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By Cari Hachmann
San Clemente City Council voted 3-1 to consider adopting an ordinance No. 1677 that would formalize a list of rules and regulations for homeless campers at the Avenida Pico lot into city law.
On May 21 and on June 4, San Clemente City Council approved ordinances to prohibit camping on public property within the city and designated a city-owned area where transitional camping is permitted. The city then developed rules and regulations for those campers to address peace, safety and welfare concerns.
On June 18, the council introduced a “Consideration of Ordinance Relating to Rules for Transitional Camps.” According to the city attorney’s report, the ordinance seeks to codify rules and regulations relating to transitional camps as part of the city’s municipal code, thus making the violations “citeable” and “prosecutable,” as other code violations are.
Councilmember Laura Ferguson, who voted no on the ordinance, said she was surprised to see the item on the agenda. Her concern is that the ordinance may appear to be targeting a specific population—those experiencing homelessness.
“I wonder if this would be no different than targeting someone for their race or religious beliefs,” she said. “The city manager stated at the meeting that law-enforcement already has been going on site and enforcing the laws we already have on the books that apply to everyone in the city,” she said.
In response, City Attorney Scott Smith said the ordinance provides a tool the Sheriff has requested in order to address issues law enforcement has with citing people for violations within the camp.
“These rules are in fact different from the rules that apply out on the street because they are intended to address, really, the residency of the inhabitants of this camp,” Smith said. “It’s not really to criminalize behavior, but to provide for the peace and welfare of the occupants there– put more control in their lives and rules of respect for the occupants there– as you would in a campground,” he said.
The city’s Transitional Camp Rules, also known as the “Community Safety Plan” for the Pico encampment include rules such as mandating campers to check in and register with the onsite security guard upon first arrival to the site, providing their name and last location of residence and naming any guests who stay with them.
Other rules prohibit weapons, alcohol, drugs or drug paraphernalia and other illegal substances, and ban violence, harassment, bullying, theft and damage to property. View the full list of rules and regulations in the full city report online.
According to City Clerk Joanne Baade, the ordinance will appear on the council’s August 20 agenda for a second reading. If approved, the rules would be codified into city law.