

“As an ongoing effort, we evaluate and adjust our store operations based on observations from division management, customer feedback, seasonal activity and a variety of other variables that impact our operations,” she later wrote in response to a question about why the hours were adjusted.

It’s not just the Eureka store that won’t be open 24/7. According to Gutshall, the Arcata location will now be open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., the Fortuna branch will be open daily from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. and the McKinleyville store will be open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.

It is unclear whether crime played a role in the company’s decision.

“We have had 378 responses to Safeway in [the last] year,” Fortuna Police Department office supervisor Robin Paul said.

She added that 57 of those calls in 2017 were for theft and the others were for vandalism or other emergencies.

“We responded over there 469 times and those were petty thefts, disturbances, unwanted subjects, reckless driving, all sorts of things,” Arcata Police Department Lt. Bart Silvers said about calls for service at the Safeway.

Those calls came in between January and December last year between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., he said.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction covers both the Eureka Safeway on Harris Street and the McKinleyville Safeway along Central Avenue.

Sheriff’s office public information officer Samantha Karges said “a lot” of the calls for service at those Safeway stores are outside of their new closing hours.

“A lot of the time, our deputies go out there and Safeway doesn’t want to press charges,” Karges said.

In 2017, deputies were called out to the Eureka Safeway 150 times total but only 17 times between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. The most common call for service there was for unwanted subjects.

In 2017, deputies responded to the McKinleyville Safeway 133 times including eight times between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m. Unwanted subjects make up the most calls in the McKinleyville location as well, according to information sent by Karges. Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.

Small signs on the front doors of the Safeway store in Eureka let customers know about its new open hours.

Past posts about the crime wave:


Remember back in April 2016 when the Examiner posted: BRILLIANT! HUMCPR AND CHIEF MILLS MOVE THE DEVILS PLAYGROUND TO OLD TOWN Well those chickens have come home to roost and grown in numbers A trip into old town and even many parts of downtown is like running the gauntlet. Stabbings, shootings and widespread thievery and vandalism.  […]


by tuluwat examiner


The Crime Wave has gotten so bad recently that The Humboldt Bay Fire Department has to wait for the Eureka Police to secure the scene for them so that they can begin fire suppression activities or life saving measures! When seconds count, cops may be minutes away and unable to make the scenes safe for […]


by tuluwat examiner


Public Safety is the reason being cited by the City of Eureka, The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and the City of Fortuna for sales tax measures being placed on the November ballot. The Examiner has been posting about the Crime Wave that has been sweeping Eureka and Humboldt County since we started this blog […]


by tuluwat examiner


Is anyone surprised that the crime wave numbers increased last year in Humboldt?  Here at the Examiner, the only surprise from the recent statistics is that the crime rate wasn’t up more than 25%.  However considering a lot of people have given up reporting violent crimes including marijuana robberies, the “real” crime rate is actually […]


by tuluwat examiner


In a press release Monday it was reported The Humboldt County Drug Task Force and members of the Eureka Police Department’s Problem Orientated Policing unit, conducted a bust at a Floyd Squires owned fleabag apartment building in Eureka.  Was this newsworthy? Well yes and no, given the common prevalence of drugs and crime that […]


by tuluwat examiner


Take a look at this morning’s Times-Standard newspaper.  Once again, what’s brought to light is the continued rise in violent confrontations taking place in Humboldt County. Yesterday, there were 3 stabbings in the county. Eureka is at the center of most of this wave of violence.  However, the city has a Police Department that’s going […]


by tuluwat examiner


Guess what citizens of Eureka….you are all WRONG! You believed that a quarter of cars and houses in your neighborhood being burglarized meant property crime was going up. WRONG!!! You thought that the numerous articles about violent crimes and murders was a sign that violent crime was going up. WRONG!!! You thought that driving down […]


by tuluwat examiner


Measure O was passed by voters in 2010, the Supplemental Transaction and Use Tax has generated just under $4 million annually for the city of Eureka, and is expected to provide over $4 million in 2014— a critical lifeline for the city’s public safety and other programs. So where has all that money gone? It […]


by tuluwat examiner


Here in Eureka with have the Andy Mill’s campaign to clean up crime…….on paper anyway. Our illustrious chief of police has embarked on a plan of reducing the impact of Eureka’s crime wave by make all of us believe that crime is really down. Just ask anyone in any Eureka neighborhood if crime is down […]


by tuluwat examiner



Patrik Griego has schooled Humboldt county on its disaster of a Public Defenders office

Now that the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office is a shell of its former self, we hope the last year has been a teachable moment for the county’s shot-callers.

