The city’s three-member ordinance committee showed its support on Tuesday for a proposal that would make it illegal for people to store their belongings on a public street for more than four hours.
The ordinance committee vote was 2-1, with councilmen Oscar Gutierrez and Randy Rowse in support and Kristen Sneddon opposed. The matter next moves to the full Santa Barbara City Council.
“In my experience, the city’s enforcement of laws has always been biased against the homeless, bent against the homeless, and an ordinance like this leaves too much room for people to do anything they damn well please if they don’t like what they see,” said Peter Marin, a homeless activist.
Santa Barbara is trying to take actions to reduce the presence of homeless people in public places. The personal-belongings ordinance on Tuesday follows a similar one the week prior that sought to halt the abandonment of shopping carts, which are often used by homeless people to store their things.
Homeless people are spread throughout the city, but Santa Barbara lacks a day center for them to gather. Marin said homeless people often leave their possession for more than four hours.
“The city has made no attempt to give people shelter,” Marin said. They have made no attempt to give them a place to store their stuff. They have no alternative except to store it on the street.”
Marin said the proposed ordinance offers no exceptions for the disabled.
“An ordinance of this kind has to work for everyone, including those whose lives are literally going to be destroyed by it,” Marin said. “There is no way you can enforce this ordinance without making hundreds of people suffer.
Rowse said Santa Barbara is a compassionate city and that “we have nothing to be ashamed of — ever.”
“The public right of way is not a storage space,” Rowse said. “The public right away is the public right of way. It belongs to all of us. It belongs to people who are housed, it belongs to people who are not housed.
Rowse also said he was upset at a media report because the ordinance was not targeting specific people, such as the homeless, but the materials themselves.
Sneddon said the ordinance goes too far.
“I don’t believe we are ready for this level of an ordinance until we have addressed a day care center, and storage facility possibilities,” Sneddon said. “I just don’t understand where people are supposed to go and what they are supposed to do.
“The timing of this is not quite right until we have addressed the issues of the day center.”