A man moves his belongings from one side of the street to the other so that it gets cleaned on July 10, 2023 in the East Village.
A man moves his belongings from one side of the 16th Street to the other on July 10, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Starting today, San Diego police will enforce a camping ban on public property when shelter is available – and in certain zones including in certain parks and near schools and shelters – even when it’s not.

Before the new ordinance went into effect, police cleared large homeless encampments on the edge of downtown using the city’s encroachment ordinance – not the city’s new tool to crack down on tents.

As Voice of San Diego’s Will Huntsberry and Lisa Halverstadt report, the timing of the enforcement was curious and spurred confusion in the area on the border of East Village and Barrio Logan.

SDPD’s take: San Diego police were adamant the recent enforcement had nothing to do with the camping ban. A spokeswoman said the forced moves were meant to address safety hazards. Police gave a similar rationale in May when they cleared the Commercial Street underpass once packed with tents.

Read the full story here. 

About That Camping Ban

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

Before the city can crack down in so-called sensitive areas when shelter isn’t available, it needs to put up signs.The city’s been getting to work on that. Halverstadt spotted a couple in a grassy corner of Balboa Park that has long been home to homeless camps – and that drew the ire of NBA great Bill Walton last year.

Steps away from the new signs, Halverstadt met 44-year-old Tamara Lawson who said she was determined to remain in Balboa Park. It’s where she’s found a supportive street family and where her children expect to find her. Lawson said she hopes to move into the city’s second safe sleeping site behind the Naval Medical Center when it opens later this year.

“I have to stay around this park,” Lawson said.

Give us a sign: We aren’t sure where other signs are because the city – and a fact sheet it released Friday – only say it’s installing signage in “several locations” identified as impacted by homeless camps with public health and safety risks near schools and parks.

“These locations will be addressed first, then additional locations throughout the city will be evaluated for signage,” the city says.

If you see a sign, we’d love to hear about it. Email lisa@vosd.org with the details.

Reminder: The city follows a progressive enforcement model in most interactions with homeless residents. Police first educate unsheltered people about the law and take enforcement action in subsequent contacts if a person doesn’t accept shelter. This means citations and arrests tied to the camping ban may not be immediate. The city has said outreach workers have been educating people living in camps near parks and schools about the ordinance. 

No big changes overnight: Mayor Todd Gloria and city officials have emphasized that the camping ban won’t spur an immediate dramatic change in unsheltered homelessness. 

“It’s not going to be a fast-moving citywide approach,” city spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said Friday. “It’s going to take time and consistency.”

  • If you want even more camping ban content, you can listen to Halverstadt and former Union-Tribune reporter Gary Warth discuss it on Friday’s KPBS Roundtable – or check out some of our past coverage on the camping ban here.

VOSD Podcast: The Region’s Real Homekey Player 

Mayor Todd Gloria speaks in City Council Chambers in downtown on June 13, 2023.

In the latest VOSD Podcast, host Andrea Lopez-Villafaña followed up on a question Mayor Gloria asked about what other cities are doing to address homelessness. She found the city of San Diego is indeed shouldering the county’s weight.

The only other city that confirmed they were seeking state funds to create permanent supportive housing for now-homeless people was Chula Vista — the second-most-populous city after San Diego.

This week, Lopez-Villafaña was joined by reporters Jakob McWhinney, Will Huntsberry and intern Kathryn Gray to dish on all things housing and homelessness.

Listen to the full episode here or wherever you get your podcasts

In Other News 

  • Our old pal and former Voice managing editor Andrew Keatts reports that SANDAG CEO Hasan Ikhrata resigned from the agency last week. (Axios)
  • The city of San Diego plans to begin enforcing its camping ban on Monday. Here’s what you need to know. 
  • Opinion: Seth Hall, co-founder of the community group San Diego Privacy, which is a member of the TRUST SD Coalition, argues in an op-ed that when the new smart streetlights and license plate tracking policies go before the San Diego City Council on Tuesday, they must make the improvements San Diegans want and need. Read it here. 
  • The county is closing a number of parks for the month of August due to extreme heat. That includes El Capitan Preserve in Lakeside, Hellhole Canyon Preserve in Valley Center and Mt. Gower County Preserve in Ramona. (ABC 10)
  • Several people seeking to migrate across the U.S.-Mexico border filed a class action lawsuit against the Biden administration over a policy requiring asylum seekers to schedule appointments through a mobile app. One woman from Nicaragua who joined the lawsuit told KPBS’ Gustavo Solis she can’t use the app because she doesn’t have a phone. Others struggle for a lack of up-to-date smartphones, access to Wi-Fi or reliable power. 
  • Monday is the last day to register for a mail-in ballot for the special election to replace County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who vacated his seat after allegations of sexual harassment emerged. Otherwise, voters will need to register to cast their ballot in person at the Registrar’s office in Kearny Mesa or another voting center beginning Aug. 5. (Fox 5 San Diego) 
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune reports continued hesitation in El Cajon over how to solve their homelessness crisis after East County’s largest city pulled its funding from a regional organization meant to coordinate services. The move signals simmering frustrations over how best to tackle this complicated problem, following the City Council’s stalled decision on an unsafe camping law that our Kathryn Gray reported. 

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, MacKenzie Elmer and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. “In Other News
    … SANDAG CEO Hasan Ikhrata resigned from the agency last week.”
    wow! talk about burying the lede!!

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