ATASCADERO — A homeless encampment located between Highway 101 and the Atascadero Smart & Final store at Curbaril Avenue and El Camino Real was cleared this week with the Atascadero Police Department arresting four subjects at the camp for outstanding warrants and Caltrans crews clearing out the mess left behind.
“We have a camping ordinance we do enforce here in town,” Sgt. Caleb Davis with the Atascadero Police Department said. “If it’s within the city limits and not the 101 right-of-way, the public works department would respond to our request after the camp is cleared out of people. (We would) post, mark it and let them know that their belongings will be removed if they don’t remove it themselves. Then in an appropriate time frame we would remove their belongings.”
Caltrans is the main agency in charge of clean up and posting of notices for encampments along Highway 101 and outside the city limits, California Highway Patrol is the agency that will assist with helping to clear the camps of people. Caltrans will call CHP in advance to clear out the camps and to ensure safety when maintenance crews clean up.
“Caltrans will post in advance so they can take their valuables and move on,” said Officer Patrick Seebart with the California Highway Patrol.
Caltrans representative Jim Shivers said that their maintenance crews are responsible for clearing out the camps that occur between the two lanes and up to the fence.
“Before we clean up, we post large 72-hour notices, which allows the citizen to gather their belongings,” Shivers said. “We are aware of some camps and in a matter of days after cleanup and repairing of fences, we find them cut again.”
Caltrans owns or controls 350,000 acres of highway right-of-way and maintains 15,133 centerline miles of highway and 13,063 state highway bridges.
“We do our best to respond to these encampment locations as best as we can,” Shivers said. “We can only deal with what happens with the state or Caltrans right-of-way, our jurisdiction.”
Davis said that Atascadero police responded to the encampment March 6 and arrested four occupants of the camp for outstanding warrants.
“That one is constant,” he said. “We are always over there trying to clean that spot up. We’re currently working with the business owner and we are definitely aware of that area.”
Davis said that a code enforcement officer was recently hired to work with businesses on homeless issues, “to work with businesses and get the best solution possible put in place as soon as possible.”
As of March 7, the camp behind Smart & Final appeared to have been cleared out.
If citizens see a camp or an area of concern within the city limits, even if it’s in the Highway 101 right-of-way, they can report the activity to the Atascadero Police Department.
Outside of Atascadero, contact Caltrans via phone at (916) 654-2852 or 1-(800) 427-7623 or submit a submit a customer service request online by choosing “illegal encampment” from the drop down menu of the Caltrans website at https://csr.dot.ca.gov/. Reports will also be accepted by the California Highway Patrol or your local law enforcement agency.
Photos courtesy of Caltrans District 5.