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Judge denies Phoenix extra time to clear 'The Zone' homeless encampment

By Naomi DuBovis
Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 5:40pm
Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2023 - 2:37pm

Tents lining a street in the Zone homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix
Tim Agne/KJZZ
Tents lining a street in “The Zone” homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix in March 2023.

A judge on Tuesday denied the city of Phoenix’s legal request seeking extra time to clean up the city’s largest homeless encampment.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney ruled in September that Phoenix must permanently clear the encampment on the edge of downtown by Nov. 4. The city asked for a stay pending a second appeal over that timing.

But Blaney ruled that Phoenix had already appealed the court’s March 27 preliminary injunction and the order “relied upon nearly identical factual findings and legal conclusions.”

The judge said the plaintiffs “face much greater hardship if the court were to delay implementation of its ruling."

Business owners and residents near the encampment have called it a public nuisance that subjects their properties to damage, litter and crime.

City officials began shutting down the homeless encampment known as “The Zone” in May under an order by Blaney, but they had asked to be given until April 2024 to complete the job.

Lawyers for the city said the cleanup process takes time, including making sure those who live there have somewhere else to go.

They said Phoenix is developing a space nearby with tents and temporary restroom facilities as an alternative, has increased the number of police officers working in the area and has nearly tripled its funding on confronting issues of homelessness.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30 to verify that Phoenix complied with the November deadline.

Phoenix council approves structured campground

The Phoenix City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to build a structured campground for those living there on Sept. 20.

The city says the campground will provide showers and restrooms along with 24/7 security. It will also give priority to those situated near the Human Services Campus.

Timothy Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute said it took the city too long to address the issues "The Zone" created for neighboring businesses.

"Destroying their livelihoods, wrecking their buildings as a result of the city’s refusal to enforce laws against camping and loitering and public defecation and urination in "The Zone" for well over a year now," Sandefur said.

The Goldwater Institute filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of business suing the city, claiming "The Zone" created a public nuisance.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the date that the Phoenix City Council passed the ordinance to build a structured campground.

VIDEO: Hear from someone in 'The Zone' as Phoenix clears another block of homeless encampment

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