AUSTIN, Texas -- Austin City Council members are looking to change the controversial ordinances on camping and lying, by now adding restrictions.
- Rules were originally changed in June
- Thousands attended town hall meetings on homelessness
- 2 plans created so far to address camping concerns
This comes after backlash from the community following the council scaling back on penalties in June. Since then, thousands have attended forums with city leaders to voice their concerns about the changes to the rules and how to effectively address homelessness.
Council members Kathie Tovo and Ann Kitchen, as well as Mayor Steve Adler and council member Gregor Casar, on Tuesday put forth separate proposals that would amend the rules. Both plans are similar in that they focus on making it illegal to camp in areas with high car and foot traffic, areas with flood and fire risk, and areas around homeless shelters.
"While the four of us agreed on many – perhaps even most – provisions, we are not in complete alignment about each one," Tovo and Kitchen wrote on the city council message board.
Links to the two draft ordinances:
In Tovo and Kitchen's draft ordinance, camping would be restricted on traffic islands, areas under or alongside highway overpasses, freeways, and ramps. However, "…underpasses with large flat areas are generally safe and not subject to the prohibition on camping.”
They also specified putting limitations in West Campus, Downtown Austin and Central East Austin.
West Campus (between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 29th Street):
- Guadalupe Street
- Rio Grande Avenue
- San Antonio Avenue
- San Gabriel Street
- Nueces Street
- West 24th Street
- 2nd Street
- 5th Street west of Guadalupe Street
- 6th Street
- Congress Avenue
- Red River Street
Central East Austin:
- East 11th Street
- East 12th Street
- Manor Road
As for high flood risk areas, Tovo and Kitchen specifically mentioned restricting camping along Shoal Creek, Onion Creek, Waller Creek, Walnut Creek, and Williamson Creek. They also want restrictions in high fire risk areas and areas designated for conservation or water protection.
They also would make it illegal to camping around the ARCH and Salvation Army, from as south as East 4th Street to as north of East 11th Street, as east as Brazos Street and as west as Brushy Street. Camping would also be restricted around the proposed new shelter in South Austin.
Under Adler's draft ordinance, he has identified certain blocks along streets in downtown Austin and only mentioned restricting camping certain blocks along Guadalupe Street in the West Campus neighborhood.
- 100 to 1100 blocks of Congress Avenue
- 1900 to 2500 blocks of Guadalupe Street
- 100 to 1100 blocks of Brazos Street
- 200 to 1100 blocks of Colorado Street
- from the 200 block of Second Street (West) to the 300 block of Second Street (East)
- from the 900 block of Fifth Street (West) to the 800 block of Fifth Street (East)
- from the 700 block of Sixth Street (East) to the 1000 block of Sixth Street (West)
- from the 100 block of Eighth Street (West) to the 200 block of Eighth Street (East)
- from the 100 block of Ninth Street (West) to the 200 block of Ninth Street (East)
- from the 200 block of 11th Street (West) to the 200 block of 11th Street (East)
- from the 200 block of 15th Street (West) to the 200 block of 15th Street (East)
When it comes to determining whether or not a person is impeding the use of a sidewalk or trail, Casar proposing using a 4-foot clear zone for safety of movement, while Adler suggests it could be up to five feet.
"I cannot support a final ordinance unless it is non-discriminatory and won’t re-criminalize basic acts of survival by our neighbors experiencing homelessness. My primary goal -- and I believe the community’s goal -- is that we move forward on this issue, not backward," Casar wrote on the message board.
The Austin City Council plans to hold a special-called meeting on the proposed changes later this month.