The Gilroy City Council on June 19 finalized its approval of an ordinance that prohibits camping near schools, in Uvas Creek and other public right-of-ways.
The ordinance passed at the council’s June 5 meeting, and was placed in the consent agenda for June 19, where multiple items are approved in one single vote. However, Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz, who voted against the ordinance at the previous meeting, pulled the item for discussion to allow for further comments.
Armendariz said many downtown business owners have reviewed the map that shows where camping is banned, and have expressed concern that most of the corridor is not included.
“The unforeseen consequences of this ordinance is that we could be pushing our unhoused people downtown, we could be pushing them to our residential areas,” she said. “Given the map and the way the ordinance is written, that is essentially what we will be doing. The sidewalks downtown are ADA-compliant, and people could fit there sitting, lying or standing.”
Tristia Bauman of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, a Gilroy resident, said the city could expose itself to litigation in light of the 2019 decision by the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Martin v. City of Boise, which determined that outdoor public camping cannot be criminalized unless the individuals are given an alternative shelter option.
“The city does not know whether it can enforce this ordinance consistent with the Constitution,” she said, adding that Gilroy officials have done an “incomplete analysis” on the space available where people can legally camp. “The city is going down a road that’s going to harm all of us.”
Mayor Marie Blankley said the ordinance was brought forward to address public safety, based on the number of reports and complaints the city has received about homeless encampments near schools, parks and creeks.
“This is not trying to control the number of people who live outdoors, this is not criminalizing homelessness, this is not about not wanting people to be, this is not about addressing homelessness at all,” she said. “This ordinance is about public safety, protecting public infrastructure and the water we drink.”
The ordinance again passed 5-1, with Armendariz dissenting and Councilmember Zach Hilton absent.
It is slated to go into effect July 19.