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Encinitas opposes state bill addressing homeless

The Encinitas City Council on April 20 unanimously went on record against California SB 876, saying the proposed bill doesn’t solve or help homelessness and takes away local enforcement power.

Introduced by Sen. Carol Liu in January, SB 876 would ensure that homeless people have the right to rest and gather in public spaces, overruling cities with ordinances that restrict the homeless population in certain areas. It also proposes to give homeless people an avenue to sue public entities for violating their rights.

A summary of the bill states that more and more, cities are wrongly targeting the homeless population.

“These anti-homeless laws — commonly referred to as ‘vagrancy,’ ‘quality of life,’ or ‘anti-nuisance’ laws — deny people the right to exist in public,” the bill says. “A survey of homeless people conducted by the Western Region Advocacy Project revealed that the majority of people without homes do not know of a safe place to sleep at night where they would not be arrested.”

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The council’s vote authorized Mayor Kristin Gaspar to send an opposition letter to Liu on the matter. A letter included with the agenda report takes issue with the bill “removing local authority to enforce ordinances.”

“Local agencies must be able to protect public health, safety and welfare of their communities,” the letter states.

Encinitas doesn’t have any laws on the books that would be impacted or overruled by the state legislation, according to Bob McSeveney, the city’s senior management analyst. Yet if approved, the bill would prevent the city from passing future regulations on vagrancy and homelessness in public, McSeveney confirmed in an email before the council meeting.

The letter goes on to say that the city of Encinitas is working with Interfaith Communities and Community Resource Center to align the homeless with permanent housing. It adds that the bill contains no solutions for ending homelessness, stating cities need more funding for resources like housing, mental health treatment and job training.

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“The amendments offered in your bill…could worsen the problem by removing incentives for taking advantage of existing resources and services,” the letter says.

SB 876 would still allow cities to place limits on public spaces, such as restricting hours. But local laws wouldn’t be able to target the homeless or result in enforcement that’s geared toward the homeless.

The council routinely takes stances on state bills as part of its legislative position letters program.

Councilmembers didn’t speak to the agenda item. It was on the consent calendar, which is typically approved without council discussion.

The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing.


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