BAKERSFIELD, calif. (KERO) — The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an anti-encampment ordinance.
The ordinance, which goes into effect in the next 30 days, makes it unlawful for a person to camp or place personal items in public areas at certain times and locations.
The anti-encampment ordinance gives law enforcement and county response teams the power to remove individuals setting up camp on the streets.
Kern County Ordinance Chapter 8.3, Title 2:
- It will prohibit camping, sitting, or lying down with the intent to camp in public areas such as sidewalks, streets, alleys, doorways, and entrances to buildings in such a way to obstruct vehicular traffic or pedestrian access as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L.
- No. l0l-336, 104 Stat. 328 (1990), as amended from time to time.
- It will prohibit camping, sitting, or lying down with the intent to camp, within 500 feet of a fence, entrance. or exit of a public or private K-12 school.
- It will prohibit camping, sitting, or lying down with the intent to camp within 500 feet of an entrance or exit of a public library or facility that provides housing shelter. supportive services, or storage to homeless persons.
- lt will prohibit camping, sitting, or lying down within l0 feet of a public sidewalk or curb adjacent to residentially zoned property, with the exception of the property owner or with that owner's permission.
- It will prohibit the storage, use, maintenance, or placement of personal property in public areas such as sidewalks, streets, alleys, doorways, entrances to buildings, public parking lots, parks, underpasses, riverbeds, bike paths, and open spaces
- Establishes a process for notice and enforcement, including removal of property.
- Establishes a process for collecting and preserving removed property for 90 days.
- Establishes a process to connect the homeless to available shelter space and precludes the enforcement of the ordinance if no such shelter space exists.
The ordinance was something Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard wanted to see cleaned up.
“As I passed through town a couple of days ago, I saw four or five people laying on the sidewalk. You don’t know if they are dead. You don’t know if they are alive. It surrounds us all the time,”
said Maggard back in October.
The ordinance looks to end that sight Maggard referenced by prohibiting camping, sitting, or lying down with the intent to camp in public areas. This includes sidewalks, doorways, riverbeds, parks, underpasses, and anywhere within 500 feet of a school or within 10 feet of a public sidewalk adjacent to a residential property. It also creates two rapid response teams that would enforce the ordinance.
It was an ordinance that the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association supported.
Cassie Bittle, whose family owns KC’s Steakhouse downtown said back in July that she thinks the ordinance is important in keeping a positive quality of life in Downtown Bakersfield.
"I don’t think any business or any homes should have to worry about encampments forming on their doorsteps or on their property or on the city streets," said Bittle. "People should be able to walk to the parks and they should be able to feel safe walking down our city streets. So I am supporting the county on this ordinance.”
However, the ordinance is only for public spaces, which do not include private businesses and would only be in effect if shelter space is available.
The 2021 Point in Time Count found roughly 2,150 people experiencing homelessness in Kern County. Last year, the same count found 1,580 people were living on the streets at any given time. This shows an increase in our homeless population locally and national data reports the same.
In 2019 the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported 567,715 homeless individuals across the nation. That number went up to 580,466 by 2020. National leaders have said they are concerned that the pandemic forced more people out of their homes and onto the streets.