Berkeley Bans Homeless from Sidewalks

The Berkeley City Council has approved legislation that bans the homeless (and their belongings) from occupying the streets.

The laws ban people from sleeping in planter beds, leaving personal belongings in trees, or taking up more than a 2-square-foot space on the sidewalk. They also tighten an existing ban on public urination and defecation.

The idea for the ban is to "discourage obnoxious behavior, rather than penalize people who have nowhere to go," writes SF Gate. What the difference is, is not exactly clear.

“All residents of Berkeley should be able to enjoy their communal spaces and walk on sidewalks,” Maio wrote in a press release issued Monday. She said the laws will take effect once the city has installed 50-100 storage bins for people’s luggage.

Activists for the homeless were not happy about the laws; the meeting was "rowdy." Nevertheless, the Council voted 6-3 to approve the legislation.

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin called the ordinances “a half-baked, reactive response to a really important issue.”

“I think it makes more logical sense for the city to look at how to increase its services, instead of citing somebody for having lots of stuff” on the sidewalk, Arreguin said.

But this city approved an emergency shelter in 2013 when the homeless population reached crisis levels but has not built the shelter. "Since then, the problem has gotten worse, Arreguin said, but there is no concrete plan to build the shelter."