The first of two city-backed safe campsites for homeless residents is set to open this morning.
Mayor Todd Gloria and other city leaders gathered Wednesday to announce the opening of a 136-tent campsite in a city operations yard at 20th and B streets, where the city previously welcomed unsheltered residents during a 2017 hepatitis A outbreak. The announcement came a day after the City Council’s second vote to approve a controversial camping ban, which is now expected to take effect in late July.
What we know: The Golden Hill site will be operated by nonprofit Dreams for Change, which now runs multiple safe parking programs for people living in vehicles throughout the county. City officials said unsheltered people who stay at the campsite – which can accommodate up to two people per tent – will have access to restrooms, meals and mobile showers. Homeless residents will continue to work with outreach workers now assisting them and will be taken to the site by those providers or police. Gloria’s office said on-site workers will transport those staying there to appointments and other activities.
The city plans to debut a second, larger safe campsite in a multi-level lot behind the Naval Medical Center this fall. The site could accommodate up to 400 tents.
Meanwhile … El Cajon Is Watching and Waiting
The El Cajon City Council decided Tuesday to take a wait-and-see approach before proposing their own unsafe camping ordinance.
Here’s why: With San Diego’s ordinance likely taking effect in late July and Poway’s proposed ordinance tentatively in August, El Cajon is worried about an influx of unsheltered people moving there. What is more worrisome to city leadership, however, is the threat of legal action.
Cities wanting to crack down on homelessness encampments must comply with a 2019 federal appeals court ruling that declared it’s unconstitutional to prohibit people from sleeping outside without offering indoor alternatives. Although San Diego and Poway intend to abide by the ruling, there is some ambiguity in this ruling.
El Cajon Assistant City Manager Vince DiMaggio said both San Diego and Poway have added language in their ordinances to fill in gaps for situations the appeals court decision did not account for. For example, DiMaggio said, San Diego’s ordinance bans camping in open spaces and along waterways even when shelter isn’t available.
In the meantime: For now, DiMaggio suggested El Cajon could use what it can within its existing municipal code – which prohibits camping or sleeping on public property including streets, highways, city parks, playgrounds, the Civic Center, Judson Park and Prescott Promenade – to mitigate a possible increase in homeless people.
The City Council unanimously voted to heed DiMaggio’s suggestion.
North County Report: Natural Gas Ban on Hold
The Encinitas City Council earlier this month suspended its building electrification ordinance – the citywide ban on natural gas in new residential and commercial construction.
The city was the first in the county and the 50th in the state to adopt such an ordinance. Now, though, it’s unclear if it will ever be implemented in the same way again.
Why the sudden change? That’s because of a federal appeals court ruling in April that overturned a similar ordinance by the city of Berkeley.
Berkeley was the first in the U.S. to adopt a ban on natural gas appliances, but the appeals court argued that it was against federal law.
Berkeley appealed that decision and is now waiting for its case to be heard again. In the meantime, Encinitas is taking a step back from its own ordinance, which may eventually become unenforceable.
In Other News
- Downtown San Diego businesses are fed up with the city’s homeless crisis. The Union-Tribune reports that several businesses have filed a claim against the city and are seeking damages.
- The U-T’s Adriana Heldiz (and our former multimedia journalist) recently came across a herd of goats in Chula Vista who help keep weeds at bay need transmission powerlines that belong to SDG&E. She got some cool pics here.
- Times of San Diego reports that SANDAG secured $21.5 million in federal funds for a transportation project in Chula Vista that could address traffic and safety issues with at a rail crossing on Palomar Street.
The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Kathryn Gray and Tigist Layne. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafana.