Fortuna council votes to criminalize public tenting – Occasions-Customary

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On Monday, Fortuna City Council unanimously decided to pass an ordinance criminalizing public camping.

The ordinance was developed to combat homelessness in the city and at the same time Martin v. To circumvent Boise, the Ninth District Court of Appeals decision that made it illegal for cities to criminalize sleeping in public when no other options are available. The wording to focus on camping rather than sleeping should make the regulation legally viable, said City Attorney Ryan Plotz.

“This regulation makes an important difference between camping on the one hand and sleeping on the other, because the aim of the Martin v. Boise was there to prevent cities from criminalizing sleeping, lying and sitting in public spaces. It’s not about the bigger issue of camping and the things that go with it, including building emergency shelters on public land, “Plotz said at the meeting.

The ordinance would allow police to refer individuals to the Humboldt County Attorney’s Office for offenses related to building temporary shelter – such as a tent – and using a public place to cook food or store personal belongings. Places where people might be named include city parks, within 25 feet of any official path in the River Lodge Conference Center, officially designated open spaces, residential areas, business parks, and retail areas.

To a lesser extent, the regulation also lays down new restrictions on sleeping, sitting and lying down in public spaces. People can because of obstructing pedestrian or vehicle traffic by sitting, lying or sleeping, because of sleeping in doors or entrances or exits of buildings, because of sleeping in a public place from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. or because of sleeping in a public place between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless there is no shelter available. The ordinance also prohibits spending the night in a vehicle between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. in public or private parking spaces without the consent of the property owner.

Accommodation for the homeless was not discussed during the meeting on Monday evening.

Plotz added that it is in the police’s best interest to cite only habitual offenders in the same location or particularly noteworthy cases of camping, since leading homeless campers would, if seen, overwhelm the judiciary.

“Bringing the matter to court can be mutually beneficial as creative solutions to misdemeanor complaints provide ways to order mental health and other probation assessments that are beneficial to each side, and social services and other sources to which they otherwise have no access, ”said Plotz.

At the meeting, Fortuna Police Chief Casey Day noted that officials had seen a dramatic increase in camping near businesses over the past 90 days.

Fortuna City Council will continue the public hearing on the ordinance through December 20th.

“I think this is a step in the right direction, especially after law enforcement’s hands are tied with the Boise decision. I think our citizens will just enjoy reporting some of these violations and then taking action to stop some of them, ”Mike Losey, a Fortuna council member, told the meeting.

Jackson Guilfoil can be reached at 707-441-0506.