Oroville Mercury-Register

Airport site closure leaves many without a plan

People have until Sunday to leave

- By Riley Blake rblake@chicoer.com

CHICO » As Chico’s airport resting site entered its final official day open, people at the site Friday expressed one general feeling: uncertaint­y.

The city opened the site June 25 following a temporary restrainin­g from Judge Morrison C. England on April 11 to stop the enforcemen­t of anti-camping ordinances until enough shelter space was available in the city — a law establishe­d by the Martin v. Boise ruling in 2018.

The opening of the site was followed by a July 2 hearing between the city and eight homeless plaintiffs alleging the city had treated them unlawfully in the eyes of Martin v. Boise.

In court, the site located next to the Chico Municipal Airport was questioned by the plaintiffs’ attorneys as well as England as to whether or not it should qualify as a “shelter” without being a structure and having no electricit­y or running water.

The closure

The city announced Monday that it would be permanentl­y shutting down the airport site after nearly three months. Security guards posted near the entrance Friday said they hadn’t been informed how the eviction would take place, stating they were unaware if the police would arrive to force campers to leave or campers

would be expected to leave on their own.

City Manager Mark Orme later confirmed on Friday, while the official final day was Friday, people at the site would have Saturday and Sunday to leave.

David Fitch, who was in the middle of packing up his RV before leaving, said he still hadn’t made a plan because he wasn’t aware of a legal place to park.

“I heard Comanche Creek,

but I don’t know. That’d be pretty chaotic especially with what looks like 50 trailers here. I’m sure it’s already overpopula­ted now,” Fitch said. “To bring all these people and their kids — it just wouldn’t be a good mix.”

Fitch added he hasn’t experience­d any communicat­ion from the city as to the next steps in the shut down of the airport site except for the initial notice to vacate.

“I was hoping that maybe the city would come out today and have some kind of transition planned or something to say to us, not just give us the boot,” Fitch said. “Regardless, I’ll do what I’ve got to do and figure it out.”

Since the closure of the site was announced, no official word has been given by the city on where campers can lawfully stay.

While she took down a canopy, Camp Fire survivor Brenda Singer said she doesn’t know what the next step is either.

“I just don’t really know where I’m going to go,” Singer said. “I’ve got a motor home.”

Singer added she’s currently waiting for a trust payment and when she receives it, hopes she will be back on her feet. Until then, the airport was her temporary home.

“Homelessne­ss is a choice — although maybe for people up in Paradise it wasn’t a choice,” Singer said. “Not everybody here throws their trash away, not everybody puts their septic where it needs to go. We’re on the runway of the airport basically. But it’s not really the responsibi­lity of the city to take care of me because I’m an adult.

Ferman Ramirez, who said he’s been at the site since the first week it opened, is still weighing the options. Ramirez added with a landscapin­g business, he has equipment he can’t easily store.

“They put us out here and now they’re telling us we got to leave. This came out of the blue to me,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said despite staying at the site, he doesn’t think it was well planned — pointing to an abrupt ending without any alternativ­e places in the city to go.

“It was a bad idea when it started. They got us all out here and now they’re telling us we’ve got to go. Code enforcemen­t people have told me to go to Hamilton, Corning — if I did, they’re just going to do the same thing (Chico) is doing,” Ramirez said. “Instead of trying to help us, they’re trying to shove us somewhere else and make us somebody else’s problem where we’re out of their sight.”

As of Saturday, the city will have no sanctioned camping areas. While the city has laws against public camping, due to the city’s litigation in the Warren v. Chico case, no anti-camping ordinances can be enforced until a resolution is met. Once a resolution is met, the city will still be responsibl­e for following the law establishe­d by Martin v. Boise.

 ?? RILEY BLAKE — ENTERPRISE-RECORD ?? A sign sits beside the large canopy Friday at the airport site in Chico.
RILEY BLAKE — ENTERPRISE-RECORD A sign sits beside the large canopy Friday at the airport site in Chico.

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