Placeholder Image photo credit: City of Santa Rosa

One Santa Rosa city council member called the move a “moral injury."

Another said they hope to see the city tell people where they can exist not just where they can’t.

But ultimately all seven members of the Santa Rosa city council voted to repeal and replace city laws regarding camping on public property - ushering in a new set of rules for the city’s homeless population.

Santa Rosa’s previous laws around homeless camping conflicted with the important Martin v Boise ruling. Santa Rosa’s homeless services manager Kelli Kuykendall said that 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling set consequential precedence.

"Martin prohibits cities from criminally enforcing camping restrictions on public property, if there is no alternative shelter available for those facing enforcement," Kuykendall said.

Kuykendall said the new ordinance carries a number of restrictions including..."occupying an area greater than 10 by 10 feet, camping within four feet of another person, dumping grey or black water, unpermitted electrical connections and possession of combustible gas or liquids," Kuykendall said.

"A prohibition on fires, except for cooking in city installed facilities, improper disposal of hypodermic needles, environmental harm, damage to public property, camping near vegetation that could aid in spreading fire, and excessive noise," Kuykendall said.

There are also location restrictions Kuykendall said. When alternative shelter is available, camping is banned on all city owned or leased property.

"That includes city parks, the public right of way, that impedes passage by pedestrians, cyclists, or vehicles," Kuykendall said. "So that includes streets, bike lanes, sidewalks, and roadway within 25 feet of a driveway or loading dock, a building entrance or exit, a fire hydrant lane connection or equipment and transit hubs and bus shelters within 150 feet of a high watermark and within a hundred feet of a school."

The new rules apply to tents and other structures.

A separate set of city rules governs individuals living in vehicles.

Public input on the new ordinance ranged, with vocal support from Santa Rosa’s downtown business community, and concern expressed by local homeless advocates.

Council member Chris Rogers said balance is needed.

"We feel the impact," Rogers said. "I know that folks who stood up and are concerned feel the impact. I talk to parents all the time who find hypodermic needles in their parks. They're concerned about the impact. All of that is real, and that can both be real, and also we need to do a better job of providing a place for people to go."

Multiple council members voiced support for an “affirmative response” to homelessness in the city to make clear what is permissible, and to continue efforts to move homeless community members off the streets and into housing.

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