Ordinance change necessitated by U.S. court decisions, ballot measures, and state legislation
ATASCADERO—The Atascadero City Council met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. The hybrid meeting was held in the City Council Chambers.
The agenda passed unanimously.
Items one, two, three, and five on the Consent Calendar passed unanimously as well. Item four, Affordable Housing Development Impact Fee Deferral Policy Resolution Adoption and Second Reading of Ordinance was placed on the calendar after the Sept. 12 meeting due to two items that needed additional discussion in regard to those fee deferrals. After a small conversation, Item four also passed unanimously.
Interim Police Chief Joe Allen presented the council with an Ordinance Regulating Camping in Areas of the City.
“The ordinance before you was written from a standpoint of dealing with stuff and dealing with camps and really looking at that and not so much the individual,” said City Manager Jim Lewis before Allen began his presentation. “We’re working on helping and housing the individuals with compassion. But as we saw, when people have stuff, and it starts building and impacting public spaces and safety and health and the welfare of our community, we needed a tool. The ordinance before you tonight is written from a perspective of giving us a tool to deal with stuff.”
Allen said that Atascadero looks to help the homeless population from a person-to-person case, citing the city’s partnership with San Luis Obispo Behavior Health and El Camino Homeless Organization, along with a mental health crisis worker and a social worker.
“We are engaging in camp clean-ups every single day,” he said. “This is at a city’s expense to try to keep these camps from polluting our creeks, polluting our sidewalks. There are certain health and safety needs that we’re trying to meet for community members as well as the folks that are unhoused right now.”
The original prohibited camping ordinance, adopted in 2013 in Atascadero, prohibits camping on any public land. Due to the Martin v. Boise and Johnson v. City of Grants Pass decisions, along with ballot measures and state legislation, Atascadero needed to change the current ordinance.
“The proposed draft ordinance should regulate time, place, and manner of camping. It will regulate vehicle habitation on private and public property. It’s developed through a collaborative effort through many if not all, city departments,” added Allen.
The first recommendation was for council to adopt Draft Urgency Ordinance A repealing and replacing, in its entirety, Title 5, Chapter 15 (Prohibited Camping) of the Atascadero Municipal Code, to better define prohibited camping on public and private property; regulate storage of personal property on public property; and establish time, manner, and place regulations for camping by necessity.
Mayor Heather Moreno asked Allen to go into more detail on time, manner, and place for the public. Camping by necessity means that the unhoused person does not have a bed available to them, and camping is the only option.
“The time element is that they could camp between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.,” said Allen.
Places where camping is prohibited within 500 feet of in Atascadero are City Hall, Centennial Plaza, Atascadero Public Library, Atascadero Transit Center, Colony Park Community Center, Atascadero Lake Pavilion, Atascadero Zoo, Faces of Freedom Veteran’s Memorial, and La Plaza on El Camino. Camping is also banned within 500 feet of a school; 500 feet of the banks of the Salinas River, Atascadero Creek, or Graves Creek; the entirety of the San Juan Bautista Anza historic trail corridor; areas of parks, athletic fields, sports courts, irrigated or landscaped areas, park playgrounds, synthetic turf areas, and park picnic areas; within 500 feet of any bridge highway underpass or highway overpass or, any freeway on-ramps or offramps, and high fire zones. In addition, camping is prohibited within 100 feet of private property, with signs posted stating it is not permitted.
The council debated the 500 feet regulation, but in the end, decided not to change it.
Councilmember Heather Newsom shared that she was raised homeless as a child and teenager and that she and her family lived out of a car. She added that she did not think that the 500 feet footprint should be reduced, especially around schools. She also praised ECHO for all of the work that they’re doing with the unhoused population in the community and gifting them bags for their belongings.
“I think our community has really done an outstanding job addressing those issues, so when I look at this ordinance, I don’t feel offended as a former homeless person,” stated Newsom.
The motion passed unanimously, including introducing the first reading, by title only, Draft Ordinance B repealing and replacing, in its entirety, Title 5, Chapter 15 (Prohibited Camping) of the Atascadero Municipal Code, to better define prohibited camping on public and private property; regulate storage of personal property on public property; and establish time, manner, and place regulations for camping by necessity.
The next Atascadero City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 6 p.m.