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Pasadena approves ban on homeless structures, aggressive panhandling

File: A homeless man fixes his tent along a street in Los Angeles, California on February 9, 2016.
File: A homeless man fixes his tent along a street in Los Angeles, California on February 9, 2016.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The Pasadena City Council voted unanimously on Monday to ban homeless people from camping or creating makeshift shelters in any public park or space intended for public use. 

The controversial ordinance, introduced by councilman John J. Kennedy, had been brought before the council once before, but caused disagreement between council members who argued its language was unclear. The revised mandate reads as follows: 

To camp, erect, maintain, or occupy any tent, lodge, structure, temporary or makeshift shelter, or unattended installation or display in any park or upon the grounds' above specified except in places designated for such purposes. 

The approved ordinance also states that any property on sidewalks or alleys will be removed by the city and stored for at least 30 days. If the owner is not present or is unable to remove it themselves, a notice of removal would be issued. Several council members noted that the property owners would not be charged for picking up their possessions at the end of the holding period. 

At the council meeting Monday, Councilman Tyron Hampton shared an experience about visiting a retail store in Old Town Pasadena, where the majority of the homeless population resides. A homeless man was being disruptive in the store, before the Pasadena Police Department came and arrested the man.

Hampton voted against previous versions of the ordinance, but acknowledged that the ordinance's language had improved. He addressed the rest of the council, noting that if the police removed such people without an ordinance, then passing one would be an unnecessary step. 

“If the whole intent is actually to remove homeless people from stores and facilities through law enforcement efforts, we would not be accomplishing that,” he said. 

City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris noted that Hampton's specific situation wasn't what the ordinance addressed. It was crafted to address public spaces like parks – not retail stores.

Though there's been a decrease in Pasadena's homeless population, councilman Kennedy said that it's still very difficult to address the issue from a policy perspective. 

“The effort of the City Council has been a narrowly tailored action to deal with aggressive panhandling, not homelessness," he said.  

It is unlawful for any person to impede the progress of another or to hinder or obstruct any person from freely passing by on any street alley sidewalk, or crosswalk for the purpose of soliciting, asking or begging for money, or to approach any person in any public way or place in a threatening, coercive or menacing manner for the purpose of soliciting asking or begging for money.

During the public comments section of the meeting, many residents aired their grievances about the passage of the ordinance, while some cited their negative personal experiences with the homeless and called for its approval. 

“If you treat people not just as social problems, but as people who want the same things you and I want — personal respect, a predictable living situation and the knowledge that your life matters to others,” one resident said.  

The same person called the anti-panhandling mandate an act of expediency rather than an act that respects and promotes long term community stability.

Attempts to contact the Pasadena Police Department for comment on how the ordinance would be enforced were not immediately returned.