Bakersfield

Importing LA-style camping ban to Bakersfield unnecessary, report says.

It appears that no two homelessness crises are the same in the Golden State.

That’s the takeaway from a report prepared in advance of Wednesday’s Bakersfield City Council meeting as lawmakers consider the possibilities of strengthening implementation their own version of a modified anti-camping ordinance in the mold of the City of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles councilmembers approved a law that cracks down on people storing personal belongings at building entrances, highway underpasses, public parks, and other targeted locales.

Bakersfield and Kern County both sprung into action to consider similar measures. Bakersfield currently has a no-camping ordinance on the books.

However, it faces a wrinkle.

Most municipal homeless policy in the western United States, particularly in California, is required to comply with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Martin v. Boise, which bars cities from banning camping in public places unless it has adequate shelter space available to relocate homeless people.

The Boise ruling has crippled the ability for western American cities to grapple and respond to their homeless crises, particularly sending Los Angeles’ Skid Row into third-world conditions.

On request by Bakersfield City Council member Andrae Gonzales, Bakersfield city officials compared the new Los Angeles ordinance with Bakersfield’s longstanding prohibition to urban camping and detailed the city’s efforts to respond to the ever-growing crisis.

City officials found that, through its recently-adopted Measure N public safety and services tax, the creation of 400 new shelter beds via public and partner agencies, combined with the deployment of Bakersfield rapid response teams to relocate and direct homeless populations to housing, had gone further than what the Los Angeles ordinance sought to do.

“The policies outlined in the LA Ordinance do not provide any new enforcement tools that the City hasn’t already used,” the report from the City Attorney and City Manager’s office reads. “The issue is enforcement and compliance with the Boise decision.”

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the Boise appeal on a writ of certiorari in Dec. 2019.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.