Four suspected drug dealers were granted access to San Francisco’s heavily drug-infested and crime ridden Tenderloin district by a California appeals judge despite the city’s attempts to bar them from the area.
The city had named Christian Noel Padilla-Martel, Victor Zelaya, 27, Jarold Sanchez, 23, and Guadaloupe Aguilar-Benegas, 28, as individuals who should be banned from the district, saying they had been “engaged in the illegal sale of controlled substances.” But Justice Marla Miller said the city was infringing on the constitutional right to travel.
“The court determined that excluding defendants from such a large area in the center of San Francisco implicates the constitutional right to intrastate travel … and the City failed to meet its evidentiary burden of convincing the court that its proposed remedy was sufficiently tailored to minimally infringe upon the protected interests at stake,” Miller wrote.
Padilla Martel, who had been arrested three times on drug charges, claimed he needed access to the district to see his young son living with his grandparents; Zelaya, also arrested three times, said he wanted to visit his two daughters from a prior relationship; Aguilar-Benegas. who has been arrested five times and is pregnant, said her ultrasound needed to be taken in the district.
Jen Kwart, a spokesman for the San Francisco City attorney, reacted to Miller’s decision, saying, “We are currently evaluating potential next steps, and we will continue to look for ways to use civil law to promote and increase public safety in the Tenderloin.”
“San Francisco Police reported about 600 drug-dealing arrests in 2020, with 40 percent of the 699 fatal overdoses reported that year taking place in Tenderloin and the city’s South Market neighborhood,” The Daily Mail noted, adding, “In Tenderloin specifically, police seized over $280,000 in cash from drug bust and collected more than 18 kilograms of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl in 2020.”
“Faced with a stunning rise in drug overdose deaths the last few years, the vast majority tied to fentanyl, San Francisco has launched mobile teams made up of paramedics and nurses,” NPR reported in November 2021.