Solvang adopts new homelessness response law for temporary camping

Currently outlawed, overnight camping on public property in Solvang will be allowed under certain circumstances by mid-November thanks to new rules.

During the Solvang City Council’s Oct. 9 meeting, City Attorney Dave Fleishman recommended the adoption of a new homelessness response ordinance, while describing the city’s current policy—unaltered since 2002—as unenforceable and at risk of being rendered unconstitutional. 

“A number of agencies in Southern California have been sued for their approach to removing homeless encampments because they don’t have an effective time, place, and manner regulation,” said Fleishman, who described staff’s proposed ordinance as a tool for the city to enforce several restrictions on overnight camping without “essentially criminalizing the act of being homeless.”

click to enlarge Solvang adopts new homelessness response law for temporary camping
File photo by Jayson Mellom
TEMPORARY TENTPOLE: The Solvang City Council recently approved an ordinance that allows temporary camping on public property, excluding the Tourist Commercial District and other sites.

Within Solvang’s city limits, it’s currently unlawful for any person to sleep or camp on public property between one half hour after sunset and 6 a.m. the following day. 

The new overnight camping policy, approved by the City Council with a 5-0 vote on Oct. 9, allows temporary camping for 24 hours at a time on city-owned property, excluding any area in the Tourist Commercial District, within 100 feet of Mission Drive, or within 200 feet of any school, plus other restricted sites listed in the ordinance.

After a camp has been in place at a single location for 24 hours or more, the city may post a notice to enforce, alerting the occupant that the camp must be removed no more than 72 hours later and moved to a different location either 1,200 feet or at least two blocks away from the original site.

Fleishman described the intent of the ordinance as being to help the city remove homeless encampments lawfully, but some locals are worried that the new law allows too much wiggle room. Carl Butler was among a handful of Solvang residents who expressed their concerns during public comment at the City Council’s Oct. 9 meeting.

In response to one comment from Fleishman about individuals and families that become involuntarily homeless, Butler said the new ordinance will attract those who are voluntarily homeless to the city.

“It’s not going to be a family from Guadalupe or Guatemala. It’s going to be someone coming out of LA or San Francisco in an old Winnebago, and they’re going to park the damn thing on the city streets and they’re going to attract other people who want to join in with a substance party,” Butler said. “That’s the direction we’re going.

“These people are going to take advantage of our weather and everything that Solvang offers,” Butler added. “I don’t want to see us be a sister city with Portland or Seattle.”

During deliberations, Councilmember Elizabeth Orona described the new homelessness response ordinance as empowering both the city manager and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office “to act on the maximum in terms of enforcement when or if we have these challenges.”

“The sentiment is clear from everyone in Solvang that we should be doing the maximum to protect our city and this is an example of that,” she said shortly before motioning to adopt the ordinance. 

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