David Marcus lasted nine months as Public Defender, and we could all spend the next nine wondering aloud just who, exactly, thought it would be advisable to hire a public defender who hadn’t set foot inside a California courtroom since 2012.

(And now a reading from the Book of Rehash: State law requires job candidates for the post to have been a “practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding” their hire. Marcus previously worked for a Contra Costa County-based law firm between 2012 and 2017 on a contract basis — while living in Florida. Following Marcus’s February hiring, Eureka-based attorney Patrik Griego filed a lawsuit challenging the appointment; a visiting judge allowed the suit to continue in September; Griego dropped the suit following Marcus’s resignation on Thanksgiving eve.) That’s the short version, and it’s only cost the county nine months of an office in turmoil as attorney after attorney bolted. The true cost to Humboldt County’s justice system — which was already struggling with heavy caseloads before all this public defender drama — is incalculable.

The impact of this mess — on defendants, on crime victims, on taxpayers — is indefensible.

Some unsolicited advice to the Board of Supervisors, which meets Tuesday to appoint Kaleb Cockrum as interim public defender, on where to take things from here:

  • Good on you for selecting Cockrum — now working as the supervising attorney for Conflict Counsel, a division of the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office — as your interim pick. You’ve at least cleared the first hurdle there.

We wish him the best of luck stabilizing an office that’s just been through nine months of turmoil.

  • When you get around to appointing a permanent public defender, do include someone on your advisory committee who isn’t a district attorney or a sheriff. No disrespect to either; we’re sure everyone involved in the advisory committee preceding Marcus’s hire was and is a true civil servant passionately committed to the dispassionate exercise of justice. Even so, however well-intentioned, however closely they’ll work together in the future, having sitting district attorneys involved in picking their adversaries simply doesn’t past the smell test.
  • Finally, the whole process needs more sunshine. The Humboldt County justice system does not each day spring forth fully formed from the forehead of Zeus; mere mortals shape its policies and findings every day with decisions that resonate years into the future. People ought to be publicly accountable for the decisions they make with taxpayer money — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it might cost us all less of it.

The impact of this mess — on defendants, on crime victims, on taxpayers — is indefensible.

Time-Standard editorial 12-3-17

After zero time spent at the Borges Civil rights trial, Sheriff Honsal blows off the verdict of eight attentive jurors

Guest post from Bob Holcomb, a retired political science instructor and longtime friend of the decedent’s stepfather, was present for the entirety of the trial

On Aug. 28, a jury of eight Humboldt County citizens returned a unanimous verdict in federal court that sheriff’s office correctional staff had failed to provide medical care, as required by their own written policies, for Daren Borges, who died less than two hours after his booking. The jury-determined award to his mother Stephany Borges was $2.5 million. The legal fees and expenses over the 30 months it took to bring the case to trial will likely add an additional million. Representing Humboldt County, attorney Nancy Delaney has indicated she plans to appeal to have the verdict overturned, which will add substantially more to the costs and is a very long shot at best. As the presiding trial judge stated, “Let’s just be clear, the evidence was pretty substantial in a variety of ways — as I’ve said before — so the likelihood I’m going to overturn a verdict is pretty low.” Want to try the Ninth Circuit? Good luck with that!

Admittedly the “preponderance of evidence” is a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” required in a criminal case. Nonetheless, what had to be proven in this civil case to find a defendant culpable was significant. In the jury instructions, the plaintiffs were required to prove their claim that Mr. Borges’ civil rights had been denied by demonstrating:

  1. The defendant made an intentional decision with respect to the conditions under which Mr. Borges was confined.
  2. Those conditions put Daren Borges at serious risk of suffering serious harm.
  3. The defendant did not take reasonable available measures to abate that risk, even though a reasonable officer in the circumstances would have appreciated the high degree of risk involved — making the consequences of the defendant’s conduct obvious; and
  4. By not taking such measures, the defendant caused Daren Borges injuries.

Three defendants were found responsible on all four elements; a supervisor was exonerated.

So, we have another multimillion dollar judgment against

the sheriff’s correctional staff (remember the Cotton case) arrived at by local jurors who spent four and a half days listening to testimony, viewing videos and hearing arguments before 10 hours of deliberation. They not only found three officers at fault, they also found inadequate training had been provided for the staff by the sheriff’s office.

