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Davis, California

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Davis City Council debates aggressive-panhandling ordinance


Effect of potential ordinance on city of Davis

On Jan. 9, the Davis City Council discussed an ordinance that would ban aggressive panhandling and behavior.

The draft ordinance would prohibit solicitation within 15 feet of an ATM or bank; prohibit individuals from blocking traffic, sidewalks and doorways; allow police officers to confiscate unattended private property left in public spaces and ban activities on the median of roadways.

Davis Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz stressed that this ordinance was not meant to target the homeless. Rather, she described it as being brought forth to combat troublesome behavior.

“This conversation gets wrapped up with conversations about homelessness,” Stachowicz said. “This is really about behaviors, no matter who commits them or who engages in them.”

Davis Mayor Pro Tempore Brett Lee also touched on the importance of behavior when discussing the ordinance.

“It’s [the ordinance] targeting behavior,” Lee said. “It doesn’t have to be the homeless. It could be a drunk college student who decides to sleep it off in front of your shop.”

A few guests who attended the City Council meeting saw the ordinance as an attack on the homeless.

“I urge you [City Council] to just completely reject this ordinance,” said an unnamed guest speaker at the City Council meeting. “It seems the only thing it would do is relieve police officers from the burden of making judgement calls in these situations and give them carte blanche to further criminalize homelessness.”

Gloria Partida, a Davis resident and founder of the Davis Phoenix Coalition, is concerned about what this ordinance would mean for the homeless and mentally ill population in Davis.

“I don’t want this to become criminalization of behaviors,” Partida said. “I think we need to think about this a little more.”

At the City Council meeting, Mayor Robb Davis offered his take on what the city should do in regards to the ordinance and the homeless.

“Let’s get the bathroom built,” Davis said. “Let’s find a place for possessions. Let’s let Ryan [Collins] train some community volunteers who will go out and talk about what acceptable and not acceptable behavior is. We have the resources to all of this without further criminalizing.”

Recently, in an attempt to combat homelessness, the City of Davis hired social worker Ryan Collins to be the city’s first homeless outreach coordinator, approved the Creekside Apartments affordable housing project and entered contracts with Davis Community Meals and Yolo Housing Authority to address homelessness in the community.

Davis’ homeless population has risen from 114 homeless individuals in 2009 to 146 in 2017, according to the Yolo County Homeless and Poverty Action Coalition.

In 2016, the State of California’s homeless rate was 30.1 people for every 10,000, according to the most recent study on homelessness conducted by the United States Interagency Council. In Yolo County’s most recent homeless count in 2017, Davis’ homeless rate was 21.4 people for every 10,000.

In November, the City of Sacramento passed an ordinance banning panhandling within 30 feet of an ATM, on medians, at transit stops and gas stations and near outdoor dining restaurants.

Although cities can go to lengths to ban certain behaviors and actions associated with panhandling — and panhandling itself in certain areas — panhandling is protected speech under the First Amendment.

The proposed ordinance grew out of a City Council meeting last January, in which council members discussed the panhandling issue in Davis.

The City of Davis has yet to announce when a decision will be made on the ordinance.


Written by: Dylan Svoboda — city@theaggie.org


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