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Carpinteria Opposes State Bill That Would Legalize Camping in Public Places, Vehicles

Legislation is intended to assist the homeless, but city raises concerns over costs and consequences

Worried that California officials are trying to undo local regulations, the City of Carpinteria has voiced concerns with proposed legislation that would legalize camping in public places and in vehicles throughout the state.

The City Council voted unanimously last week to send legislators a letter in opposition to Senate Bill 876, which was introduced by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale, and aims to help the homeless by allowing people to camp in cars on public streets or in parking lots.

Carpinteria — along with most Central Coast cities — bans camping in public places in its municipal code.

If the state bill becomes law, Carpinteria officials fear the city would bear significant costs to enhance public facilities and services due to an uptick in public camping.

“We don’t think it’s a helpful piece of legislation,” said City Manager Dave Durflinger, who suggested it would benefit the bargain-hunting traveler more than the homeless.

Similar to Assembly Bill 718, a measure introduced by Assemblyman Kensen Chu, D-San Jose, that the city opposed last year, the Liu bill is based on the state’s belief that cities are adopting and enforcing ordinances that violate the human rights of people without homes.

The League of California Cities is encouraging its members to send letters of opposition, and Carpinteria is the first to do so.

Santa Maria Deputy City Attorney Kristine Mollenkopf said she’s been following the legislation but hasn’t been directed by city officials to draft a letter.

To date, Santa Barbara officials have no plans to oppose the legislation, according to city spokeswoman Nina Johnson.

Goleta officially opposed AB 718 last year but has taken no position on the Senate bill, city spokeswoman Valerie Kushnerov said.

The Carpinteria municipal code has prohibited sleeping and camping, except in designated places, for more than 40 years, believing that camping occurs as a result of local campground and other visitor accommodations being fully booked.

According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, two to three contacts are made per week because of suspicions that a person is sleeping or camping in a vehicle.

City staff said people are routinely contacted camping illegally in creek areas, the Salt Marsh Park and Bluffs Nature Preserve — most resulting in warnings rather than citations.

At the council meeting, Councilman Al Clark related how he had found someone camping in a van parked on the street in front of his house.

Durflinger said the city would be better off trying to offer assistance to the homeless instead of allowing them to camp or sleep wherever they want.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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