Given said results in this federal civil rights trial, what is the response of recently appointed Sheriff Honsal? According to “Jury awards $2.5M in jail death suit” (Times-Standard, Aug. 31, Page A1), he said the correctional officers did everything they were supposed to do. The unanimous eightmember jury sure didn’t see it that way. Of course the jury heard all the evidence and saw the entire video of Daren’s time in custody whereas Honsal’s involvement in the trial was zero. The unelected sheriff said Daren would have either died in jail or on the streets with the amount of methamphetamine found inside him. Guess Mr. Honsal has more knowledge than the emergency room physician with 30 years experience who testified that had Daren received a proper evaluation at the jail intake and been sent to the hospital at that point, he would be alive today. How certain was he about that? “One hundred percent.”

Bad enough that Mr. Honsal blows off the verdict of eight attentive jurors and gives no indication any remediation is likely. He then bizarrely suggests that Stephany Borges (who is nearing 70 and lives in Albuquerque) should track down the dealer who sold the drugs to Daren! Some might think that’s your responsibility, Sheriff Honsal, not the duty of a grieving mother.

2.5 Million reasons why Sheriff Honsal should start cleaning up his officers and their practices.

To begin with here is the grossly insensitive statement from our Sheriff:

Changes in the booking process for the Humboldt County jail were already in the works before Daren Borges died, Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said. One of the main differences in the process is the jail has a fulltime registered nurse who started in 2016.
But Honsal said he isn’t certain whether the presence of a registered nurse would have made a difference in Daren Borges’ death.“It’s really very difficult to say,” he said.
Annually there are more than 3,200 people brought into the jail who are suspected of being under the influence or drunk in public, according to Honsal.
He said Borges did not display signs out of the ordinary and the correctional officers did what they were supposed to do. A jail screening form noted “Daren was not oriented to self, date, time and place,” according to a statement from the Borges’ family’s attorneys.
“There sheriff’s office didn’t kill this person, the dealer did,” Honsal said, adding that while he is sorry for her loss, he believes Stephany Borges should be going after the person who supplied her son with the lethal dose of methamphetamine.
Honsal said Daren Borges would have either died in the streets or the jail with the amount of methamphetamine found inside him.
“This is a very difficult case,” Honsal said. “Our guys feel like they did everything possible.”

Guest post from Robert Poyourow Daren Borges’ step-father.

Had Sheriff Honsal attended the trial, as I did, he wouldn’t have made such statements.

The jury heard all the evidence and listened to these same arguments, and then decided UNANIMOUSLY that the county and the three officers were liable. The jury found Sheriff Downey and Officer Hershberger not liable. Honsal did not watch the jail videos. The jury did, and he should, too.

I am Daren Borges’ step-father. We lived in Eureka and I practiced law there until 2005. I attended the full trial and testified about my wife’s loss. I write this letter to add to the coverage in the hope that the additional evidence the jury heard will aid your readers. I will address three points.

Although the jail policy was adequate, the defendants weren’t following it. Instead, they testified that they felt free to improvise and take short cuts that violated written policies. That was deliberate, not negligent behavior. Even though the defendants’ own expert emphasized how critically important the written policies were, the officers argued in their testimony that they were just “guidelines” subject to their interpretation and discretion. Worse, the jail videos also showed that the required policies were violated. Daren was in acute distress. Policy required that Daren be oriented to himself. The officer’s form said he was not. The officers admitted that he was mumbling and incoherent. Policy required that a set of questions be posed (by them) and answered by the detainee; and if not, then the detainee must be taken to the hospital. The video made it clear that they didn’t, and couldn’t, complete the eight to 10-minute exercise on a detainee mumbling incoherently and in acute distress in the one to two minutes they said they took to complete their procedures. The video is clear.

Essentially, the officers short-circuited the policy, and substituted their own judgment for that of a qualified medical professional. They didn’t just err in that judgment, they failed to follow policy that required the judgment be made by others. The jury simply didn’t believe the officers. The jury understood, and rendered its verdict accordingly.

The case was not one of “negligence,” but the violation of a Constitutional right — a claim that involves much more than a simple error of judgment — an argument that the defense raised, but which the judge and the jury completely rejected. This Constitutional violation didn’t happen by accident. It was an intentional act when the officer knew or should have known that serious harm would follow. This is the “reasonable person” objective legal standard. It doesn’t matter, as the officers argued, “we didn’t intend harm.” Such a “subjective” standard is not the law, and it is hardly a standard at all. Such a standard would not even require the officers to follow their own policies.

