Tuesday, March 19, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 2
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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on March 12th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 2

A bad Band-Aid

Lompoc City Council solution: Move homeless mobile campers somewhere else

By RON FINK

On Tuesday, March 5, the Lompoc City Council discussed the ongoing problem of the homeless using the streets of the city as a campground for their mobile residences.

The city attorney explains the issue in his staff report: “The city has experienced consistent nuisance issues and other adverse impacts resulting from the parking of vehicles on Aviation Drive and Cordoba Avenue. Since January 2016, there have been 195 police contacts with persons and/or vehicles for various crimes in the 800 to 1000 block of Aviation Drive and 800 Block of Cordoba Avenue.”

Some of the issues related to parked vehicles on those streets “have involved unlicensed/suspended license drivers [sic], leaking sewage on the ground, dumping of trash, petty thefts, domestic violence, violations of restraining orders, parole violations, vehicle fires, warrant arrests, and suicidal subjects. Recently there is increased business activity in the area, resulting in more frequent calls to the police department for assistance.”

In other words, there is a big problem for nearby businesses, some of which have late-night operations. But this problem isn’t limited to these two streets; vehicle-borne campsites can often be seen, along with the attendant problems in many areas of the city.

I spoke with one business owner in another part of town who said that people have been camping near the family business for several years; the alley is full of their trash, it smells like a sewer, items have been stolen from their property, and there are obvious signs of illegal drug use.

To solve the problem, the council discussed several “solutions” including prohibiting parking on the two streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day; issuing special parking permits “to limit parking on certain streets to, for example, residents of adjacent homes, or employees of adjacent businesses”; and, the creation of a “safe parking program.”

When one council member asked if this “was only a Band-Aid” and wouldn’t the campers just move somewhere else, the city attorney replied that they could park anywhere parking was allowed in the city.

Since curbside parking is allowed in front of most council members’ homes, they may wake up some day and have new neighbors leaking sewage on the ground, stealing from the neighborhood, and dumping trash on their lawns. And if the resident moves the vehicle a couple of inches every three days, they couldn’t do anything about it.

In past meetings, a proposal was floated to use the City Hall parking lot as a “safe parking program” location for an overnight vehicle-borne camping spot for the homeless, but that program has not been adopted.

This earlier attempt to address the parking program was superseded by a similar case, which originated in Boise, Idaho. According to Lompoc’s staff report: “After the [original Lompoc] Safe Parking Ordinance was adopted, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided Martin v. City of Boise. That decision limits the ability of government agencies to issue citations for sleeping on public property when there are no shelters or other similar locations available for sleeping.”

But the city manager reported that losses of the staff members who were working on this program had ground it to a halt. And nowhere in the staff report was there any indication of how many spaces would be needed.

Once again, it appears that vagrants will eventually be rewarded for choosing not to work or otherwise contribute to our society. As a society, we need to reconsider our priorities. If we continue to reward bad behavior, it will only grow worse, and our small towns will start looking like the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where large cardboard condo projects occupy many streets and sidewalks, which have now become open sewers.

And there is an old axiom that says, “If you build it, they will come.” In this case, if Lompoc provides a free camping area, you can be sure even more homeless people will show up, and the taxpayer-funded space will have to be enlarged to house them.

So, what did the council do?

Councilmember Jim Mosby supported the poorly thought-out plan saying it’s a “small step to feel what’s going on” and made a motion to approve the ordinance. His only concern was a provision to charge a parking permit fee, which he asked to be removed. Councilmember Victor Vega quickly seconded his motion.

So, on a vote of 5-0, the City Council decided to move the vehicle-borne campers on two streets to other areas of town. And, even though they were creating a parking permit program, they allotted no funding mechanism to manage it.

It’s just another failure by our City Council to create a credible solution to a growing problem. Their solution was just a Band-Aid on a cancer that will just pop up somewhere else.

 

Ron Fink writes his opinions from Lompoc. Send comments through the editor at clanham@santamariasun.com or write a letter to the editor and email it to letters@santamariasun.com.




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