In a contentious public meeting that went well into the night, the City Council of Berkeley Tuesday passed a set of laws specifically designed to target the city's homeless population. The laws, which include a ban on occupying more than 2-square-feet of sidewalk space, are an attempted response to the city's growing population of homeless. Several members of the city council vocally opposed the new laws, and at least one Councilmember decried the measures as punitive.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin explained his opposition to the new laws.
“I think it makes more logical sense for the city to look at how to increase its services," said Arreguin, "instead of citing somebody for having lots of stuff.”
Arreguin went on to note that the problem of homelessness has only gotten worse since a 2013 council vote to construct a homeless navigation center — a center that has still yet to be built — and that the new laws are a "a half-baked, reactive response to a really important issue.”
Berkeley's Vice Mayor, Linda Maio, came out in favor of the new laws, notes CBS 5, saying that the idea is "to create welcoming sidewalks for everyone."
In addition to limiting the amount of space a person can take up on the sidewalk, the new laws specifically prohibit people from placing personal items in trees and sleeping in planter beds.
The new laws passed with a 6 to 3 majority.