Last, plaintiff’s emergency room physician expert explained that in over 200 meth overdose cases he had not lost one patient from an overdose, including many with higher doses than Daren! He testified that had Daren been taken to the emergency room he would have been saved. The amount in his system was toxic and fatal only because he received no treatment. Defendant’s expert pathologist had to agree. He concluded his testimony by admitting that only one out of 100 suffering such meth intoxication die from it if they are treated in time. The ones who have died are the ones he sees. Nor was he helpful when he admitted that he only dealt with dead people, and then testified that the last live patient he had seen was over 35 years ago.

The award was not just because we were sympathetic, although we were. Nor was it just because we had gifted and talented lawyers, though they were. The award is best understood because the jury heard all the evidence and found the officers were wrong under the law, and thus liable.

Now we know what happened, and so does the public. The county was found liable. Honsal has much to do, and it should start with cleaning up his officers and their practices.


2.5 Million civil rights Verdict Against Humboldt County for the killing of Daren Borges

McKinleyville Federal Jury Returns $2.5 Million Verdict Against Humboldt County for Role in Causing Jail Death

McKinleyville Federal Jury Returns $2.5 Million Verdict Against Humboldt County for Role in Causing Jail Death

Three County Correctional Officers Violated the Constitutional Rights of Daren Borges, 42

August 30, 2017 – Southern California-based attorneys representing the mother of Daren Borges, retired Humboldt State University professor Stephany Borges, obtained a $2.5 million verdict late Monday afternoon in the civil rights action arising from Daren’s death in a sobering cell at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility. Woodland Hills attorney Dale Galipo, and Torrance attorney John Fattahi, filed the lawsuit in 2015 on behalf of Ms. Borges against the County of Humboldt, the contracted jail medical provider California Forensic Medical Group, Incorporated (CFMG), the City of Eureka, and various individuals who failed to provide Daren with adequate medical care. The claims against CFMG were resolved by a $250,000 settlement, and the claims against the City of Eureka and its police officers were dismissed before trial.

The trial of the remaining claims against the County of Humboldt and its officers was conducted at the federal courthouse in McKinleyville before United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, whose chambers are in Oakland. An eight-person jury, consisting of six men and two women, heard evidence starting on Monday, August 21. Closing arguments were held on Friday, August 25, and the jury  returned its verdict on Monday following ten hours of deliberations.

The jury found unanimously that Correctional Officers Terri Bittner, David Swim, and Tim Hammer violated Daren’s right to adequate medical care under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution during his brief detention on June 13, 2014. It also found that the County was liable for having official policies, customs, practices, and/or training programs, that were the “moving force” of the officers’ violation of Daren’s constitutional rights. The $2.5 million award consisted of compensatory damages for the harm suffered by Daren and his mother.

Daren was taken into custody after a concerned citizen called to report that he was behaving erratically, including taking off his clothes and hitting his head on the ground. In fact, Daren suffered from schizophrenia and was apparently having a psychiatric episode on the day in question. Jail personnel were familiar with Daren’s mental health issues as they had been administering psychiatric medications to him when they released him from the jail just four days before his death. The arresting Eureka police officer testified that he told jail officers Daren was highly under the influence of methamphetamine and was reported to be hitting his head on the ground. Based on Daren’s condition, the officer expected them to call a nurse to evaluate him immediately, including taking his vital signs. According to the officer, when Daren entered the jail he was profusely sweating, had a blank stare, was unable to control his body movements, and was unable to answer any of the jail officers’ questions. Even the jail’s screening form, which the defendants did not fill out until after they placed him in the sobering cell, noted that Daren was not oriented to self, date, time, and place.

Witnesses testified that there were multiple reasons why the officers should have called a nurse to immediately evaluate Daren before taking custody of him. A nurse almost certainly would have recommended that he be transported to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s hospital where he would have received needed treatment, including sedation and cold intravenous fluids, which would have prevented his death from the toxic effects of methamphetamine. Instead, the officers put Daren in a sobering cell and again failed to call for immediate medical attention when his condition deteriorated. When he plunged his head and clothing in toilet water in an attempt to cool himself off from the hyperthermia that is common in methamphetamine overdoses, and exhibited the classic signs of a life-threatening condition known as excited delirium, the officers claimed he looked like he was “having fun.” They conducted 15-minute “safety checks” of his cell and watched him on a video monitor, but ignored his obvious signs of distress. Many of the checks lasted only 1-2 seconds—not long enough to tell whether he was breathing regularly—and the officers did not attempt to get any response from Daren while he lay motionless on his stomach for 45 minutes.

