On Tuesday the council in separate items is set to address three key components of its policies on homelessness. First, council will address the need for public restrooms. Second, council will deal with the issue of storage for personal property for unhoused individuals. And third, council will consider an ordinance to prohibit aggressive panhandling, obstructive conduct, and unattended personal property.
The need for a public restroom in the downtown clearly transcends the issue of homelessness – as any parent who has scrambled to find a restroom for their kids can attest. But with complaints about public urination and defecation, it becomes clear that the city needed to address the issue.
Staff notes: “The Davis Chamber created a survey on the topic of the downtown public restroom and issued the online link to all their members. They received 55 responses and 90% said a downtown public restroom would be beneficial to the community.”
The question is now where, and there have been five identified locations which have been presented as final options, although each has, according to staff, received at least one protest.
These are: 3rd and B Streets at the south end of Central Park, G Street Plaza – at the north end, E Street parking lot – at the southwest corner, Depot Building on H Street – inside the building,
and 2nd & H Street Plaza – east end.
Staff is recommending “that a public restroom be installed in the G Street Plaza with the exact location to be chosen by the City engineers and other key staff.”
The city has about $500,000 remaining in its CIP (Capital Improvement Project) fund. Staff notes: “While this should more than cover the cost of the facility (estimated at $150,000), the initial Alta estimate for installation is $50,000 but does not include design services. A priority for funds remaining in the CIP is enhancements to the G Street Plaza to create an attractive community space.”
Staff argues that G Street Plaza is the best location as it receives “heavy pedestrian traffic as well as shows a distinct problem with public urination. There is also ample space and all the necessary access to utilities.”
However, “adjacent property and business owners have expressed strong desire not to have a restroom at this site but this location does in fact provide the option for the most physical distance between the facility and storefronts.”
Back on January 9 the council discussed the issue of unattended personal property in the public right of way. Staff was asked at the time to explore options to provide for storage of personal property belonging to individuals who are homeless.
Police Chief Darren Pytel and Mayor Robb Davis reportedly met with a small group from the faith community involved in services to homeless individuals “to discuss the possibilities for creating storage of personal goods.”
The group concluded that “reasonable services could be provided to people with small amounts of goods who may need to store valuables during work hours, during job searches, or for other brief periods of time. People using these services would benefit from a secure location for relatively short periods of time each day.”
According to staff, such services, however, would not be appropriate for people with larger quantities of goods for several reasons: “1) it is not clear that people with a large amount of portable goods are looking for these services; and 2) finding a space and providing staffing for and management of larger amounts poses significant challenges.”
They have not made a final decision on this. “Participants agreed that the next step is for Homeless Outreach Coordinator, Ryan Collins, to engage in learning to better understand the circumstances and needs of those with large amounts of mobile possessions before attempting to recommend solutions. In the meantime, discussions continue with the faith community representatives about how a short term storage system might work.”
For now, “service providers will communicate with individuals they serve about police policies related to tagging and storing goods and the police department will continue to tag and remove goods in the downtown in an expeditious way, always attempting to contact individuals directly before removing goods and making it clear for how long and where their goods will be stored.”
Finally, council will consider an ordinance that would address the following issues: Solicitation near ATMs, prohibition of aggressive and obstructive conduct, unattended personal property in public places and rights of way, blocking entranceways and paths of travel.
The proposed ordinance would do the following things:
- 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.
—David M. Greenwald reporting