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Downtown San Diego Sunset. (Photo: Dancestrokes/Shutterstock)

San Diego Proposes Ordinance to Ban Homeless Tents on Public Property

Ordinance would not give homeless the option to refuse moving off of public property

By Evan Symon, March 17, 2023 6:18 pm

San Diego City Councilman Stephen Whitburn, with the support of Mayor Todd Gloria, proposed a new ordinance on Thursday to ban tents and other makeshift structures from public property while also not giving them a chance to say “No” to any city official demand to move.

Recent reports found around 4,800 homeless within San Diego, with around 2,000 in the Downtown area alone. Complaints against the homeless have also gone up in the city in recent years. Combined with Los Angeles’ recent homeless ordinances that have banned them from most public areas and an extended ban to nearby schools and daycare centers, city officials in San Diego began to feel emboldened to introduce more homeless bans.

“Sympathy has run in many cities,” Jaime Margolis told the Globe on Friday. Margolis is an LA-based homeless advocate who specializes in finding housing placement for the homeless. “People want their sidewalks back. They don’t want the smells there anymore. They don’t want the open drug use. They don’t want human feces there. They want to feel safe. And the removal of tents and other encampments from public places has been the end result.”

This led to Councilman Whitburn’s proposal on Thursday. According to the ordinance, camping would be banned on public property, including sidewalks and city parks. While the ban is total, for it to be enforceable, the city has to provide shelter space for the homeless. The only exception that can avoid the shelter space caveat would be any encampment within a two-block radius of homeless shelters, schools or public parks, of which the ban would be total. A workaround to avoid the shelter space requirement is also in the works, with another ordinance that would allow safe-sleeping car lots to also allow tents to be set up for overnight use.

Proposal brings support from SD lawmakers, Mayor

At the ordinance proposal unveiling on Thursday, Councilman Whitburn highlighted the need for safety, both for residents and for those in the encampments.

“We’ve heard too many stories of people camping on our streets who have been randomly attacked, stabbed to death or even set on fire,” noted Whitburn. “These encampments are unsafe. They are also a danger to our neighborhoods.”

Mayor Gloria added, “I want to be clear, once we have these resources in place, the answer from our homeless population can no longer be ‘No’. They cannot say no to leaving the sidewalk or no that they prefer being on the street or no to services and help. When we ask you to come off the street and we have a place for you to go, ‘No’ is not an acceptable answer.”

Homeless advocates immediately opposed the proposed ordinance, saying it criminalized the homeless, and that they had no where else to go. Concern was also raised a lack of available shelter space, and that many would be forced to go to select areas within the city that allow tents, such as private parking lots. However, at the same time, many neighborhood groups and citizen organizations praised the proposed ordinance, as it would directly go after the homeless problem in the city and lead to public areas being clear once again.

“We’ve felt unsafe for a long time when simply trying to enjoy a walk in a park or even, in some cases, leaving our home,” said Mary Michaels, a San Diego resident and neighborhood watch leader, to the Globe on Friday. “A lot of us have been awakened at night by homeless people going through our trash or using our hoses without permission and, in many cases, have even had human poop on our lawns after someone stayed the night in an RV. This is a good first step in making San Diego safe. A lot of us are more on the liberal side, but on at least this issue, we all sort of unite on the same side in not wanting them here.”

The ordinance is expected to be voted on soon.

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Evan Symon
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2 thoughts on “San Diego Proposes Ordinance to Ban Homeless Tents on Public Property

  1. I’m sure they already have laws on the books against camping on public property. They just choose to ignore them because their leaders are woke, corrupt and stupid!!

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