The city is placing homeless camping ban signs in certain city parks and near some schools as police begin enforcing the new law.
Among the spots to already have a bevy of signs is an area near Roosevelt Middle School in Balboa Park. Those happen to be near the home of NBA great Bill Walton, who has publicly criticized Mayor Todd Gloria’s homelessness response. There are at least six signs in the blocks around his house.
On Friday, I spotted a single sign on fencing surrounding Perkins K-8 in Barrio Logan. There weren’t other signs in the immediate vicinity around the school where parents and school officials have long raised concerns about homelessness. There were four signs up along a single 1/5-of-a-mile stretch of C Street near Garfield High School and within the San Diego City College campus.
Meanwhile, signs have yet to go up near some schools elsewhere in the city long impacted by homeless encampments.
Existing city laws have long barred blocking sidewalks with tents or setting up camp on public property without permission. But under the camping ban, the city has more flexibility to keep camps out of so-called sensitive areas including certain parks and near schools even when shelter isn’t available – once signs go up. So we were curious where those signs would go up.
The city hasn’t announced specifically where it’s putting camping ban signs. It seems to be erratic. A spokeswoman for Mayor Todd Gloria said the city is putting them in places based on complaints, but also not solely because of complaints. It’s unclear how the city strategy is considering equity questions raised by residents and councilmembers when the law was approved.
Gloria’s office and a city spokeswoman simply say they have started posting signs in select parks and within two blocks of some schools where unsheltered people are now barred from camping at all times. Police officers can’t start cracking down in those areas until signs go up. But erecting signage also doesn’t necessarily translate into immediate enforcement.
In a statement, city spokeswoman Ashley Bailey wrote that the city decided where to put up signage first based on Get It Done encampment complaints plus input from City Council districts, Gloria’s office, police, outreach teams and camp clean-up workers.
Among the first places to get the small white signs featuring a crossed-out tent and the words “no camping” were Balboa Park, a stretch of Commercial Street where camps were once clustered, Perkins K-8 school in Barrio Logan – and in Walton’s neighborhood near Roosevelt Middle School.
Several signs dot the blocks around Walton’s property. There’s even one across the street from his house, which is near a Balboa Park trailhead.
Gloria spokeswoman Rachel Laing said the placement of a handful of signs near Walton’s home, including right across the street from his property, have nothing to do with the NBA legend’s public eruption over homeless camps and impacts in his area in the past year.
Laing said the signs in Walton’s cul-de-sac and near sidewalks in the residential blocks nearby stem from their proximity to the middle school with “a high number of both complaints and calls.”
“Categorically, unequivocally, it has nothing to do with Bill Walton, or any other single resident, and everything to do with the fact that it’s at a school that’s highly impacted,” Laing said.
Meanwhile, signs as of last week had yet to go up near the Central Library in East Village, which houses E3 Civic High School and has long been a destination for unsheltered residents looking for a safe place to camp. Camps and homeless people staying there have also long drawn complaints. There also weren’t signs in the blocks immediately surrounding the Monarch School for homeless students in Barrio Logan, which is flanked by an Alpha Project homeless shelter and until recently, nearby blocks packed with tents. Signs are up, however, on nearby Commercial Street and at 17th Street and Logan Avenue.
Another factor driving where the city puts signs is pole availability. Laing said the city wants to avoid installing new sign poles. Laing did not share the cost of each new sign.
Another factor, according to the city: The city doesn’t have the bandwidth to put up all the signs at once.
Bailey said the city is continuing to install signage “on an ongoing basis as staffing and resources permit.”