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Camping Ordinance FAQs
The amendment now strengthens and expands enforcement citywide by doing the following: (1) distinguishes camping versus sleeping, (2) gives private property owners more control of their property, (3) restricts sleeping to certain hours (between 10 pm and 6 am), (4) prohibits sleeping in open space at all times, (5) prohibits camping throughout the City at all times, and (6) shortens removal time of abandon property from 7 days to 72 hours.
The city has two municipal code sections that were both adopted in 1997. The first, TOMC 5-8.08 regulated the act of camping in public places, including private property open to the public. The second, TOMC 5-8.09 regulated sitting and lying in certain public places, but only in commercial zones in the City. While TOMC 5-8.08 was amended in 2007, TOMC 5-9.09 had never been amended.
All cities in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and Montana must comply with the Boise case. That means if a city wants to restrict or regulate sleeping and camping in its city, it must make sure it’s sleeping and camping ordinances comply with the case. Without making changes to our existing ordinances, it would be difficult for the City to successfully enforce the above-mentioned provisions. As a result of these amendments, the City can better regulate the time, place and manner of sleeping within the city, continue to prohibit camping throughout the entire city, and prohibit both camping and sleeping in the open space at all times. Cities that don’t make changes to their ordinances likely cannot prohibit people from sleeping on City property without risking violating this Court ruling.
The City’s original ordinance did not distinguish between the acts of camping and sleeping. In September 2018, the case of Martin v. City of Boise was decided which held that the government is prohibited from criminalizing homelessness and that cities must allow individuals to sleep on public property when there is no shelter available to them. In order for the city to regulate camping and sleeping in the City, it was required to change the camping ordinance. This action allows the City to restrict sleeping and camping in the City.
Boise does not address this. In fact, the focus in Boise is on those who are sleeping in the open elements on sidewalks, parks, etc. Sleeping in cars would have to be enforced on a case-by-case analysis. The City does have various regulations such as overnight parking restrictions, over-sized vehicle restrictions, etc. that are still valid and must be followed. Again, since there are no clear-cut rules established by the courts in this area, these would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Does the new ordinance allow people to sit, lie, or sleep on public property at any time and any place?
No. The ordinance restricts sleeping to the hours of 10 pm – 6 am only on publicly owned property. The ordinance also does not allow tents, camping, and excess property on public property nor does it allow sleeping during daylight hours. It also does not allow someone to sleep on City property in such a way as to impede vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
- As we have found from our community research, homeless tend to reside in communities where they have connections, roots, ties, etc. Homeless individuals don’t necessarily migrate or have the ability/means to migrate.
While the ordinance states that cities must allow sleeping on public property when there are no accommodations within reasonable distance, it does not require the City to provide shelters.
By removing private property open to the public from the definition of public place in the ordinance, private property owners will be able to regulate their own property or activities on their property as they see fit. Also, they can now utilize civil remedies such as temporary restraining orders, stay away orders, or letters of agency.
Some cities have designated specific public land where the homeless can sleep. Can’t Thousand Oaks do the same thing?
Each community’s response to homelessness is unique. In Thousand Oaks, the City Council and the Ad Hoc Committee are committed to working hand-in-hand with our residents, law enforcement, business community, service providers, and houses of faith on identifying actions that are locally driven and supported. Whether the City could designate a particular public space where homeless could sleep requires community and stakeholder engagement.
This was never defined in Boise, so the City would need to consider this on a case-by-case basis. From a practical standpoint, if a shelter was open and available in the City, then it would be within a reasonable distance.
- Since the City was not a party in the lawsuit, we cannot appeal the decision. Only parties in a lawsuit can appeal court decisions. The City of Boise filed a petition for rehearing with the 9th Circuit which was denied in April. The City has advised us that they will be filing a petition with the US Supreme Court, but that has not been done yet.
Boise does not require cities to allow anyone to sleep anywhere at any time. It acknowledges that cities can impose regulations, including prohibiting someone from sleeping in particular public areas. Open space is a public area that the City has significant concerns over letting someone camp or sleep. Public health and safety concerns, including wildfires, threats to wildlife, damage to the ecosystem that encampments can cause, and potential safety concerns for individuals camping off designated trails, are some of the reasons the ordinances prohibit both sleeping and camping at any time in open space.
While sidewalks and other public spaces like those would be areas homeless people could potentially sleep from 10 pm to 6 am, the ordinance does not allow individuals to impede or block the free movement of pedestrians or vehicles. Again, homeless are not allowed to sit, lie, or sleep anywhere at any time.