The Law, in Its Majesty: King Todd’s ‘Unauthorized Camping Ban’

by on June 13, 2023 · 8 comments

in Homelessness, San Diego

By Mat Wahlstrom

Today, June 13, the City Council will vote to make appearing unhoused in public illegal. Euphemistically called a ‘unauthorized camping ban,” its purpose is to pretend to solve a problem by making it invisible.

Despite winning election largely by campaigning to solve the homeless crisis that undid the political prospects of his predecessor, Todd Gloria has doubled down on Kevin Faulconer’s policy of all stick and no carrot.

Cynically or not, yesterday even Faulconer called out this latest effort — though more for the shortage of shelter space to store people than for its lack of compassion.

And it’s really saying something when Gloria, who’s appropriated the mantle of equity, is getting support for this from Fox News viewers.

As I and others have written, homelessness and housing precarity are the predictable consequence of expecting a market to solve a problem a market creates. There’s simply more money to be made from cultivating selective scarcity than creating abundant affordability.

Over half of San Diego residents are renters, but more of them become unhoused each year than the city helps out of homelessness. And homeowners are now seeing how city government has become wholly devoted to dismembering land use regulations for developers at their expense.

The unhoused population in California jumped 51% from 2014 to 2022 — the same time period that began with then-Councilmember Chris Ward asserting “being homeless isn’t illegal,” that individuals’ actions were criminal but not a class of people by definition.

But with the ban being voted on today, our electeds have given up even pretending that there’s a difference.

Fearless champions of the unafflicted and unoppressed, those in the “Todd Squad” have become so accustomed to privilege that they label any engagement other than agreement as oppression.

They’re so convinced of their righteousness, they’ve stopped questioning if what they’re doing is right.

Included in the city budget approved last week is an additional $2.2 million for the Police Department for the implementation and enforcement — when it already receives more funding than social services.

Also last week, Gloria held what he called a press conference to push for this ban at a paid private event, where he was caught on social media arriving in a chauffeured SUV at a private entrance away from protesters.

And in an unprecedented move, Councilmember Whitburn and Mayor Gloria harvested the email addresses of everyone who has written to them in the past, to exhort one and to “voice your support for the ordinance by emailing our office and members of the City Council.” Which is not only presumptuous, but insulting to those they never bothered to respond in the first place.

As the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance, and dozens of other organizations have noted, this ban is not only inhumane but unconstitutional, certain to be met with lawsuits — but just as certain to increase suffering until it’s overturned.

Anatole France famously wrote, “The law, in its majesty, prohibits rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges.” A society that lacks the imagination to prevent the need for anyone to sleep under a bridge — or in tents on our streets — suffers from the greatest poverty of all: an absence of compassion.

Also see this and this.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 13, 2023 at 12:28 pm

Item 612: City of San Diego Comprehensive Shelter Strategy.
This item will be considered in the afternoon session which is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m.


chris schultz June 13, 2023 at 12:48 pm

I can hope mayor Todd and his delusional plans are voted out. They ending up costing more money everywhere down the line and impacting the people who fund them in the end.


chris schultz June 13, 2023 at 12:49 pm

end up….typo


Mat Wahlstrom June 13, 2023 at 8:15 pm

The city council meeting is still ongoing, but I was able to squeeze in the following public comment in the minute I was allowed:

“Make no mistake: voting to approve this policy would be admitting to failure. Failure not just to do your job, but failure to even bother trying.

Our problems with homelessness are the direct result of our elected representatives’ refusal to do the hard work needed to tackle the lack of affordable housing for everyone. And now you want to wash your hands of it by supplanting our society of all created equal with civil rights dependent on one’s financial status.

You disappeared the precarious before the law by approving the ‘CARE Courts,’ and now you want to physically disappear them from existing in public entirely by calling it a ‘camping ban.’

I would be ashamed for those of you who approve of what is being proposed, but that would require me to care more than you are capable.

But I will remember, and I will vote.”


Frank Gormlie June 13, 2023 at 9:57 pm

Morena is against it, Campbell for it, and Montgomery Steppe sounds like she’s against it. It’s now 9:56pm. I missed a lot of debate.


Mat Wahlstrom June 13, 2023 at 10:03 pm

Lee also came out against. I’ll have to find out what happens tomorrow.


chris schultz June 14, 2023 at 5:58 am

Councilmembers Joe LaCava, Jennifer Campbell, Stephen Whitburn, Marni von Wilpert and Raul Campillo voted in favor of the Unsafe Camping Ordinance, while Sean Elo-Rivera, Monica Montgomery Steppe, Kent Lee and Vivian Moreno opposed.


chris schultz June 14, 2023 at 6:36 am

Gloria explained that in the coming fiscal year, the city will spend more than $200 million on housing, shelters and services for people experiencing homelessness.

Another measure was also discussed during Tuesday’s meeting, which is a strategy to get more shelter beds. It was not up for a vote Tuesday, but if approved in the future, it would add safe sleeping sites, add 600 beds to increase shelter capacity from 1,784 to 2,384. Still, those against the homeless encampment ordinance ban said it is not enough.

200,000,000/2384=83,892.62 per proposed bed


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