The corner of 16th Street and National Avenue in the East Village on June 9, 2023.
The corner of 16th Street and National Avenue in the East Village on June 9, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

A few weekends ago, a friend of mine asked me about the city of San Diego’s new camping ordinance. She lives in downtown. And she noticed the encampments that normally line the street near her home were gone.

She assumed it was because of the city’s new camping ban. The one that bars homeless people from camping anywhere in the city when shelter is available, and at all times near schools, shelters and in certain parks — even if shelter isn’t available.

My friend is a loyal Cup of Chisme reader, (Hi, chica!). But the city’s new camping ban is not why she was seeing less tents. And then I wondered, if Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City” can use her gals to explain relationships, I could use mine to explain this policy.

Grab some cafecito and lets jump in.

What You Need to Know About the Ban

It officially became a law on Saturday. San Diego police officers plan to begin enforcement on Monday.

Here’s what it says:

  • No camping in all public spaces (San Diego police officers can only enforce this when there is shelter available.)
  • No camping within two blocks of schools and homeless shelters, and in canyons and along transit hubs and waterways, and certain parks. (Police can enforce this even if there is no shelter.) If you’re curious, we created a map of those areas.
  • The city needs to post signs for the latter. Our Lisa Halverstadt saw two out in the wild on Friday. Side note: The signs she found happens to be in an area that basketball legend Bill Walton complained about in a series of emails to the mayor. (Lots of chisme there.)
  • If a homeless person repeatedly refuses shelter under the new law, they could face a misdemeanor charge and possible jail time. The city will use a three-step process that includes education before citations.

Yes, Cop Have Already Cleared Homeless Encampments in Downtown

Trash can be seen of what is left from a homeless encampment underneath a freeway on Commercial Street on May 18, 2023.

My chica’s observation wasn’t wrong.

San Diego police have already been clearing large homeless encampments on the edge of downtown.

Our reporter Will Huntsberry recently went out to connect with a source who lives on the street. He noticed everyone was gone.

“Street by street, they just wiped these places out,” Robert Brown, who has been homeless for three years, told Huntsberry on Thursday. “I’ve seen lots of crying and screaming. The cops come out of nowhere and then people have nowhere to go now.”

Police officials said the street sweeps were routine, but Huntsberry and Halverstadt wrote that the timing was uncanny given that in just a few days the encampment ordinance would become law.

So, how did they do it? Police officers over the past two weeks have used the city’s encroachment law — blocking a sidewalk — to clear encampments.

Read the full story here.

Behind Voice: Fact-Checking Assumptions About Homelessness

TW, 68 years old from Maine lights up a cigarette in his tent at a homeless encampment on Commercial Street in downtown on March 30, 2023. TW says he enjoys cooking and keeping his tent clean and organized. He came to San Diego last June from Arizona. TW stayed at Father Joe's before staying at an encampment. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

We get a lot of feedback on stories. Good, bad and just plain ugly sometimes.

Earlier this month, Huntsberry wrote a story about how a wealthy family’s 100-year-old company was blocking a permanent housing project for homeless people. If you missed it, you can read it here.

He got a lot of feedback from people who had some strong opinions about homelessness — and what the region should be doing to help them.

There were a lot of points, but Huntberry narrowed them down to four assumptions.

  1. Homeless people are flooding in from out of town to places like San Diego.
  2. Many homeless people don’t want to get off the street.
  3. Homeless people are drug addicts or mentally ill. Treating these things is the only way to solve homelessness.
  4. Homelessness is caused by a lack of affordable places to live. “Housing First” is the answer.

There is a lot of data available to help us make sense and fact check these assumptions. And that’s exactly what Huntsberry did. He found that some of these are partially true and others are sort of wrong. Read the full story on common assumptions here.

Huntsberry joined me on the VOSD Podcast to talk about his story. Listen to the episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.

More Chisme

  • Last week, I told you that Chula Vista was one of the other cities in the county applying for state funding to create affordable housing for now-homeless people. The project is moving forward. Read more here.
  • Environment reporter MacKenzie Elmer was fascinated by a garbage collector who decided to enforce the city’s organics recycling rules. Turns out he shouldn’t have. The city of San Diego isn’t cracking down on bad composting, they told her. They are collecting green bins even if they are filled with trash instead of organics. Read her Environment Report here.
  • Voice contributor Kelly Davis reports that the number of law enforcement agencies using a statewide gang database has dropped by half. But 106 departments still use it, including the San Diego Police Department. Now, a member of the city’s Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention thinks it’s time SDPD stopped too. Read more about CalGang here.
  • North County reporter Tigist Layne has the latest updates on a homeless shelter in Oceanside and a housing project in Del Mar. Read her North County Report here.

Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Managing Editor, Daily News Andrea oversees the production of daily news stories for Voice of San Diego. She welcomes conversations...

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1 Comment

  1. You should investigate complaints at the woman’s shelter Rachel’s Promise. The staff abuse the residents to the point people want to leave.

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