Elk Grove City Council strengthens city code to discourage unlawful camping, encampments

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REPORTER: WHILE THE MEETING AGENDA IS SEVERAL PAGES LONG, COUNCIL LEADERS SPENT A LOT OF TIME TONIGHT TO DISCUSS THE ISSUES AROUND CAMNGPI AND THE ENCAMPMENTS AROUND ELK GROVE. WHILE THEY DISAGREED AT TIMES AND HOW THESE CHANGES SHOULD BE TAKING PLACE, TYHE ALL AGREED THAT CHANGES NEEDED TO BE MADE. THE ELK GROVE CITY COUNCIL WANTS TO DO MORE, THEY SAY, TO HELP PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS, BUT JUST HOW TDOO THAT LED TO A LENGTHY DISCUSSION ABOUT PROPOSED CHANGES TO CITY CODE DURING THE COUNCIL’S WEDNESDAY NIGHT MEETING. >>DNESDAY NIGHT MEETING. WE KNOW MOST OF THEIR NAMES. WE KNOW WHO THEY ARE. SOF O COURSE WE WANT TO BE HELPING TRANSITION OUT OF THAT SITUATION. REPORTER: THE COUNCIL CREATED A COMMITTEE BACK IN MARCH TO RESEARCH CONCERNS AND COME UP WITH NEW WAYS TO LOOK AT THE ISSUE TO GET AHEAD OF WHAT THEY CALLED WEDNESDAY A MANAGEABLE SITUATION. >> THE ENCAMPMENT PROCESSES GETTING OUT OF HAND AND WE NEED TO TAKE ACTION. REPORTER: THE CHANGES INCLUDES SEVERAL ITEMS INCLUDGIN PROHIBITING CAMPING WITHIN 500 FEET OF A SCHOOL, BANNING ENCAMPNTMES FOUR OR MORE PEOPLE WITHIN 50 FEET OF EACH OTHER, AND REQUIRING CAMPS BE KEPT CLN.EA >> THERE IS AN URGENCY TO THIS PIECE OF IT. WE CAN TALK ABOUT THE CARROTS WE HAVE, BUT IF WE DON’T HAVE A STK,IC WE VEHA NOTHING FOR OFFICERS TO APPROACH. REPORTER: THE ISSUE HOWEVER CAME ABOUT HOW TO ENFORCE TSEHO CHANGES, WHETHER OR NOT TO INCLUDE A $100 FINE, AND IF LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS WHO SEERV THE HOMELESS POPULATION SHOULD BE MORE INVOLVED IN MAKING CHANGES. >> THEY SEE THE BARRIERS THEY VEHA RELATIVE TO GETTING THAT. RERTPO: THE COUNCIL SAYS AT ANY GIVEN TIME ABOUT 150 PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS IN THE CITY. THE COUNCIL DID VOTE TO APPROVE THE CHANGES TO THE CODE WITHOUT INCLUDING THE FINE. THE MAYOR STRESSED HOWEVER DISCUSSION AND THE EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION MUST REMAIN ONGOING. AND AHEAD OF THAT DISCUSSION AND THE VOTE, THE COUNCIL HEARD FROM I HOUSING SPECIALIST WITH THE CITY TO GIVE SOME CONTEXT TO THE SITUATION IN ELK GROVE. SHE HAD INTERESTING THINGS TO SAY. SHE SAID SPEAKING TO PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS IN THE CITY,ND A THEY REPORTED TO HER THAT THEY

Elk Grove City Council strengthens city code to discourage unlawful camping, encampments

The council voted unanimously Wednesday to add stricter guidelines to the city’s code but opted not to include a $100 fine for people who are not in compliance with the rules.

