Marin County has received the green light from a federal judge to keep managing an encampment of recreational vehicles along Binford Road by removing residents’ personal property for storage or disposal.

Legal representatives for encampment residents filed a request for a temporary restraining order last week seeking to stop the county from clearing the area.

The county contends it needs to ensure water quality at the Rush Creek Preserve and maintain safe public access to the two-lane road and its unpaved shoulder north of Novato. It runs parallel to U.S. 101, between the preserve to the east and businesses to the west.

A county program collects property that cannot be safely stored either inside, underneath, or on top of an RV at the site. Property is stored or destroyed with permission from the owner, according to the county.

“County staff removes dangerous or excess materials accumulated along the public right-of-way that present safety concerns or are environmental hazards,” said Marin County Sheriff Jamie Scardina.

County records show the encampment began with about a dozen vehicles in 2020 as people’s income and living situations were challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. By August of last year, it had grown to 115 residents and 150 vehicles, including personal vehicles.

Efforts to provide services and rehousing options were adopted by the Board of Supervisors in August. By December the encampment had been reduced to 101 residents and 132 vehicles. As of Friday, a county spokesperson said there were 90 people living at the encampment at 50 sites.

“Our goal all along has been to help individuals attain safe housing and provide key supports and services with a coordinated, compassionate and service-oriented response.”

Lisa Warhuus, Marin County Health and Human Services

A grant in April for more than $3.7 million from the state’s Encampment Resolution Fund is bolstering the county’s plan to house residents. The county is seeking to rehouse at least half of the residents at the Binford encampment within two years and the rest within three years.

Lisa Warhuus, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Department, said the county has helped provide other housing for 25 former encampment residents since August, with 12 more already identified for other housing.

“Our goal all along has been to help individuals attain safe housing and provide key supports and services with a coordinated, compassionate and service-oriented response,” Warhuus said.

District 5 Supervisor Eric Lucan, who represents much of Novato, said the county was prioritizing both rehousing residents and protecting local water quality.

“We must focus on helping residents transition to safe housing while working to protect the sensitive habitat along the water,” he said. “We’ve made progress, but our goal remains to identify housing options with an open, collaborative and humane approach.”