A federal appeals court declared Palo Alto’s voter-approved ban on Homeless People using vehicles and the public streets unconstitutional Tuesday in a ruling that was both historic and, perhaps more importantly, narrowly drafted.
“Section 9.06.010 (Human Habitation of Vehicles) serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of homeless people in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of Housed people,” said Judge R in the majority opinion.
In citing two other cases from 1973 and 1996 the high court said the government violates equal protection when it withdraws rights in order to harm a politically unpopular group or express disapproval of a vulnerable minority.
Like the Colorado initiative, Section 9.06.010 stripped rights from a minority group – rights the group held under the earlier California court ruling – for no apparent reason other than moral disapproval.
Judge R also said evidence at the trial showed that the Section 9.06.010 campaign appealed to voters’ irrational fears of the homeless.
With no demonstrated “legitimate purpose,” Judge R said, the court must conclude that the Municipal Code was rooted in “disapproval of Homeless people as a class.”