Rules blocking criminals from public housing deemed illegal 

The San Francisco Housing Authority was handed a a major setback Wednesday by a Superior Court judge who ruled that a man was illegally barred from visiting San Francisco’s public housing developments because of his criminal past.

Starting in about 2007, the San Francisco Housing Authority began using civil injunctions to help reduce crime in The City’s public housing sites. One man, Marcus Johnson, was specifically prohibited from visiting those sites and was arrested for contempt of court four times in seven months for violating the injunction.

At the time of each arrest, Johnson was visiting his young children, who live with their mother in the Yerba Buena Plaza East development in the Western Addition, according to the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Johnson was prohibited from visiting public housing because over a period of two years he was arrested for assaulting and robbing women, smoking crack, selling marijuana, robbing a man of his laptop and stealing a car on or near the Yerba Buena Plaza East housing development, according to a complaint from the Housing Authority.

The Public Defender’s Office and the American Civil Liberties Union picked up the case and argued that the injunction violated Johnson’s constitutional rights. Judge Richard Ulmer agreed, ruling that it impeded on Johnson’s right to see his children and to even “exist” in San Francisco.

There are approximately 50 individuals who are living under the same injunction and the ACLU is working to lift all of those injunctions.

The Housing Authority is reviewing the ruling and will proceed with the advice of lawyers, according to spokeswoman Rose Dennis.

“We’re going to continue working with the District Attorneys’ Office and San Francisco police to pursue legal channels that are feasible to prevent and reduce crime in public housing sites,” Dennis said. 

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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Brent Begin

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