The jury’s finding that the County’s deficient customs and training directly caused Daren’s death is significant and sends a strong message that reforms are overdue. The 2007 death of Martin Cotton II in a sobering cell alerted jail administrators to deficiencies in the medical screening process, but the jail compliance officer’s recommendations went unheeded. In fact, the County replaced her with one of the correctional officers who violated County policies during Cotton’s detention, Duane Christian, who acted as the County’s designated representative during last week’s trial. While reviewing Daren’s death, top jail administrators including Christian were made aware of a recommendation by Dr. Jonathan Greenberg from Humboldt County Mental Health that intoxicated persons coming to the jail must have their vital signs taken, and if they are either delirious or have abnormal vital signs, they must be transferred to the emergency room. Yet the County made no changes to its policies or training as a result of Daren’s death.

“This verdict will save lives, and we are thankful that the jury reaffirmed the truth that all people, even the mentally ill, have rights and their lives have value,” said Ms. Borges. “We brought this lawsuit because we never want this to happen to anyone else, and we hope that the jury’s message is heard and received by the jail administration. We hope the officers finally get the training they urgently need to take care of those who can no longer take care of themselves during arrest.” Ms. Borges added, “My family and I are so grateful to our lawyers who were willing to make sure Daren’s voice was heard when he was unable to speak for himself.”

According to Galipo, “It was abundantly clear that Daren was in dire need of medical assistance and these officers totally sidestepped their duty to care for him while he was in their custody.” “There is no question that many of the County’s written policies designed to prevent such deaths were routinely ignored and violated as a matter of standard operating procedure, not only in this case, but in other cases such as the death of Martin Cotton,” said Galipo.

According to Fattahi, jail administrators “not only ignored Dr. Greenberg’s recommendation to remedy these flawed medical screening practices, they even proclaimed that the officers did a great job and acted according to policies and procedures. We sincerely hope that following this verdict, the jail will train officers to follow its own written policies, and that whenever there is any question that someone may be too intoxicated to be in a sobering cell or may be in medical distress, they should call a nurse to take vital signs immediately so that people do not keep dying in these sobering cells. More business as usual is clearly not the answer.”

Attorneys for Ms. Borges believe there are no legitimate grounds for appeal because the judge had the jury apply a more stringent legal standard than they argued was appropriate, and both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court have recently decided that the standard for similar constitutional claims is objective, not subjective as argued by the County’s attorneys. Galipo and Fattahi intend to file a motion on Ms. Borges’s behalf to recover attorneys’ fees and litigation costs from the County under the federal civil rights laws. According to Fattahi, “A considerable amount of time and resources had to be expended due to the case’s complexity and the County’s stalwart defense.”

There was no settlement offer from the County prior to the verdict. It is expected that most or all of the damages, fees, and costs will be paid by the County’s insurance carrier. The County and its officers were represented at trial by Nancy Delaney, Nicholas Kloeppel, and Amy Hunt of the Eureka law firm of Mitchell, Brisso, Delaney & Vrieze.

About Dale Galipo

Dale Galipo is an attorney specializing in civil rights law based in Woodland Hills. His office currently is handling approximately sixty wrongful death police misconduct cases. Galipo was the lead attorney in the Cotton case, in which a settlement was reached with Humboldt County, then a jury awarded Cotton’s family $4,575,000 against the City of Eureka and its officers for using excessive force and being deliberately indifferent to Cotton’s medical needs.

About John Fattahi

John Fattahi is a Torrance-based civil rights attorney with an emphasis on police excessive force. For more information, please visit

AHHA, therefore, requests that Eureka withdraw its RFP for a “day center”

Humboldt County, and its economic and administrative center, the city of Eureka, has a large population of un-housed families and individuals.  As a result, complaints have arisen from the Eureka business community that the homeless, who have no real place to go, are creating an untidy environment.  The city has appointed one half time position to address this situation.  That position is in the police department and is filled by a person with no apparent background or expertise in homeless issues.  Eureka, like the county, offers no housing options for the people on the streets.  It appears that the more or less unspoken strategy of these local governments is to make life in this community so difficult for the homeless that they will simply “self-deport.”  Other local governments throughout the nation initially adopted that same strategy but many are now recognizing that that is untenable and are working with their own resources and volunteers to provide housing.  Humboldt refuses to seek much of the financial assistance offered by the federal government and generally does not try to work with volunteer organizations.  Indeed Eureka and Humboldt have so alienated the volunteer entities that they have not been able to comply with the federally mandated “Point in Time” count to ascertain the true number of homeless within their boundaries.  Reliable estimates are that there are presently thousands of homeless within the county.

