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A harmful and ignorant sidewalk ordinance

Thank you to our regular newsletter contributors Sarah Rabanales and Robert Gonzalez for their work on this piece!

Once again the Sacramento City Council has taken another step towards criminalizing homelessness.

There are two relevant meetings to the current discussion surrounding sidewalk ordinances. The first took place on August 9th, and the second on August 23rd.

On August 9th, the City Council came together to vote on consent calendar item 26: (Pass for Publication) Ordinance Amending Chapter 12.24 of

the Sacramento City Code Relating to Sidewalk Obstructions and Pedestrian Interference.

This item is a continuation of a previous item the Council voted on to make the penalty for sidewalk obstructions and pedestrian interference move from an infraction to a misdemeanor. This misdemeanor charge would come with a criminal record and a fine anywhere from $250 to $2500. More about the previous item decision can be found in this SJPC write-up.

This meeting and unanimous approval vote essentially pushed the item further for deliberation. As explained by Councilmember Harris, this decision allowed the item to go through a 10 day review process before it was to be further discussed by the Council on August 23rd. Although there weren't any comments about this item on behalf of the Council, there were quite a few public comments, ranging from strong support to strong opposition.

The opposition hammered home the fact that this ordinance is just a band aid solution to the issue of homelessness and that the best way to combat the housing crisis is to build public housing.

See below: powerful comment from Shelly Williams - Sac D2 resident

HERE’S THE THING: Shelly is RIGHT! The criminalization of homelessness is NOT going to stop this crisis. We need sustainable plans long term housing in order to effectively address the issue. The Council should listen to their own constituents and understand that they deserve better than what the Council is currently giving them. We shouldn't be wasting time or resources on criminalizing policies that will further traumatize and disenfranchise an already marginalized population.

What happened at the 8/23 meeting?

In question: item 19 - an ordinance to amend chapter 12.24 of the Sacramento city code relating to sidewalk obstructions and pedestrian interference.

The purpose of this item was to update the current codes that govern sidewalks in Sacramento; the policy considerations for this item are as follows:

  1. Throughout the city - placing a four-foot obstruction-free sidewalk area for a pedestrian-friendly environment

  2. Allowing the City Manager to designate city personnel to oversee this ordinance and make sure the city is in compliance

This project and policy considerations do not have to go through CEQA because these considerations will have no significant effect on the environment.

In case you were wondering how serious the city is about criminalizing people living outside, please see the following list of punishments for violating the ordinance:

A. In addition to any other remedy allowed by law, any person who violates a provision of this chapter is subject to criminal sanctions, civil actions, and administrative penalties pursuant to chapter 1.28.

B. Violations of this chapter are hereby declared to be a public nuisance.

C. Any person who violates a provision of this chapter is liable for civil penalties of not less than $250 or more than $25,000 for each day the violation continues.

D. Any person who violates a provision of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor.

E. All remedies prescribed under this chapter are cumulative and the election of one or more remedies does not bar the city from the pursuit of any other remedy to enforce this chapter.

The ordinance passed, because once again the City Council has shown an incredible amount of callousness in regard to the well-being of the unhoused, has continued to demonstrate their refusal to address homelessness by committing to any actual long-term solutions (PERMANENT HOUSING), and has again bent to the misguided demands of the business community and chosen to invest in policies of criminalization that will only further exacerbate the homelessness crisis.

In the shockingly ignorant words of Sac City Councilmember Jeff Harris regarding unhoused folx living on the sidewalk (pulled from this Fox40 article)

It’s not about telling them, 'You can’t camp here.’ It’s really quite simply saying, ‘Clean up your act a little bit. Make it more compact.'

SO, we'll leave you with that...

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