Thursday, September 29, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 31

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 13th, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 7

Lompoc to restrict public access to three city-owned properties

By Caleb Wiseblood

Lompoc Police Capt. Kevin Martin called three adjoining, city-owned parcels of land the “biggest problem areas right now” in terms of homeless encampments, and Lompoc City Council just voted to restrict public access to the largely undeveloped lots.

The City of Lompoc plans to restrict public access at three adjoining parcels of mostly undeveloped land—located on the east side of Highway 1, across the street from the Lompoc Airport—and clear the homeless encampments on the sites.

“This is an absolute step in the right direction,” Martin said during the Lompoc City Council’s April 5 meeting.

According to a city staff report, “staff recommends the property to be closed to the public since the encampments on the property are causing public health and safety issues.” The report also states that there are approximately 40 individuals occupying the encampments.

“This isn’t just about ‘get out of this area and move some place else,’ we’re going to work hard to get them the help that they need,” Martin said.

The staff report states that the occupants will be given advance notice to vacate the encampments, as well as information on temporary housing and other local services. The city will also offer to store any of the occupants’ belongings in a secure location for up to 90 days if requested.

Jason Byard, the southern regional manager for Lemos Feed and Pet Supply spoke during public comment. Lemos neighbors the city-owned parcels, and Byard said he supported an additional recommendation from city staff to fund the construction of a new fence around the sites with “no trespassing” signs. 

“Our staff is picking up needles on a weekly basis on our property. … Our staff has told me—just as recently as today—they don’t feel safe leaving our store at night when they have to walk from our store to their car,” Byard said. “They don’t feel safe going around the side of our building to get to their car because they don’t know who’s going to be sleeping over there.”

City Councilmember Jeremy Ball said he recently visited the three sites with a volunteer from AmeriCorps and spoke to occupants of the encampments.

“I have to say I was mortified, shocked. Not only did we actually meet real people that are dealing with some really severe issues, but there’s rampant crime going on,” Ball said. “We met one lady who was making a split-second decision on whether to ask us for help to report her spouse for domestic violence, and they’re out living in the weeds there.”

City Council approved the proposed fencing and public use restrictions in a 4-0 vote. Mayor Jenelle Osborne was absent.

“This is not going to fix our homeless issue, this fence around three parcels,” Ball continued, adding that he believes that city staff’s recommended actions will “hopefully chip away at what has been a really traumatic situation here in Lompoc.” 

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Homelessness. Our state needs to address this growing issue and come up with creative solutions.
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