By Cari Hachmann
Many residents cheered as homeless people began taking down their tents and packing their belongings today at the encampments in North Beach.
Crowds of onlookers started forming around the train platform this morning around 9 a.m. with residents anticipating the enforcement of the city’s urgency ordinance, which San Clemente City Council adopted on Tuesday.
Officials from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department arrived sometime after 11 a.m. to enforce that ordinance, which bans tents and structures from being erected on public property in the city.
Carrie Braun, public information officer for OCSD, said people with tents had the choice to pack up and move to the city’s designated lot up the street on Avenida Pico or make alternative decisions.
“Our goal is to have zero arrests. We want individuals to volunteer to comply,” Braun said.
This bicycle was among the belongings that a homeless camper at San Clemente's North Beach released to city employees to haul for her to a newly designated camping area. Lifting the bike onto a truck is Tom Bonigut, the city's public works director. Photo: Fred Swegles
San Clemente city employees pack up a North Beach camper's belongings to haul them to a new designated camping area for homeless people on Friday, May 24. Photo: Fred Swegles
A camper identified as Duane takes a moment to relax while Sheriff's deputies endeavor to clear San Clemente's North Beach parking lot of an encampment on Friday, May 24. The city offered the campers an alternate location a short distance up Avenida Pico from the beach. Photo: Fred Swegles
Bystanders who had turned out at San Clemente's North Beach on Friday, May 24, to witness the relocation of homeless campers applaud a city maintenance truck hauling belongings to a new, city-designated camping site. Photo: Fred Swegles
A tent comes down in San Clemente's North Beach parking lot as part of the city's plan to clean up the area and offer campers a place they can relocate with their tents. Photo: Fred Swegles
Sheriff's deputies at San Clemente's North Beach advise a camper on Friday, May 24. that she and her belongings must relocate. They offered her assistance to move to an area that the city of San Clemente has designated for homeless campers. Photo: Fred Swegles
Sheriff’s deputies and health officials were brought out to assist individuals in their move, offering services and resources to those who wanted them.
Braun said the Sheriff’s Department would take as long as necessary for people to comply with the ordinance or potentially face a misdemeanor charge.
A handful of homeless individuals chose to pack up and move to the city lot. Neon-clad workers and involved locals helped them take down their tents and load their stuff into trucks.
The homeless were offered rides up to the city-owned property between the city’s maintenance yard and U-Haul Moving & Storage of San Clemente, located at 310 Avenida Pico.
The lot consisted of a dirt floor that was fenced-in on all sides, with trash cans dividing room-sized spaces for each person to set up camp. Each space was numbered and walking distance to Porta-Potties situated on one side of the lot.
The site is considered a temporary relocation site, with the city making plans for a more permanent, long-term solution. The city had mentioned that there will be security during the evening hours, but that has not been confirmed.
While a couple of homeless people refused to leave, many ultimately went willingly.
One very friendly and vocal man said he had been ready to go since 10:30 a.m. “I’m not going to mess around. If they’re going to give me a place, I’m going,” said Steven Gustafson.
Others were less willing to go, and stood their ground for as long as they possibly could. Deputies stood guard as one homeless woman wielded a knife as she packed up her tent. The experience was a mixed bag of emotions for everyone involved.
A couple of enraged residents continuously yelled profanities at a lawyer who was defending the homeless at North Beach. Other locals were emphatic, and many were just grateful to be one step closer to getting their beach back.
The San Clemente Times will continue to report on the situation as it unfolds.