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Proposed Amendments to Public Order Ordinances

Update: Friday, September 20, 2019

As reported by Philip Jankowski in the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin City Council voted to postpone action on proposed updates to ordinances on camping and sit/lie provisions until at least Oct. 17.

Below is a statement from the Downtown Austin Alliance following this decision:

Following the June 20th Austin City Council meeting where the camping and sit/lie ordinances were changed, City Council promised to come back in August with a solution to clarify and amend those ordinance changes. It has now been three months, and nothing has changed. However, we acknowledge that not passing the amendments as proposed was the right decision as it would not have significantly improved the current situation.

The Downtown Austin Alliance asks the Austin City Council to make definitive plans to improve health and safety conditions for those experiencing homelessness and the entire community.

The Downtown Austin Alliance is committed to actively participating in this work to develop realistic, achievable goals to address homelessness and reasonable alternatives and restrictions to camping, sitting and lying down in public places.

 

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

We have been working closely with the Mayor and City Council on amendments to the public order ordinances that will be discussed during a special meeting of City Council on Wednesday, September 18. We submitted the following letter to Mayor Adler and City Council this morning with our recommendations for adjustments to the ordinances. While each of the amendments being proposed recommends reasonable restrictions on camping, sitting and lying in public places, we favor the amendment sponsored by Council Members Tovo and Kitchen and co-sponsored by Council Members Alter and Poole.

We will be at the special meeting tomorrow to testify. If you would like to speak, you can sign up at City Hall today or tomorrow before 1:00 pm.

 

Special Called Meeting of the Austin City Council
9/18/2019, 1:00 PM
301 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

 

We recognize that homelessness cannot be enforced away and that the solution is to provide people experiencing homelessness safe places to be – from emergency shelter to permanent housing. However, amended ordinances will serve as an important step toward addressing the community’s concerns and to clarifying where people can be.

 

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Honorable Mayor Steve Adler and Austin City Council Members,

RE: September 18, 2019 Council agenda items 1 & 3 – Proposed amendments to camping and sit/lie ordinances

Mayor Adler and City Council,

The Downtown Austin Alliance recognizes the urgent need to amend City Ordinances 9-4-11 and 9-4-14 to implement reasonable restrictions on camping and sitting/lying in public places. While each of the amendments being proposed under agenda items 1 and 3 recommend a number of reasonable restrictions, we favor the amendment being proposed under agenda item 1 that is sponsored by Council Members Tovo and Kitchen and co-sponsored by Council Members Alter and Poole.

In addition to what is recommended under this proposed amendment, we believe that camping, sitting or lying should not be permitted in front of any open business or within a specified distance to the doorway of a building or residence. By more clearly identifying where people cannot camp, sit or lie down, areas where people can camp, sit or lie become clearer.

It is also important to allow the police department to take actions they feel are reasonable based upon the circumstances presented. In the absence of the ready availability of a representative of HOST, or other agencies (identified in Part 4), and in cases where people violating the ordinances refuse to comply or to accept APD’s offer to connect them to these agencies, APD must be clear and confident in the actions they can take.

The Downtown Austin Alliance remains steadfast in its focus to maintain a safe and vibrant downtown for everyone. We recognize that homelessness cannot be enforced away and that the solution is to provide people experiencing homelessness safe places to be – from emergency shelter to permanent housing. Through our funding support of the Rathgeber Center, Community First Village, The Terrace at Oak Springs and other housing initiatives, we have been consistent in our commitment to address homelessness.

Any amendments to the ordinances must bring increased clarity to the public’s understanding of what behavior is legal or illegal, and to APD for enforcement. Passing an amended ordinance in and of itself will not provide the all the solutions needed, but it is an important, positive step toward addressing the community’s concerns and to clarifying where people can be.

Sincerely,

 

Dewitt Peart President & CEO

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