A city councilmember in El Cajon has proposed rescinding the controversial ordinance that prohibits people from giving food to the homeless in city parks.
In a January 18 memo, councilmember Ben Kalasho said that as the hepatitis A outbreak nears the end so, too, should the ordinance.
The city council approved the ordinance in October of last year, at the height of the local epidemic. At the time, councilmembers said the ordinance was needed to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
But the ordinance gained national attention on January 14 when El Cajon police officers handed out criminal citations to 13 people who were passing out food to homeless people as part of a "Break the Ban" event at Wells Park on East Madison Avenue.
Attorney Scott Dreher, who has challenged the City of San Diego's encroachment laws, is representing the 13 people and says a lawsuit will soon be filed.
Now with the threat of legal action coming, at least one councilmember is walking back on the ban.
In the memo, Kalasho is asking the mayor and his colleagues to rescind the ordinance at a February 13 meeting.
Kalasho says that the county is likely to call an end to the public health emergency over hepatitis A; in turn, the city should be proactive and kill the ordinance.
"I think that given the public attention and controversy this ordinance has caused recently, it would be appropriate for the City Council to publicly and specifically adopt a resolution or statement ending the Ordinance at our next regularly scheduled City Council meeting," Kalasho writes in the memo.
The city council will discuss placing the item on the February 13th agenda during the council's January 23rd meeting.
UPDATE 1/23, 1:20 p.m.
After this story was published, a member on the city council got in contact to say, "The city has announced that the ordinance has now been rescinded due to the fact the county has decided to end the Hep A public health emergency."
Kalasho's memo apparently was not the impetus for lifting the ban.
A city press release issued today reads, "Earlier today, the County Board of Supervisors voted not to extend the Hepatitis A public health emergency. Based on the County’s action, El Cajon’s food sharing urgency ordinance has expired. City staff has since removed notices of the ordinance in its parks. During the time that food sharing was restricted, local charities and community groups coordinated in their food sharing efforts. The City encourages community groups to continue their valuable service to our community through the collaborative approach."