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Stockton city council passes ordinance banning camping in some areas

Starting in late October, camping within 30 feet of parks, underpasses, government buildings, levees and more will be a misdemeanor in Stockton.

STOCKTON, Calif. — A new ordinance passed unanimously by Stockton's City Council Tuesday will outlaw camping within 30 feet of dozens of "critical infrastructure areas," like government buildings, levees and parks.

Starting Oct. 27, those camping within 30 feet of critical infrastructure or wildfire risk areas are subject to having their property removed and potentially facing misdemeanor charges that come with fines as high as $25,000 per day.

The ordinance says critical infrastructure includes roads, sidewalks, bike paths, bridges, underpasses, parks, parking lots, government buildings, storm conveyances, levees and more. Click here to read a full list.

On days when no shelter space is available in the city, the ordinance is not allowed to be enforced at parks for those occupying less than 75 square feet and not camping within 30 feet of any playgrounds, restrooms or picnic shelters.

In their filing recommending city council members approve the ordinance, Stockton city staffers said the measure will protect public services and waterways.

"The city has a documented history of issues with encampments along various waterways, including Calaveras River and Smith Canal. Related problems include illegal dumping, fires, trespassing, damage to property, contamination of the waterways, and destruction of fencing which facilitates further illegal activity and creates a safety concern," the filing said. "Public health and safety concerns are elevated when these encampments and other transient activities are situated on or near critical infrastructure and wildfire risk areas."

According to the filing, the city's current process for clearing camps is by posting 72-hour notices in English and Spanish with resources for the homeless before removing people and property. 

It's a practice that could soon change under the new ordinance, Stockton's City Manager Harry Black said in a statement to ABC10. 

"This ordinance does not add more resources, but it does add more tools for acting quickly (allowing for 24-hours’ notice, rather than 72-hours for displacement) when necessary to protect critical infrastructure," the statement said. "The City will continue to follow its encampment displacement protocol, but it is important that people understand that the ordinance will be helpful, but is not a panacea and will not serve as a cure."

Watch More San Joaquin County News from ABC10: Lodi councilman turns experience with homelessness to help take people off the streets

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