A Slim Majority of San Diego City Council Approves Controversial Ban on Homeless Encampments

by on June 14, 2023 · 5 comments

in Homelessness, Ocean Beach, San Diego

New Ordinance Is Very Majestic for It Not Only Bans the Poor from Camping on Public Land, It Also Bans the Rich from Camping on Public Land

Late last night, a slim majority of the San Diego City Council approved a controversial homeless camping ban — that was amended with some changes.

After hundreds of people testified over four hours either in Chambers or online — most of whom opposed the proposed ordinance — and after another 6 hours or so of staff presentations and debate, Council members Marni von Wilpert, Joe LaCava, Stephen Whitburn – the author of the proposal, Jen Campbell, and Raul Campillo passed the ordinance.

Council members Sean Elo-Rivera, Monica Montgomery Steppe, Kent Lee and Vivian Moreno voted against it.

Here is a part of a report from Voice of San Diego:

The version of the ordinance approved late Tuesday bars homeless camps in public spaces at all times when shelter is available. When shelter isn’t available, tents would still be banned within two blocks of schools or shelters as well as canyons and along transit hubs and waterways.

Does not include all parks: Per changes pushed by Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert, the ordinance now would only apply in parks where the city determines there is a “significant public health and safety risk” and signs are posted. The change frustrated Moreno, who had previously urged the inclusion of all parks in the city to avoid disparities throughout the city, particularly in historically underserved areas.

Councilman Joe LaCava also successfully added language clarifying that beaches are covered by the ban and that shelter availability rests on whether there is an open shelter bed that meets the needs of the homeless person police are engaging. He also called for regular updates on the impacts of the ordinance. …

One man’s take on the new ordinance: “The truth is you cannot end homelessness by making it illegal. Clearing camps without offering a real alternative and throwing away people’s medications, bedding, ID documents and clothes makes the problem worse,” wrote one formerly homeless San Diegan in a new op-ed for Voice of San Diego.

It’s interesting to note the racial divide on the issue. All the councilmembers who voted against the ordinance were persons of color, whereas all the white members voted for it — who were joined by Campillo for the fifth vote.

Also, by time the Council took their final vote it was nearly 11 pm, and presumably most of the Chambers by then had cleared out. This is a time-honored technique sometimes employed by San Diego’s city council – hold a hearing on a controversial issue, knowing full well there will be a flood of public testimony, late in the afternoon so only a few die-hards remain in the audience by time the vote is taken.

Mayor Todd Gloria made his plea to pass the ordinance, again, and again, and again.

Here’s part of the report from online U-T:

An overflow crowd at City Hall shared passionate pleas for and against the ordinance. Many people in opposition to the ordinance said it would be unworkable because there are far too few shelter beds available to enforce the rule, which a city study released Tuesday confirmed. …

Von Wilpert added an amendment to Whitburn’s motion to approve the ordinance that included having enforcement begin at least 30 days after the opening of a safe sleeping area that would accommodate 100 people and is expected to open July 1 at 20th and B streets.

Councilmember Kent Lee said he opposed the ordinance because he believed it could be legally challenged and went beyond trying to address unsafe camping. He also said it could create a false sense with the public that the ordinance would be a solution to homelessness and clear encampments.

Councilmember Vivian Moreno also opposed the ordinance and shared Lee’s concerns, including questions of whether this would be a drain on police resources. “A real plan would lay out goals of enforcement and match it with new resources,” she said. She moved to continue the item to September to give time to create an enforcement plan, but the motion was not supported.

Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe opposed the ordinance and said she was concerned there would not be enough shelters vacancies and about the parks that would be prioritized for enforcement. …

Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera requested an amendment that would address the racial disparity in the homeless population, which has a greater percent of Black people than in the county’s overall population. His amendment was accepted by Whitburn and calls for the city manager to receive monthly reports on the demographics of homeless people who are contacted, cited or arrested under the new ordinance.

Elo-Rivera also proposed an amendment that would strike a prohibition against camping within two blocks of a shelter, which he said could deter people who sometimes camp in front of the city’s Homeless Response Center to be one of the first in line to receive a shelter bed.

Whitburn declined to accept the amendment, and Elo-Rivera said he could not vote for the ordinance because he had significant concerns that it would do more harm than good.

More than 200 people signed up to speak either for or against the ordinance. People in favor included downtown residents who spoke about dangerous encounters with people on the street, fear of going outside their own homes and filth left outside their businesses.

Opponents included homeless people and service workers who saw the proposal as dangerous and a step back from progress that had been made in connecting people on the street to services, rehab and potential housing.

