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Poway City Council votes to advance homeless encampment policy

City of Poway City Hall is seen in this photo taken June 7, 2023. Poway, Calif.
Jacob Aere
City of Poway City Hall is seen in this photo taken June 7, 2023. Poway, Calif.

The Poway City Council Tuesday night voted unanimously to advance an ordinance that would allow authorities to abate homeless encampments.

If the council formally approves it on June 20, the ordinance will give the Sheriff's Department the ability to abate unlawful encampments with 48 hours notice, according to a city document.

City Attorney Alan Fenstermacher said the ordinance would let sheriff's deputies cite people for sleeping on public property if they refuse a shelter bed, and confiscate unlawful personal property within 24 hours' notice.


The ordinance covers what type of camping is allowed, unlawful storage, parking, removal of personal property, violation, penalties and enforcement.

According to an agenda report, the ordinance would allow the city to ensure public areas "are maintained in a clean, sanitary, safe and accessible condition, to adequately protect the health, safety, environment and general welfare of the community, and to ensure public property is used for its intended purpose and remains accessible to all citizens, businesses and visitors in the city."

"Nothing in the proposed ordinance is intended to interfere with otherwise lawful and ordinary uses of public property," according to the city.

Mayor Steve Vaus and Councilmember Brian Pepin asked staff and the City Attorney's Office to review how Poway could "protect its public spaces for safe use by all, before any significant problems develop," Fenstermacher wrote in the agenda report.

The Poway council's actions come as the San Diego City Council is planning to vote on a proposal banning tents on city sidewalks.


Pepin said an enhanced policy is badly needed, as the homeless problem is "growing day by day."

Pepin said that in late April, two parents told him that a number of recreational vehicles and campers on Pomerado Road were rapidly becoming a homeless encampment near a school.

"I realized there was more that needed to be done," and the city needed to get ahead of the situation, Pepin said.

Pepin added his proposal "is a reasonable way for us to have an additional tool in the tool kit."

Councilmember Caylin Frank said the ordinance is in keeping with Poway's reputation as a safe, family oriented city. She mentioned the need for other services for those dealing with homelessness, such as mental health care or treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.

For example, the city works with Interfaith Community Services on providing people with drug or alcohol rehabilitation, Frank said. While authorities can't force people to get help, "housing first" policies can complicates matters, such as when a single mother fleeing an abusive domestic situation is housed near another tenant who may be mentally ill and violent, Frank said.

"You don't solve a problem just by offering a bed," she added.

A San Diego County Sheriff's Department official told Frank that deputies can look for resources to help those in need.

Vaus said that public safety is always the top priority for city leaders, but it's also important for residents and visitors to feel safe as they use Poway public spaces and trails.