The Elk Grove City Council voted Wednesday night to add a chapter to the Elk Grove Municipal Code strengthening the rules regarding unlawful camping in the city. It was a unanimous decision, but one that came after nearly an hour of discussion among the council members. “We know most of their names. We know who they are,” said Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen. “We want to be helping transition out of that situation.”Singh-Allen called for compassion and urged the council to consider the unique barriers people experiencing homelessness face on any given day. The council created an ad hoc committee in March to research concerns related to homelessness and come up with new ways to look at the issue, to get ahead of what they called Wednesday a “manageable” current situation. The committee’s recommended changes to the city code were included on Wednesday’s agenda.However, it took about an hour of discussion for the council to reach a unanimous decision on the matter.The issues raised were largely connected back to a suggested $100 fine for people who are not in compliance with the rules and questions surrounding the role organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness should have in the process.The council decided to amend the proposed changes, removing the fine and approved the new rules which include: Prohibit camping (as defined) within 500 feet of the grounds of any daycare center, school, playground, or youth center. Prohibit camping in an area greater than 150 square feet per personProhibit encampments, which are defined as four or more persons camping within 50 feet of each other without permitted electrical, water, and/or bathroom facilities.Require camping areas to be kept clean and free of garbage, debris, and waste.Prohibit breaking or damaging any lock on public facilities or impeding access to any public facility, including by locking City staff out of a facility or public area. Prohibit blocking or obstructing access to a public facility, sidewalk, and/or other public right-of-way”The encampment process is getting out of hand in other cities, and we need to take action,” said Council member Stephanie Nguyen. Nguyen and Council member Pat Hume served on the committee that helped create the proposed changes.”There is an urgency to this piece of it,” Hume said, encouraging the council to vote and remain open to continuing to work on the issue.According to Alicia Tutt, a Housing and Grant specialist for the city, about 150 people in the city are experiencing homelessness in the city at any given time. Tutt said that research showed many of the individuals had ties to the city and reported they felt safer staying in Elk Grove than in other parts of Sacramento County. “Frankly, there are not enough services,” she said. Tutt told the council that securing housing has become increasingly difficult due to the pandemic, property owners selling rental properties and a competitive application pool. Problems, she said, are compounded for people with bad credit or a past eviction.

The Elk Grove City Council voted Wednesday night to add a chapter to the Elk Grove Municipal Code strengthening the rules regarding unlawful camping in the city.

It was a unanimous decision, but one that came after nearly an hour of discussion among the council members.

“We know most of their names. We know who they are,” said Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen. “We want to be helping transition out of that situation.”

Singh-Allen called for compassion and urged the council to consider the unique barriers people experiencing homelessness face on any given day.

The council created an ad hoc committee in March to research concerns related to homelessness and come up with new ways to look at the issue, to get ahead of what they called Wednesday a “manageable” current situation. The committee’s recommended changes to the city code were included on Wednesday’s agenda.

However, it took about an hour of discussion for the council to reach a unanimous decision on the matter.

The issues raised were largely connected back to a suggested $100 fine for people who are not in compliance with the rules and questions surrounding the role organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness should have in the process.

The council decided to amend the proposed changes, removing the fine and approved the new rules which include:

  • Prohibit camping (as defined) within 500 feet of the grounds of any daycare center, school, playground, or youth center.
  • Prohibit camping in an area greater than 150 square feet per person
  • Prohibit encampments, which are defined as four or more persons camping within 50 feet of each other without permitted electrical, water, and/or bathroom facilities.
  • Require camping areas to be kept clean and free of garbage, debris, and waste.
  • Prohibit breaking or damaging any lock on public facilities or impeding access to any public facility, including by locking City staff out of a facility or public area.
  • Prohibit blocking or obstructing access to a public facility, sidewalk, and/or other public right-of-way

“The encampment process is getting out of hand in other cities, and we need to take action,” said Council member Stephanie Nguyen.

Nguyen and Council member Pat Hume served on the committee that helped create the proposed changes.

“There is an urgency to this piece of it,” Hume said, encouraging the council to vote and remain open to continuing to work on the issue.

According to Alicia Tutt, a Housing and Grant specialist for the city, about 150 people in the city are experiencing homelessness in the city at any given time. Tutt said that research showed many of the individuals had ties to the city and reported they felt safer staying in Elk Grove than in other parts of Sacramento County.

“Frankly, there are not enough services,” she said.

Tutt told the council that securing housing has become increasingly difficult due to the pandemic, property owners selling rental properties and a competitive application pool. Problems, she said, are compounded for people with bad credit or a past eviction.

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