In one of the more controversial aspects of the ordinance, encampments would be banned in many areas even if no shelter beds are available because of public safety concerns. The absolute ban would be in place two blocks from existing shelters or schools, in all city parks, riverbeds, waterways, trolley stops and transportation hubs.

Encampment bans in those areas also would not follow a settlement the city had agreed to years ago that allows people to sleep in public areas from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Under the ordinance, camping in areas seen as a public health issue would be prohibited 24 hours a day.

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell, speaking against the ordinance, said the ban would create boundaries where people would be allowed to sleep on one side of the street but not the other. “What are we going to do, send police to move people from one side of the road to another?” he said.

To a person, it should be noted, that every representative of an agency or group serving San Diego’s unhoused population opposed the ordinance. And many complained of never being consulted by councilmembers over such a sweeping ban. One common thread from those who opposed it was the unconstitutionality of the ordinance and predicted it would be successfully challenged in court.

Yet, the new ordinance is very fair and majestic – for it bans not only the poor person from camping on public land, it also bans the rich person from camping on public land.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

sealintheSelkirks June 16, 2023 at 12:03 am

Does anybody believe that their official count ISN’T under-counted? Yeah, thought so.

So OOOOOooooooo! A whole hundred, open up July 1st, and of course that will be deemed ‘ample space so they can start the Pogrom…errrrr, program. Excuse me!

Head ’em up, move ’em out, Rawhide! to the rest I’m afraid as cops will cite or arrest the rest. And what little they own won’t be like the lucky hundred who of course will have ample storage space for their belongings so nothing gets stolen. Sure. I can see that happening.

May I ask what about their pets?

I’m also curious if this is a fenced lot with nice heat-sucking asphalt that’ll be 140’F in the hot summer afternoon with porta-potties maybe that’ll make living there SO enjoyable. Does any sea breeze manage to blow through 20th & B Street? Or is it a building with cubicles? Those FEMA trailers perhaps?

So suddenly the problem will disappear because the cops will be out citing/arresting anybody that isn’t cooperating with this new ordinance. Or who can’t due to lack of any resources.

Yeah, that’s an effective tactic, confiscating what people own to dump it in the trash and then fining the s**t out of people that have no money in the first place.

Gonna need a bigger jail I’m thinking. There’s something to pour public money into, yes? Always pouring more money into cops and prisons and the military but not anything that helps the most needy of our species.

Just like what Jesus supposedly did, yes?

As for the parks, I really enjoyed this quote: “the ordinance now would only apply in parks where the city determines there is a “significant public health and safety risk.” Ahahahaha, and just WHO is going to determine this? Be specific, names/position/background, and who their boss is. Can anybody tell me how unhoused people with NO ACCESS to public bathrooms can be anything but a significant health risk anywhere they are? Thought not.
Oh wait, all the council members that voted for this were white…nothing to see here, folks, just privilege talking sense.
So nobody can live in vehicles. Nobody can sleep in tents. All their stuff will be stolen and trashed by government officials whom, like all government employees, check their compassion when ‘just doing their job.’

Do any have ethics or moral convictions that are strong enough to say their religion doesn’t allow them to follow their orders? Thought not.

This is evil-doer crap.



kh June 16, 2023 at 3:42 pm

I thought it was overly strict, but the amendments were an improvement. Let’s face it, until there are suitable alternatives for everyone, (including those that refuse it anyways), people will be living on public property. So to say the only legal place is curbside in front of a home or business seems like a bad idea for everyone.

Also while I generally appreciate Montgomery-Steppe’s authenticity, she acted pretty shamefully in basically calling Whitburn a racist for not accepting one of her “friendly” amendments. Friendly meaning the motion maker adds it to their motion. But anything they don’t can still be added by a vote.


sealintheSelkirks June 19, 2023 at 3:02 pm

Here’s a look at the tip-toeing going on around the country after the Boise/Martin decision:


Surely this applies to San Diego?



sealintheSelkirks June 23, 2023 at 10:43 am

Here is more reality on this subject that is very disturbing:

Who’s unhoused in California? Largest study in decades upends myths


Stopping the greed and walking back Capitalism is about the only way to make a difference…and the wealthy that are doing this won’t. Homelessness is the face of Class War.



sealintheSelkirks June 26, 2023 at 11:23 pm

This article has many links:

Why Are So Many Cities’ Homeless Policies Punitive?

A new report shows how police influence drives cities’ punitive, complaint-driven and ineffective homelessness policies.


Quote: “The police are key players in homelessness policy-making. They influence policy choices and house city staff dedicated to homelessness outreach,” the report states. “This heavy police involvement means that even those policies whose aims are supportive of unhoused people may in practice be highly punitive.”



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