Bakersfield

Kern Co. Supervisors unanimously back homeless camping ban

More than a month after its initial introduction, Kern County lawmakers unanimously approved a targeted ban on homeless camping within the county on Tuesday.

The no-camping ban – designed after a similar measure in Los Angeles – prohibits all camping, sitting and lying down with the intent to camp in public areas in a way that obstructs vehicles or pedestrian access.

Examples of public areas listed in the ordinance include sidewalks, streets, alleys, doorways, parking lots, parks, underpasses and riverbeds. 

All camping will also be prohibited within 500 feet of K-12 schools, daycares, youth centers, libraries and facilities that provide housing shelter and supportive services for the homeless. 

The ordinance further bans camping within 10 feet of a public sidewalk or curb adjacent to property zoned for residential use. 

According to the Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative point in time count, Kern County has at least 2,150 people experiencing homelessness in 2021. 

The targeted ban aims to circumvent rulings from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals barring more sweeping homeless encampment bans unless municipalities have adequate bed space to shelter the homeless.

Despite the passage, the ordinance relaxes enforcement in times when Kern County has inadequate resources.

“It says it right in the ordinance, if we don’t have space, if we don’t have beds, if we don’t have the resources to provide,” Supervisor Phillip Peters said, addressing ordinance opponents on Tuesday. “So we are not talking about this forced policing, this stuff that we have been hearing.”

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.