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Sandy councilors vote to update camping code in compliance with House Bill 3115

PMG FILE PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Sandy updated its camping ordinance on June 21. On Tuesday, June 21, the Sandy City Council voted to bring Sandy's code about where camping is prohibited on public property into compliance with state law.

"In 2021 House Bill 3115 was introduced, passed and signed into law which requires that a local law regulating siting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outdoors on public property that is open to the public must be objectively reasonable as to time, place, and manner with regards to persons experiencing homelessness," City Manager Jordan Wheeler explained in a staff report. "This follows the 2019 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Martin v. Boise case that the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibits cities from prosecuting people experiencing homelessness when no alternative shelter is available. In other words, HB 3115 makes it lawful for unsheltered individuals to sleep on any public property which is open to the public, unless a local governing body enacts reasonable rules and restrictions."

As written, according to the staff report, the city's existing camping ordinance was "unconstitutional and unenforceable." With HB 3115 going into effect July 2023, the city has opted to make sure its ordinance is up to date now.

In order to do so, Council repealed and replaced the existing ordinance with one that seeks "to ensure that citizen rights are protected while providing specific and objectively reasonable regulations for the use of publicly owned property."

"The new ordinance would help our officers and staff better manage and respond to issues related to camping through clear and objectively reasonable guidelines, and provide assistance and referrals to individuals experiencing homelessness," Wheeler wrote. "Unregulated and unorganized camping damages the natural environment, impedes the public's use and enjoyment of parks and public property, and creates unsafe and unsanitary living conditions which pose a threat to the peace, health, and safety of the individuals camping and our community at large."

According to the new ordinance, camping will be prohibited in the following places within the City of Sandy:

• All city parks, trails, and areas designated as parks and open space (POS) under SMC chapter 17.32

• All areas designated as flood, slope, and hazard areas under SMC Chapter 17.60

• Any area on a sidewalk, unless the camping is done in a manner that maintains a clear, continuous sidewalk width of at least five feet

• All real property upon which city facilities are located

• All city owned parking lots

• All public property located within an area zoned for residential use under SMC Title 17

• All publicly owned property located along and between Proctor Avenue and Pioneer Avenue, and along Pleasant Street between Bluff Road and Ten Eyck Road

This means that overnight camping will be allowed on public property in the areas of the city for zoned commercial and industrial use, excluding parks, open space, city parking lots or "any other areas that do not conflict with any of the other criteria listed above."

While some councilors expressed concern about allowing any camping in Sandy increasing the houselessness problem in town, with Councilor Kathleen Walker asking if camping could be further prohibited if the city offered bus tickets to transport people experiencing homelessness locally to shelters in Portland or Gresham.

"I think it's a really heavy haul to just say: 'Pick up your stuff. Here's a bus ticket to Portland,' when the idea is that they're trying to get out of Portland to find something else," Councilor Rich Sheldon offered in response. Sheldon and Councilor Laurie Smallwood participated on the subcommittee that reviewed and revised the camping ordinance.

As Wheeler wrote, and Sheldon pointed out: "These regulations will provide the (police department homelessness) liaison and other staff with clear guidelines and rules for managing where individuals experiencing homelessness can camp."

"The city will continue to work with our local nonprofits and regional partners to coordinate on addressing the issue, identifying service needs and creating a better understanding and approach to assisting chronically homeless individuals who need services and shelter," Wheeler added.

The Council adopted the new ordinance unanimously.

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