As election looms, discussion continues on details of proposal
(Updated: adding video, comments from mayor pro-tem, meeting discussion)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Bend City Council has been working since June on crafting a proposed camping code to deal with health, safety and other issues related to unsanctioned camping on city property and public rights of way. More discussion Wednesday evening prepared the code for a public hearing in two weeks.
The code would outline rules and regulations for unsanctioned camping on city property and places like sidewalks and underpasses.
A memo from the city attorney’s office in Wednesday night’s agenda summarized a variety of specifics for review, including the structure of the code, definitions, enforcement, violations, and more.
One example: After 24 hours, a campsite would have to be moved at least one block or 600 feet, and not return for 72 hours.
But the timeline actually would be 96 hours, since the city must give 72 hours notice before such removal, except for “exceptional emergencies or criminal activity.” Once a camp is removed, it can be closed to camping for up to two weeks.
City Manager Eric King said Wednesday evening the staff had been working to broaden the approach and strategy to deal with the issue, moving beyond an initial version that only allowed overnight camping.
City Councilor Mo Mitchell, who was on the scene for last week’s latest cleanup and removal of the Second Street homeless camp, was especially upset that the cleanup began before daybreak, around 5 a.m.
“These are some of the most vulnerable members of the community,” she said. “We can wait until a decent hour.”
Mayor Gena Goodman-Campbell acknowledged that while it’s “not a prefect code in anyone’s eyes,” they are “hopefully getting to a place where a majority of councilors can live” with what’s been prepared. She said the goal is language working to balance the needs and concerns of all, including the houseless and service agencies, as well as issues facing businesses.
City staff recommended allowing up to three 12-by-12 foot camp spaces on a block and requiring distance from any other group of camps.
But City Attorney Mary Winters made clear that there are “so many steps before you get to camp removal in this code, a lot of cautions that staff has to go through.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Anthony Broadman said earlier Wednesday that the code is important to complete and implement, because it provides clarity.
“We simply do not have a law on the books that gives clarity to the community about where people can and cannot camp,” Broadman said.
Despite public criticism, Broadman thinks it’s been a quick process.
“With the pace of government, this has been pretty efficient and fast,” Broadman said. “Especially when you take into account that no prior council has taken this issue up.”
Last week, councilors were divided 3-3 on code specifics concerning timing, whether to require moving a campsite after 24 hours.
While councilors have conflicting opinions, they agree a code is needed.
“I think you have a majority of councilors who agree that we have to have a code to provide clarity in this community,” Broadman said. “It’s part of having a well-ordered situation that everybody can.”
“We all have to know the rules,” Broadman added.
Next week’s election means the proposed code may well be handed off to a new council — with three of the seven seats and the mayor on next Tuesday’s ballot.
“No prior council had to political will to move forward with this initiative, and I’m glad that we have and I think the election is not relevant to the pace of this work,” Broadman said.
Broadman believes a council vote could happen by December and it would take effect shortly after.
“I anticipate as soon as service providers and the city and our code enforcement staff tell uys that they’re ready — you know, we’ll have a code that’s ready to implement,” Broadman said.
Here’s Councilor Megan Perkins houselessness update for this meeting;
Last week, Council held a special meeting to discuss the proposed Camping Code to regulate when, where, and how people experiencing houselessness may use City rights-of-way for survival sheltering.
I want to talk with you now about the development of that code, specifically regarding our timeline and the changes we’ve made so far.
Council first started talking about the development of a code to regulate camping in public rights of way in June. The real work of providing solutions for our unhoused community members, though, has been underway for the past two years. We’re rapidly approaching our two-year goal of adding 500 shelter beds. That critical piece of capacity building has allowed us to start talking about this code, which adds a regulatory tool to our overall houselessness response strategy.
If you’ve tuned into our process, you know that creating this code has proven to be difficult and it should be. We understand the need to manage the right-of-way for the public and its intended use, and we also want to help people in crisis on our streets. With that in mind, when we do pass a code, it will be accompanied by a Resolution that outlines the City’s intent to continue and strengthen coordination with service providers that provide support to unhoused people who are sheltering in City rights-of-way. We want any rules we introduce to be balanced with offers of assistance or support. Our City Manager has referred to our efforts as aiming toward a “holistic response strategy,” which, I think, truly summarizes our intention.
At this evening’s work session, Councilors continued our conversation about the draft Camping Code. It has evolved through many rounds of feedback, including input from community members, advisory groups, the business community, City staff, service providers and individuals experiencing homelessness. At this point, the main focus of our discussion is time – to guide when people can shelter on City rights-of-way. We are trying to answer the question of, how long can an individual occupy a right-of-way in a tent or other camp.
At face value, it may seem like a simple question, but it involves several considerations, such as: alternative options for places people can go, how to help people maintain connections with service providers, factors like disability that might make moving challenging, and the conditions that make moving difficult, like extreme weather.
We want a code, or a set of rules, that works for everyone – for our community members, City officials, service providers, and especially for individuals who are unhoused.
The current version of the code specifies 24 hours as the amount of time an individual can spend in the rights-of-way. This would still require a 72-hour removal notice in the event of a violation which is state law for established campsites.
Council intends to pass a camping code before the end of the year. I do also want to remind everyone that any code we pass will not go into effect immediately. Instead, we will undertake an effort, along with the Coordinated Houseless Response Office and service providers, to ensure the new set of rules is understood and communicated across our community.
There will be an opportunity for your thoughts during the Public Hearing at our next Council meeting on November 16 and of course you are always welcome to email Council or make public comment at any of our meetings. I want to thank everyone who has already provided feedback regarding the draft code, and everyone who continues to listen to our questions and deliberations throughout the process.
-Councilor Megan Perkins
Here’s the memo:
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