Shelter on the edge of town

In response to lawsuit, city of Chico proposes temporary 571-space site at airport facility

Encampments in Lower Bidwell Park pre-sweeps. The city's latest response is to set up a large-scale temporary shelter near the Chico Municipal Airport.

Legal documents filed by the city of Chico on Monday (June 21) claim a temporary shelter facility at the Chico Municipal Airport is set up and ready to begin providing tent and parking space for unhoused individuals.

The city issued a press release this afternoon (June 22) saying the site will open Friday at 8 a.m.

The court filings—a supplemental brief and attached letters from city staff and others related to an ongoing lawsuit filed by Legal Services of Northern California on behalf of eight local homeless plaintiffs—also offer the first glimpse at the city’s plans to address the lack of local shelter as demanded by a U.S. District Court.

As described in the supplemental brief, the airport site “consists of a graded pad that is divided into a total of 571 temporary shelter spaces.” The bulk of those spaces—421—are 20 by 20 feet, and 150 are 10 by 20 feet, and can accommodate cars or tents.

The area is fenced off and includes two 275-water gallon potable water tanks, two hand-washing stations, three portable toilets and one shade tent. The city will provide free transportation to the shelter from the downtown transit center four times daily. The city has hired trash, sanitation and security services to service the airport site, but is still searching for someone to manage the location, according to the brief.

According to the document, the airport shelter is meant to be temporary, with more permanent shelter space to be developed at the city-owned property where the Silver Dollar BMX track is located.

The brief argues that the airport site provides adequate shelter in line with Judge Morrison C. England Jr.’s directive that the city complies with the landmark Martin v. Boise case, and requests that the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction be denied.

“Adding the 120 spaces at the Torres Shelter, 58 spaces at the Jesus Center together with the 571 spaces now available at the Airport Shelter results in a total of 749 shelter spaces in Chico,” it reads. “Consequently, the City now has more than enough shelter space available for the entire homeless population required by Martin for the City to resume enforcement of its anti-camping ordinances.”

Following several postponements, a hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for July 2.

The CN&R reached out to Legal Services of Northern California and multiple Chico City Council members for comment, but had not received responses by publication.


  1. A plot of fenced land with 571 open shelter spaces on “a graded pad”, with three portable toilets. This is a description of an open sewer planned by the conservative city council. The same council that will provide one-way transportation only, away from close access to food and goods, from the city to the open sewer. I live close to the airport and will be calling each conservative councilor every time a breeze brings me the fragrant bouquet.

    • Sadly, many will never understand homelessness. Empathy training might help, as long as a friend brings a friend who feels “out of sight, out of mind” works best. All could spend a night with the clothes on their backs as they wander around (permits willing). The leader would have a cell phone for emergencies, but all should be “down on their luck.” I would love to sit in on the discussions after that night on the town. I can only hope it would move things forward for the homeless and hungry.

  2. This is so cruel and dishonest. No way is this any kind of solution for anyone including the homeless! Citizens have presented many options and each one the conservatives have rejected and torn to shreds. We are making decisions for PEOPLE, fellow citizens of Chico. We treat stray animals better. This agenda must be met with a resounding NO!

  3. The City’s new homeless shelter plan location violates established shelter placement planning criteria. *
    Right next to the runway, sound issues will make regular sleep patterns impossible. Air craft have maximum exhaust at takeoff creating toxic clouds that will waft over people next to the runway. This location is unwalkable in that Airport Service Rd. off of Hicks Ln., does not have sidewalks, and is farther from services than planning criteria recommends. The site is desolate (not a tree or a bush in sight), and isolation issues (good luck getting to and from a job). This plan violates the maximum population numbers established for a successful campground (50); and heat issues that, as a location for pets, under some circumstances would get you arrested. The crushed rock on asphalt surface has sharp edges that make walking on it hazardous. The asphalt ground is a dark color tone that makes for an extreme heat island effect, (140* surface temperature on a summer day is possible). These, among other issues, make the City’s current choice for a location ineffective and potentially hazardous.


    Charles Withuhn, North State Shelter Team

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