Mayor Todd Gloria speaks in City Council Chambers in downtown while people hold signs opposing the homeless camping ban on June 13, 2023.
Mayor Todd Gloria speaks in City Council Chambers in downtown while people hold signs opposing the homeless camping ban on June 13, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

The San Diego City Council just before 11 p.m. Tuesday narrowly approved a controversial homeless camping ban with some changes.

Council members Sean Elo-Rivera, Monica Montgomery Steppe, Kent Lee and Vivian Moreno voted against the ordinance following a slew of questions and failed attempts by Elo-Rivera to make amendments.

The tense deliberations and vote followed the presentation of a city strategy aiming to add hundreds of additional shelter beds, more than four hours of public comment.

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.

Mayor Todd Gloria speaks in City Council Chambers in downtown on June 13, 2023.
Mayor Todd Gloria speaks in City Council Chambers in downtown on June 13, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

The mayor’s message: Gloria repeatedly addressed the City Council Tuesday, including after questions from Montgomery Steppe about whether the ordinance would spur more unsheltered people to accept shelter offers or more distrust.

“The message will be sent that it’s no longer acceptable to deteriorate on the sidewalk,” Gloria said.

But Lee, Moreno, Elo-Rivera and Montgomery Steppe questioned the potential impacts of the ordinance.

“I don’t think that what we have before us today is going to satisfy what people think it will satisfy,” Montgomery Steppe said.

And Moreno at one point attempted to postpone the City Council vote until September to allow time for police to produce a more detailed enforcement plan. 

Gloria praised the council members who supported the ordinance in a late Tuesday press release.

“I want to thank the five members of the City Council for voting to support the unsafe camping ordinance,” Gloria wrote in a statement. “When presented with the opportunity to take action or do nothing, Councilmembers Whitburn, LaCava, Campbell, von Wilpert and Campillo chose to act.”

He argued the ordinance will offer the city another tool to address and aid people in encampments.

The map: We created a map of areas that would be off limits under the ordinance even when shelter is not available. The map focuses on downtown and surrounding neighborhoods and does not yet reflect changes on which parks will be covered. View the map here. 

Related: El Cajon is keeping a close eye on San Diego. CBS 8 reports that East County elected officials want to see how San Diego implements its new ban, and if there are elements they can copy to strengthen El Cajon’s existing rules. 

Poway is also considering an encampment ban, as Kathryn Gray reported last week. 

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. Read it here. 

Fentanyl Is Fueling the Skyrocketing Death Rate

Graph by Will Huntsberry

As Will Huntsberry reported yesterday, deaths in the homeless community are rising much, much faster than homelessness. The death rate has increased nearly six times over since 2012.  

Fentanyl is clearly the biggest culprit behind the rise, according to data from the San Diego County Medical Examiner analyzed by Huntsberry. 

Fentanyl-related deaths increased significantly, beginning in 2020. 

Everyone Is Racing to Decide a San Diego Water Divorce

San Diego’s boundary referees are rushing to decide on a controversial water divorce before the state Legislature can step in. 

The Local Agency Formation Commission is holding an emergency meeting today to push up a vote on whether two small farming communities can break up with the San Diego County Water Authority in search of cheaper water. 

It’s a brazen move: The commission is in a race against the clock with Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner, a Democrat from Encinitas, who introduced another new bill that effectively would strip LAFCO of its complete power over the decision. She’s also pursuing what’s known as an “urgency clause,” which means the law would go into effect immediately upon enactment. 

Boerner’s bill would amend the County Water Authority act and require not just a vote of the eight-member LAFCO commission for one water district to leave another, but approval from a full countywide vote as well. The legislation would prolong the decision about whether the water districts of Fallbrook and Rainbow can divorce the San Diego County Water District and marry into the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County. 

Background: The districts want to leave San Diego in pursuit of cheaper water rates for its farmers. The Water Authority, as well as the city of San Diego which supports Boerner’s bill, say that will push more water infrastructure costs onto the remaining 22 member water districts – an estimated $2 monthly water bill increase per household. 

Read more here. 

In Other News 

  • Inflation rates in San Diego are the second highest in the nation according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.  Electricity and medical care costs went up while unleaded regular gas went down. Other southern California cities that made the list include Riverside at No. 5 and Los Angeles at No. 9. (Union-Tribune) 
  • In an effort to increase its presence on the West Coast, the Navy is exploring the possibility of extending the duration that aircraft carriers can berth at Naval Air Station North Island to 180 days. (Union-Tribune)
  • Students are taking advantage of the opportunity to enroll in Community College while simultaneously finishing high school. The San Diego Community College District has seen a 30 percent increase in the past year of high school students attending classes. (KPBS) 
  • Water was shut off and a natural gas leak occurred on Miramar road after an excavator fell into a sinkhole damaging water and gas lines.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Will Huntsberry, Kathryn Gray, MacKenzie Elmer and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Scott Lewis. 

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1 Comment

  1. It would be good to include a summary of the public comment – about how many people spoke? for or against? Do you think it made any difference or were minds made up in advance?

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