Over the years the Eureka police sought to encourage/coerce these people to congregate in the Palco Marsh, a remnant of the city’s once viable lumber industry.  A little over a year ago the city evicted the approximately 400 people living in the marsh.  Prior to the eviction the city, through its police chief, promised that all the residents of the marsh would not be made to leave until there was another place for them to legally live…  The city did not keep this promise and as a result, the individuals living in the marsh became not only homeless but place less.  Earlier this year the police floated the idea of cutting off all volunteer services to this community by severely limiting parking in the neighborhood where homeless folks congregate.  The city also asked volunteer providers to refuse to supply food and emergency shelter to anyone who had not been given police supplied vouchers.  Previously the city has outlawed people sleeping in cars and begging for food and has fenced off the sidewalks on which the displaced congregated.  The city’s transportation committee did not agree with the parking proposal and the volunteer providers did not agree to cease providing services.

The city has now issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) asking for interested entities to propose means to create and operate a “day center” that would only provide a place for homeless persons to go during the day rather than being on the streets during the day.  At night, they would have to leave to sleep in the bushes, doorways, and under business eaves throughout the city. The city has made no offer to fund its proposal, has made no attempt to provide a place for the “day center” and has steadfastly refused to address the question of where the homeless might actually live.

Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA) has been attempting to address the issue of homeless in Humboldt for the last few years.  AHHA is aware of the concerns of the business community, and others, who have experienced damage and are inconvenienced by the presence of the homeless community.  Homelessness is a significant problem throughout the nation and especially in areas where housing costs have risen beyond the means of many families and individuals whose income is not significantly above the average family income in the region.

AHHA recognizes that homelessness is a problem for the community as a whole and that Humboldt and Eureka are unwilling to devote any significant resources to the problem.  But AHHA also understands that the problem is not going to go away and that refusal to address it has led to great suffering and the waste of police and medical resources and to economic and social disquiet among the business community and the population as a whole.  We also recognize that creation of an unfunded “day center”, will have no positive impact on the situation.  Indeed it will almost certainly lead to costly litigation, both civil and criminal, and further community disruption.

AHHA, therefore, requests that Eureka, in cooperation with Humboldt, withdraw its request for a proposal for a “day center” and instead ask that they, in cooperation with the various concerned volunteer, business and other government entities, come forth with a proposal that will allow a meaningful solution to the problem.

As communities around the country grapple with homelessness, numerous models are developing which could be adapted to and adopted by Humboldt.  AHHA suggests that initially Humboldt and Eureka provide resources to assist the homeless community and concerned citizens to establish refuges for residents who happen to be houseless.  Initially, these refugees might begin as camps with centralized feeding, sanitary and socializing facilities.  These camps, which would not need to be in immediate proximity to residential neighborhoods but would need to provide access to social services, could start out composed of temporary shelters.  They would be as self-governing and self-policing as possible.  The initial focus of the refugees would be the implementation of a strategy of “safe, warm and dry” first and then would begin to try to develop enduring solutions.  One of the models is a transitioning of shelter housing into very low cost “tiny house” communities.  These communities would presage enabling those folks who can live independently to do so.  Many of the homeless will almost certainly require ongoing social services to deal with their physical and psychological situations.  Ultimately these steps will lead to happier, more wholesome, cheaper and far more humane situations than the current strategy of trying to drive the homeless community away.

AHHA asks Humboldt and Eureka to issue a new RFP calling for the creation of refugee communities in appropriate locations in the county.  We stand ready to assist and take responsibility for and, in conjunction with others acting in good faith, to offer leadership in this effort.

Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives Board of Directors



Contact:  Edie Jessup, AHHA Board Secretary

1981 Peninsula Drive, Manila, Ca 95521



Roy Dahlberg, AHHA Board

2585 Patrick’s Pt. Dr., Trinidad CA 95570

(707) 677-0377, (916) 747-1944