Phoenix suburb’s council considers ban on sitting, sleeping on downtown sidewalks

Mar 1, 2016, 2:10 PM
(Cronkite News Photo/Alexis Dominguez)...
(Cronkite News Photo/Alexis Dominguez)
(Cronkite News Photo/Alexis Dominguez)

The Tempe City Council is considering banning people from sitting or sleeping on downtown sidewalks because businesses complain it deters customers.

The ordinance, expected to come before the council in April for a vote, would allow police to warn violators they have to move to a bench or somewhere else or be fined $100. If it’s approved it could take effect by May.

A similar ban was in place for 15 years but was lifted two years ago after panhandlers and people lying on sidewalks dropped. Since 2014 there has been a 200 percent increase in the amount of people sitting and lying on sidewalks, according to council documents.

“It’s invasive and it’s off putting,” said Peter Crocoll, a property manager in downtown Tempe.

“It tends to drive patrons away. It’s like almost every street corner there is somebody trying to get something.”

Jeremy Smith, who said he asks people for money on Mill Avenue and describes himself as a squatter who travels from city to city, says he believes the proposal will not solve any problems.

“Where are we going to go?” Smith asked. “They’re going to give us a citation and we won’t be able to pay it.”

The ordinance is meant to clear sidewalks, not drive up citations, said Kate Borders, president and executive director of the Downtown Tempe Authority, representing property owners and tenants.

“We have no intent for advocating for a lot of citations,” Borders said.

She said a study by the downtown group says only one citation was given out when it was in place from 1999 to 2014. Violators will be encouraged to sit on one of the area’s many benches or go somewhere else, she said.

“They can go to Sixth Street Park or Tempe Beach Park and sit on grass,” Borders said.

The number of times a Safety Patrol team member approached an individual who was sleeping or lying on the sidewalk increased in 2015 compared to the previous year.

At the end of 2014, people were approached 834 times compared to 745 times just in the first six months 2015, according to a Downtown Tempe Authority report.

City Manager Andrew Ching said the ordinance will not be used to “to criminalize homelessness or target the homeless community.”

The city code is meant to apply to anyone who might be in violation, and not just to those who are or appear to be homeless, Ching wrote in an email.

The $100 fine is a civil citation and not criminal unless there are repeated violations, according to Ching.

“If a person does not pay a fine, the city court has ways to collect it,” he said. “Typically that involves payment plans.”

No organization has opposed the sidewalk proposal, according to a city manager memo.

Meetings have occurred with representatives of the COT Homeless Outreach division, Salvation Army (downtown Tempe branch) and Tumbleweed, according to the document.

The memorandum says that. “no one expressed any concern with reinstating the intent of the original ordinance, which was to address the behavior of individuals sitting and lying down directly on the city sidewalk.

The council will also discuss the issue with the new Tempe police chief in late March before deciding whether to bring it to a vote.

Council member Kolby Granville said in an email he supports a ban as long as it is applied fairly.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix police releases body cam footage of fatal shooting from man throwing rocks

Phoenix police released the body cam footage from the fatal shooting that left a man dead after he was throwing rocks at patrol cars.
16 hours ago
Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, Zack de la Rocha (seated) and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine pe...
Kevin Stone

Long-awaited Phoenix-area Rage Against the Machine shows canceled

Rage Against the Machine scrapped the rest of their reunion tour, including two Glendale shows, after singer Zack de la Rocha injured his leg.
16 hours ago
Murad Dervish (University of Arizona Police Department Photo)...
Associated Press

Ex-grad student held without bond in fatal shooting of Arizona professor

A judge ruled there was enough evidence to try Murad Dervish on charges of first degree murder and aggravated assault.
16 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/@CaesarsPalace)...
KTAR.com

Bobby’s Burgers by chef Bobby Flay coming to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Handcrafted burgers from Bobby Flay will be served at a new restaurant concept coming to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
16 hours ago
Arizona Secretary of State Republican candidate Mark Finchem listens to instructions prior to debat...
Kevin Stone

Arizona GOP secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem explains prior use of early voting

Mark Finchem, the GOP nominee for Arizona secretary of state, explained Thursday why he regularly voted early until this year.
16 hours ago
This undated photo released by the Arizona Attorney General's Office shows Guillermina Fuentes. A Y...
Associated Press

Character witnesses testify for Arizona woman seeking leniency for ballot harvesting

A parade of character witnesses provided a judge Thursday with glowing reports about a southern Arizona woman who admitted collecting four voted early ballots in the 2020 primary election.
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Phoenix suburb’s council considers ban on sitting, sleeping on downtown sidewalks