New Court Opinion Does Not Affect Santa Barbara Camping Regulations

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By the City of Santa Barbara

On September 28, 2022, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in the case of Johnson v. City of Grants Pass, (9th Cir., Sept. 28, 2022, No. 20-35752) 2022 WL 4492090 regarding the enforcement of that city’s camping ordinance. In the Grants Pass decision, the Appeals Court reiterated its 2018 decision in the Martin v. Boise case, prohibiting the imposition of penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter, but also held that the act of sleeping includes the use of articles necessary to facilitate sleep such as blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, and similar items that provide the most rudimentary precautions to protect themselves against the elements.

The City of Santa Barbara’s Municipal Code provision prohibiting camping in public places is materially different from the ordinance in the City of Grants Pass. Unlike Grants Pass, Santa Barbara expressly excludes “merely sleeping outside or the use of a sleeping bag, bedroll, or mat” from the definition of prohibited camping. Therefore, Santa Barbara’s enforcement of its prohibition on camping in public places, such as parks and beaches, adheres to the Ninth Circuit’s instructions under this recent decision.

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MarcelK Oct 04, 2022 12:17 PM
New Court Opinion Does Not Affect Santa Barbara Camping Regulations

Footnote 34 of the ruling: "The dissent claims we establish “the right to use (at least) a tent.”
Dissent 82 n.15. This assertion is obviously false. The district court’s
holding that the City may still “ban the use of tents in public parks”
remains undisturbed by our opinion"

MarcelK Oct 04, 2022 12:50 PM
New Court Opinion Does Not Affect Santa Barbara Camping Regulations

IANAL, but: It means that the city will continue to enforce its anti-camping ordinance until/unless someone sues the city and some court enjoins it from enforcing the ordinance. If that happens, then presumably the city will further narrow the ordinance to adhere to whatever limits the court places on it.

Whether such a thing will happen of course depends on the wording of SB's ordinance. The 9th circuit ruling says 'The district court also noted the City may still “ban the use of tents in public parks,” “limi[t] the amount of bedding type materials allowed per individual,” and pursue other options “to prevent the erection of encampments that cause public health and safety
concerns.”' My reading of https://library.qcode.us/lib/santa_barbara_ca/pub/municipal_code/item/title_15-chapter_15_16-15_16_060 is that it is consistent with the court decision.

OTOH, as I read the *county* code, https://library.municode.com/ca/santa_barbara_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CH24OFIS it still exceeds what this ruling allows, by banning sleeping on public land (other than in parking lots or beside public roads).

MarcelK Oct 04, 2022 12:53 PM
New Court Opinion Does Not Affect Santa Barbara Camping Regulations

The 9th circuit ruling is here: https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2022/09/28/20-35752.pdf -- it refers to 5 Grants Pass ordinances. The city's camping ordinance that the article above quotes from ("merely sleeping ...") is at https://library.qcode.us/lib/santa_barbara_ca/pub/municipal_code/item/title_15-chapter_15_16-15_16_060?

a-1664899280 Oct 04, 2022 09:01 AM
New Court Opinion Does Not Affect Santa Barbara Camping Regulations

Santa Barbara's camping ordinance does not violate the decision on its face, but as enforced it has done so. The city has historically collected the private property of those cited or removed from camping sites. They have in the past destroyed this property. Since such property is necessary (and constitutionally protected) for sleeping the city has often violated the purpose of this decision. Hopefully this is in the past.

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