City council bans homeless camping, some panhandling

City council bans homeless camping, some panhandling
In a unanimous vote the Pasadena City Council voted to allow police to confiscate belongings left on the street. The rule is part of a larger ordinance targeting aggressive panhandling and street camping.

In a unanimous finding the Pasadena City Council voted to allow police to confiscate belongings left on the street.

The Pasadena City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for homeless to block sidewalks, aggressively panhandle or camp in areas not defined as campgrounds. Additionally, the ordinance allows police to confiscate personal property stored on any street, alley or sidewalk.

Several local church groups spoke against the plan, which was put forth by City Councilman John J Kennedy. Local Unitarian, Congregational and Presbyterian churches sent representatives to City Hall Tuesday urging the City Council to consider other solutions, even if it meant alienating some constituents.

“None of this is easy, but it is just,” explained Clara Bolton with Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

Will Watts, a lawyer with Public Counsel’s Homelessness Prevention Law Project, said that allowing personal property removals without warning violates Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful searches and seizures.

He also said that the city was required by state law to hold confiscated items for at least 90 days, although the ordinance only gives a minimum of 30 days.

Provisions targeting “aggressive panhandling” were also criticized by Watts and other speakers. The ordinance prohibits panhandlers from approaching anyone “in a threatening, coercive or menacing manner.” Watts said that existing laws were already in place to prevent assaults and battery, and this language was too ambiguous to enforce properly.

City Councilman Tyron Hampton expressed early skepticism about the homeless plan.

“If we’re trying to help people and get them off the streets, there might be another way to look at this,” Hampton said. He wanted the City Council to sort out whether the ordinance’s section relating to personal property removal would violate state law.

City staff members said a 90-day minimum property holding period mandated by state law only applied to lost items held by the city, not items confiscated. Hampton later joined his colleagues in passing the ordinance.

Watts and other advocates were not happy with the outcome.

“I think [City Council] just broke state law,” Watts said. “But for now, we have to monitor the situation.”

— By Hugo Guzman, Correspondent