California Cities Are Cracking Down on Homeless Camps. Will the State Get Tougher, Too?

Democratic voters in California cities are pushing mayors and city councils to clear homeless camps. Leaders are responding with new ordinances, from Sacramento to San Diego.

…Liberal leaders in cities and counties throughout California, pushed to their wits’ end by massive encampments and irate voters, are taking steps to ban camps. Cities including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Elk Grove, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Milpitas — all run by Democrats — passed ordinances in the past three years to target behavior such as setting up tents near schools and other buildings, blocking sidewalks or even camping at all when shelter is available. Officials in San Jose and San Diego are considering similar measures.

“It’s a reflection of where we’ve gotten to as a society on this issue,” said Democratic political strategist Daniel Conway, who led support for a 2022 Sacramento ballot measure that will make large encampments illegal if shelter is available. “Because I think there’s a recognition that the kind of status quo of having over 100,000 people in California living and dying on the streets, it’s terrible for those people…And at the same time there’s this increased sense that people don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods and their own communities anymore.”

So far, state lawmakers have been reluctant to follow with new anti-camping laws. Two bills backed by Republican legislators would take the unprecedented step of making it illegal for unhoused people to camp in certain areas — including near schools — throughout the entire state. To date, the state’s involvement in encampment management mostly has been restricted to agencies such as Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol clearing camps from state land.

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