By Shawn Raymundo
A pair of public safety ordinances the city council introduced on Tuesday, Nov. 19, could impose restrictions on San Clemente’s homeless by preventing them from camping out on train station platforms, as well limiting the types of tents they use at public parks.
One ordinance would designate the platforms at the North Beach and Pier Bowl train stations as ticket-required areas, meaning only those who have a valid ticket to ride the train or a lawful transportation purpose can enter the stations.
“The municipal code will allow (law enforcement) to issue citations for people waiting in the area without legitimate business,” City Attorney Scott Smith told the council on Tuesday night.
The city recommended the council introduce the ordinance to address safety concerns it has frequently received from transit commuters complaining about individuals camping and loitering on the platforms.
Smith said that riders on the trains are being held “hostages to the open doors at the trains,” because they “have nowhere to go but the car and the platform. They’re just waiting kind of hostage to get in . . . you have to get off the train and be confronted by whatever awaits you there.”
If councilmembers vote to approve the ordinance at one of their upcoming meetings, signage will be posted in a few areas around the train platform, identifying them as “ticket-required areas.”
The second ordinance the council introduced on Tuesday would prohibit the use of any tents, lodges, shelters or structures at the city’s parks unless they have two sides open and have unobstructed views of the interior.
“What this ordinance does is it prohibits four-sided tents at city parks,” Scott said. “It will allow easy up devices and other shade shelters, but it won’t allow four-sided tents.”
In a report on the proposed ordinance, the city noted that such four-sided tents “constitute a danger to public safety as they prevent (Orange County Sheriff’s Department) officers and other public safety personnel from observing all areas of the Park, including any illegal activity inside the enclosed structures.”
According to the city, the ordinance is consistent with similar municipal laws other coastal cities in California have enacted, including some in Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. The city also noted that the tents “can take up considerable space” at parks and be an “eyesore in green spaces.”
Acting Mayor Dan Bane stressed that the ordinance is “not a homeless-specific ordinance,” calling it a “safety ordinance” that’s “all-encompassing.”
“I’ve heard this time and time again from sheriff’s deputies who have said if they can’t see into a tent, then it’s effectively like a domicile and they can’t address what’s going on inside of there,” Bane said. “So, with parks and kids around and at the beach, we felt this is a prudent ordinance.”
The city council is expected to vote on the passage of the ordinances during an upcoming meeting.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.