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Imperial Beach passes complete public sleeping ban

Paved and unpaved surfaces off limits

End of Dahlia Avenue in Imperial Beach - Image by Dave Rice
End of Dahlia Avenue in Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach has banned camping or sleeping in public with an ordinance that reaches into every last corner, from pavement to median, "including but not limited to dirt or landscaped areas."

The new law prohibits storing belongings on public property. Sidewalk vendors with permits aren't affected, but for the homeless, almost anywhere they sleep or park an overflowing bike or cart is off limits.

The city council voted unanimously to pass the code change on September 18, expanding the areas already regulated – beaches, parks, pier, and plaza.

"We want to make sure that the same concerns we have over sanitary conditions" in those areas is extended to the public right of ways, said city manager Andy Hall when the ordinance was first introduced.

The city explains it as a proactive safety measure. "We have seen the impacts other cities are experiencing from the unsanitary conditions," Hall said.

This year's regional homeless count found 12 people living on the street in Imperial Beach. But others think the numbers are larger. "We have seen a rampant runaway of camping," said Councilmember West.

The council authorized staff to look into regulations for camping at the beach, parks, pier ,and pier plaza at a meeting in June 2018. That led to the same ban in those areas, where the marine safety department found problems with visibility into and beyond the tents that regularly crowd the beaches, hampering police and lifeguards.

"Go down there on a busy day, you'll see hundreds and hundreds of canopies and tents," said Marine Safety Chief Stabenow.

Most agencies in San Diego have regulations for this, to allow a clear view, he said. So one change was that any tent must have two open sides to see in. Sleeping or camping was banned from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. for parks and other public facilities and from sunset to 7:00 a.m. for beach areas.

The new ordinance for all other public areas doesn't state the hours sleeping is forbidden.

Even if the law isn't strictly enforced against the homeless, it could bring lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that cities can't prosecute people for sleeping in public when shelter beds are lacking, calling it "cruel and unusual punishment."

The case, which began in Boise, Idaho affects all of the Western states. Boise has petitioned to overturn the ruling and California cities, including Los Angeles and Sacramento, are joining them. Cities point to San Diego's hepatitis A outbreak to support the need for bans.

Councilmember Paloma Aguirre brought up the outbreak at an earlier meeting, saying her biggest fear is that "because of homeless encampments," Imperial Beach could face a situation similar to San Diego's – a huge hepatitis A crisis "related to unsanitary conditions."

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End of Dahlia Avenue in Imperial Beach - Image by Dave Rice
End of Dahlia Avenue in Imperial Beach

Imperial Beach has banned camping or sleeping in public with an ordinance that reaches into every last corner, from pavement to median, "including but not limited to dirt or landscaped areas."

The new law prohibits storing belongings on public property. Sidewalk vendors with permits aren't affected, but for the homeless, almost anywhere they sleep or park an overflowing bike or cart is off limits.

The city council voted unanimously to pass the code change on September 18, expanding the areas already regulated – beaches, parks, pier, and plaza.

"We want to make sure that the same concerns we have over sanitary conditions" in those areas is extended to the public right of ways, said city manager Andy Hall when the ordinance was first introduced.

The city explains it as a proactive safety measure. "We have seen the impacts other cities are experiencing from the unsanitary conditions," Hall said.

This year's regional homeless count found 12 people living on the street in Imperial Beach. But others think the numbers are larger. "We have seen a rampant runaway of camping," said Councilmember West.

The council authorized staff to look into regulations for camping at the beach, parks, pier ,and pier plaza at a meeting in June 2018. That led to the same ban in those areas, where the marine safety department found problems with visibility into and beyond the tents that regularly crowd the beaches, hampering police and lifeguards.

"Go down there on a busy day, you'll see hundreds and hundreds of canopies and tents," said Marine Safety Chief Stabenow.

Most agencies in San Diego have regulations for this, to allow a clear view, he said. So one change was that any tent must have two open sides to see in. Sleeping or camping was banned from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. for parks and other public facilities and from sunset to 7:00 a.m. for beach areas.

The new ordinance for all other public areas doesn't state the hours sleeping is forbidden.

Even if the law isn't strictly enforced against the homeless, it could bring lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that cities can't prosecute people for sleeping in public when shelter beds are lacking, calling it "cruel and unusual punishment."

The case, which began in Boise, Idaho affects all of the Western states. Boise has petitioned to overturn the ruling and California cities, including Los Angeles and Sacramento, are joining them. Cities point to San Diego's hepatitis A outbreak to support the need for bans.

Councilmember Paloma Aguirre brought up the outbreak at an earlier meeting, saying her biggest fear is that "because of homeless encampments," Imperial Beach could face a situation similar to San Diego's – a huge hepatitis A crisis "related to unsanitary conditions."

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Comments
9

San Diego should do the same. We just keep being nice and all we get is dumped on by these free loaders. Yes some do need help but most of them just trash up our towns.

Sept. 24, 2019

Unfortunately the Supreme Court has ruled municipalities cannot criminalize sleeping in public.

Sept. 24, 2019

Can’t do it....the Supreme Court has ruled municipalities cannot criminalize sleeping in public.

Sept. 24, 2019
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Sept. 25, 2019

I wish IB the best. A few of the homeless are non-drug related mentally ill. They should be institutionalized. A few of the homeless are on the streets due to no fault of their own. They should be sheltered. The vast majority of homeless mentally ill due to drug/alcohol use or bums who do not want to participate in society. Help those who want help. The rest are worthless human trash.

Sept. 25, 2019

Instead of helping the homeless and looking for solutions, the city council wastes their time and effort creating an unenforceable code which violates basic human rights. Not all homeless people are alcoholics and drug addicts. I was one of those homeless people in Imperial Beach back in the '80's. After serving my country in the military, I fell upon hard times. First, living in my car for a year, then after selling my car for $250.00, living on the streets for another year. I showered at the beach showers and used the toilet facilities there as well. I looked for a job constantly, but with no home address or phone number (cell phones weren't available yet) I couldn't be contacted if a job became available. It was a vicious circle. I actually walked all the way to Clairmont Mesa for a painting job which fell through, and then turned around and walked all the way back to Imperial Beach. Most of the time I slept on the beach at night, but after talk of homeless people getting beaten up, I decided to walk around all night and sleep on the beach during the day. Life was hard, but I never gave up! I put my faith in Jesus and carried on. If it wasn't for the generosity and compassion of a few local people, I wouldn't be writing this now. After pounding the pavement looking for work for two years, I eventually found a job, bought another car and literally pulled myself up out of the gutter. I went back in the Navy, rising through the ranks of enlisted, Chief and Commissioned Officer. After retiring from the military, I started a successful business as a defense contractor. I now own a home in the very city where I slept on the streets, not knowing where my next meal would come from. I am living proof that given the opportunity, people CAN turn their lives around and become contributing members of society. But only with our help! Don't put the homeless down and chastize them for their bad luck. It can happen to anyone. Reach out and lend a hand. Contribute. Discuss the issues. Find solutions. This problem belongs not just to those struggling to find their way on the streets, but to all of us in society. Together we can find a way.

Oct. 2, 2019

Standing Ovation

Exactly ! Run for Mayor!

Oct. 3, 2019

ceehound619, can you cite the Supreme Court decision? The case name and date.

Oct. 3, 2019
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Aug. 31, 2020

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