Members of the Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team talk with a woman living in a tent on Commercial Street just after sunrise on Monday, June 13, 2022. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

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At Mayor Todd Gloria’s direction, San Diego police this week began ordering homeless residents to take down their tents during daylight hours.

The shift first revealed by NBC 7 San Diego comes amid a flood of complaints about growing homeless camps throughout the city and follows explosive comments by basketball legend Bill Walton, who deemed those camps “Gloriavilles” and called for the mayor to resign.

The policy isn’t entirely new. After a hepatitis A outbreak ravaged San Diego’s homeless population five years ago, then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer made a similar order to clear homeless camps considered ground zero of the outbreak and prevent others from building up.

Now Gloria has decided to do the same.

For now, spokespeople for Gloria and San Diego police said, officers will ask homeless residents across the city to voluntarily deconstruct their tents. They say police will not remove tents that are temporarily unoccupied and will not order residents to move outside of city clean-up operations.

In a statement, police deemed the policy directive the latest iteration of Gloria’s June order to crack down on homeless camps

Despite the summer crackdown, the latest Downtown San Diego Partnership homeless census late last month tallied a record number of homeless residents sleeping on the street downtown and areas just outside it. The count also documented 539 tents.

Gloria spokeswoman Rachel Laing said the mayor’s new directive, coupled with increased city shelter offerings and non-police homeless outreach, are efforts to try to address the increasing problem.

“We continue to respond to the situation on our streets, and right now, the reality is that encampments are growing and becoming more entrenched, blocking the public right of way and also increasing the public health risks to residents – particularly those in the encampments,” Laing wrote. “We have laws and the obligation to enforce them.”

The main law Laing is referencing there is encroachment, a city code initially meant to address wayward dumpsters. The code bars blocking a public right of way such as a sidewalk.

Police spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said officers began notifying homeless residents about the new policy Tuesday and will spread the word throughout the city in coming weeks. She said the city will also apply its progressive enforcement model to the renewed policy, meaning homeless residents who refuse to comply will first receive warnings, then citations and then possible arrest. Police will also offer them shelter at each encounter. A San Diego police memo on the operation called for enforcement to stop by sunset and also to halt when inclement weather is forecasted.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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8 Comments

  1. Wow. The San Diego city council wants to prohibit private property owners from evicting tenants from their property even for unpaid rent, but the city itself can evict these people from the only home they may have. Double standards much?

    1. C’mon son! You certainly must know better! The high priced unethical political consultants drive public opinion. The politicians just follow orders in order to be reelected. The voters are the problem at a most fundamental level. Who did you vote for and why? I ran for SDCC D2 I told the truth. I had no unethical consultant. So, the voters rejected Smiechowski for telling the truth and not having an unethical consultant. “You break it, you own it.” Colin Powell

    2. I’ll believe it when I see it. Any normal person you speak to calls downtown a ghetto and moved or is planning a move to north county. Activists are the only people complaining and it’s not for empathy it’s for twitter points

  2. as if people living on the street don’t have enough against them, now Hizzhonor wants them to silently fold their tents and steal away during daylight hours. all because Bill Walton can’t stand to ride his bike near homeless camps (really Bill, who’s gonna attack a 7-foot tall dude on a bike?) what a s*itty policy! how un-humane can a Democrat be?
    Jim Miller expressed my feelings much better, here: https://substack.com/redirect/bdeb39f6-9a49-4b38-9749-db2e620e7470?r=16nzo3

    1. Sir, it is part and parcel of our human condition as we all have enough against all of us. Most of these people are mentally sick by my account. I walk through their human waste downtown and even see them face down and bloodied in Clairemont. THEY ARE SICK!!! They need our help in forcing them into treatment and housing with nurses, doctors and others willing to care for these poor souls. We are the society that will break our back for these souls. But they MUST COMPLY! If not, they will be incarcerated. Smiechowski

  3. Sweep the homeless elsewhere at a cost to the taxpayers and resources. Does this make sense at all?
    Try affordable and low cost housing.
    I guess this means more people at the library and on Bill Walton’s precious bike path.

  4. The city should get rid of the tents go into shelters or take away the tents. The tents are nuisance and a blight to San Diego. Many of tents completely obstruct the sidewalk. We should not tolerate this when there is shelters available for them.

    1. Are there shelters available for them, though? I sincerely doubt the shelters have enough capacity for all of them. And even if they did, are the shelters a better alternative than living in a tent on the streets? Homeless shelters are commonly known to be a place where the homeless are preyed upon and robbed of what little they have, as often by the people running the shelters as by their fellow residents.

      Force them out of their little Gloriavilles and they’ll just end up being kicked out of a homeless shelter due to capacity issues, then in jail, earning themselves a criminal record that’ll make it that much harder for them to ever get their lives together. And all for the crime of being below the poverty line in a country where nearly half of the citizens are a couple missed paychecks away from homelessness themselves.

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