Council has been asked to evaluate a draft ordinance which addresses issues such as solicitation near ATMs, prohibition of aggressive and obstructive conduct, unattended personal property in public places and rights of way, and blocking entranceways and paths of travel.
This draft ordinance comes a year after the council held a discussion on panhandling back in January 2017. At that time, council expressed the preference of wanting to see greater regulations “dealing with problematic conduct and behaviors that would apply to all persons.”
This included prohibition of solicitation to vehicles in operation, as well as within a certain distance from a shop entrance, and regulations on personal belongings left in public spaces.
At the same time, council made it clear that they had no interest in passing a “sit/lie ordinance.”
Staff notes, “Homelessness and panhandling issues are often conflated, and while there are intersections, the two problems require different solutions.” Staff clarifies that this ordinance only
addresses regulations on “problematic behaviors and conduct often associated with panhandling, regardless of the status of the individual engaging in the behaviors or conduct, and regardless of the content of the individual’s speech or expression.”
This proposed ordinance would do the following:
- Prohibit aggressive conduct. State law already prohibits the aggressive soliciting of alms. This ordinance expands the prohibition of certain aggressive conduct that is not currently prohibited by state law.
- Prohibit soliciting within 15 feet of an ATM or a door of a financial institution. The City’s current code prohibits solicitation within 50 feet of an ATM, however this distance is no longer defensible in court because it is not narrowly tailored to address specific safety concerns. Shortening the distance to 15 feet and including the entrance/egress points is narrowly tailored to address the public safety concern for individuals who may be carrying cash or deposits.
- Prohibits blocking or disrupting vehicular, pedestrian or cycling traffic.
- Prohibits certain activity in the median strip of a road.
- Requires individuals to leave private property upon request of a police officer, the property owner or the property owner’s representative. This type of trespass is currently prohibited only by a civil injunction, not by state criminal trespass laws. This provision would allow for immediate relief from a persistent trespasser.
- Does not allow individuals to block a sidewalk from general passage or an entrance to a building. Unlike a no sit/lie requirement, this condition requires only that the individual allow for the path of travel to be accessible.
- Refers to existing code for the removal (and subsequent storage) of personal property left unattended on public property. City departments that deal with personal property (generally Police and Parks/Community Services) will have an internal administrative policy to provide additional details on how they remove, store and return property. Trash will continue to be dealt with in the current manner of disposal by City staff.
City staff reiterates that “the City cannot prohibit all forms of solicitation, especially passive solicitation. The City can, however, impose reasonable restrictions on aggressive, hazardous, and/or obstructive conduct while still respecting the constitutional rights of free speech and privacy for all citizens.”
In staff’s view, “The passage of this ordinance will provide additional tools for the City to address accessibility, safety and health issues throughout the community, and in the downtown in particular.”
They add, “[I]f this ordinance is passed offenders may be eligible for neighborhood court and other sentencing alternatives in lieu of paying fines.”
In addition to the proposed ordinance there are two other actions presently under way.
One is the formation of a Committee for a Clean and Safe Davis. The Davis Chamber has taken the lead in forming this group with participation from various members, the city, Downtown Davis and Visit Yolo.
Staff notes, “This committee has heard members’ concerns about the behaviors addressed in this ordinance and the negative impacts to individuals’ personal experiences in Davis and negative impacts on local business. While newly established, the committee plans to provide the framework for collaboration on action-oriented steps to improving the cleanliness and safety in our community, especially in downtown.”
Second, there is an increased presence of the Davis Police Department as well as the city manager’s office in Downtown Davis. The city is now utilizing the Hunt-Boyer mansion to provide support for various initiatives including, in the short term, that the facility will operate as a substation for officers and the homeless coordinator, and a bicycle officer will be stationed here.
In the long term, “this facility could also become home to a front counter and provide the community access to services currently offered only at the Police Department.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting