Councilmembers Stephen Whitburn (right) and Joe Lacava (left) before discussing the proposed encampment ban ordinance on April 13, 2023.
Councilmembers Stephen Whitburn (right) and Joe Lacava (left) before discussing the proposed encampment ban ordinance on April 13, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

This post first appeared in the April 14 Morning Report. Subscribe to the daily newsletter here.

A City Council committee voted 3-1 Thursday to forward Councilman Stephen Whitburn’s plan to crack down on homeless camps to the full City Council without a recommendation for approval.

The vote followed two and a half hours of public comments on the proposed ordinance that would bar camping on public property when shelter is available and at all times within two blocks of schools and shelters, in parks and along waterways and some trolley tracks.

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, who chairs the land use committee, persuaded Whitburn to include all city parks rather than a handful that Whitburn initially identified after raising equity concerns. Moreno and Councilman Joe LaCava also gave city officials a lengthy to-do list to complete before the policy goes to the full City Council.

People sit in on a Land Use and Housing Committee meeting in city council chambers in downtown on April 13, 2023.
People sit in on a Land Use and Housing Committee meeting in city council chambers in downtown on April 13, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Per their motions, city officials must produce a more specific legal analysis, a comprehensive plan detailing new shelter additions including much discussed safe camping sites, an enforcement plan, an update on the city’s 2019 homelessness plan and input from a key regional group that opposed the proposed crackdown.

City Chief Operating Officer Eric Dargan said after the Thursday meeting that he could deliver all that within 30 days.

Mayor Todd Gloria said he was eager to continue the conversation and that the proposed budget he will unveil Friday will fund more shelter options.

Councilman Kent Lee, who voted against forwarding the ordinance to full Council without further committee review, raised a series of questions Thursday that Gloria’s team will likely be asked again.

Lee pressed city officials Thursday on topics including the number of vacant shelter beds that might allow the city to conduct enforcement citywide, the benefits of the ordinance beyond what the city already has on the books, the increased interactions it could create with police and plans for additional shelter offerings.

“This ordinance does not outline or come with a clear plan for additional shelter or housing solutions and without additional solutions, enacting such a policy would only provide band aids without addressing any of the root causes,” Lee said. “Ultimately, I think we simply have to ask where will people end up if they are forced to be relocated without places to go?”

Dargan later told councilmembers that the city could get safe camping and parking sites “up within the next 60 days.”

Tough Truths: Many unhoused residents who now seek shelter are unable to access it. Housing Commission data shows that in March more than two thirds of city shelter referrals didn’t result in a shelter placement. And as our Lisa Halverstadt reported earlier this week, existing city shelters are struggling to move unhoused people into permanent homes as the city tries to expand options.

Another crackdown: The Port of San Diego adopted new parking regulations at its lots to curtail overnight camping. (Union-Tribune) 

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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    1. I agree. How are these cats elected with no common sense. Doing nothing is far worse than doing something.

  1. Remember: Homeless people don’t cause homelessness, politicians do.

    When cityhall politicians upzoned property citywide to enrich landowners and increase property taxes, they incentivized developers to buy up existing older affordable housing, evict the tenants, bulldoze it, then build new “market rate” high end apartments and condos. In the meantime, many of the evicted tenants end up living on our streets, or in our canyons and riverbeds.

    Then the politicians wring their hands and ask “Where did all these homeless people come from?” They just need to look in the mirror. Voters need to throw them out of office when they run for reelection or higher office.

    1. Your argument is essentially that creating more housing = less people have housing. I hope you can recognize how ridiculous that is and stop repeating it, if only so that we wouldn’t have to read this copy pasta you comment on every article.

    2. “Where did all these homeless people come from?” is exactly the question that needs to be answered in detail –one homeless person at a time. Once this question is answered for particular individuals, the generic term “homeless” will become less and less relevant to the debate about how to focus the resources that are needed.

    3. What a bunch of malarky. Vagrancy has little to do with housing. The hobos flock to San Diego because they are coddled and enabled by the political homeless industrial complex. Your tax dollars hard at work attracting more hobos.

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