Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Greg Casar release alternative proposal for public camping restrictions

Austin City Council will consider new public camping restrictions at a special-called meeting next week.

Austin City Council will consider new public camping restrictions at a special-called meeting next week.

After Austin City Council Members Kathie Tovo and Ann Kitchen proposed a resolution to restrict homeless encampments from specific areas in downtown, West Campus and East Austin on Sept. 10, Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Greg Casar proposed an alternative version later the same day.

“We believe our ordinance better strikes a balance of protecting public health and safety, protecting public spaces, and not infringing on the civil rights of individuals in our city,” Adler wrote in a post on the council message board Sept. 10.

In June, Austin City Council decriminalized public camping throughout the city, with the exception of parkland, flood plains, and city-owned and private property. City staff followed this up last month by recommending the city reimpose some restrictions to city camping rules.

The resolutions are tentatively scheduled for discussion at a special-called meeting next week.

The first proposal


In addition to restricting homeless encampments from designated areas, Tovo and Kitchen called for restrictions to extend to transit stops, along Safe Routes to School, sloped areas under overpasses and areas around shelters, including the downtown Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

Tovo and Kitchen also asked City Manager Spencer Cronk to create a map of where public camping is restricted and enforce local and state laws that relate to the use of fire pits and grills and building structures on public land. They also said they wanted to see enforcement around cleanup of pet and human waste, drug use, and manipulation or modification of public infrastructure.

Their resolution also asks the city manager to explore the cost of replacing confiscated restricted items with authorized ones for public campers and to create a map of where the city will install public toilets and garbage pickup stations.

Finally, the resolution asks that police give public campers reasonable time to move from a restricted area and call on social workers, such as the city’s homeless outreach street team, to deal with campers who remain in restricted areas after they have been asked to move.

In response, Council Members Leslie Pool and Alison Alter agreed to co-sponsor the resolution in a post to the council’s message board.

The second proposal


While thanking Tovo and Kitchen for their work, Casar wrote in a response post, “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.”

With Adler, he proposed a separate set of options for restricting homeless encampments from designated areas.

Both agree encampments that do not allow for at least a 4-foot clear zone on sidewalks, shared-use paths and trails should be prohibited, as should encampments that render a building entrance impassable.

Unlike Tovo and Kitchen’s version, Casar and Adler’s does not prohibit camping on whole streets outright.

Both wrote they agree that camping should be prohibited within at least a half-mile radius—Adler proposed up to a half-mile—around shelters outside the Central Business District. This deviates from Tovo and Kitchen’s version, which does not specify a radius size.

Next steps


Resolutions need four sponsors to be included on the agenda. Tovo and Kitchen's ordinance has met that threshold and thus will be taken up at the special-called meeting.

Adler and Casar asked colleagues to sponsor their version so it can also be discussed.
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


MOST RECENT

A photo of the Travis County headquarters sign
Austin Public Health officials say they plan to increase support to Latino community, where coronavirus hospitalizations are up

As of May 26, 76 Hispanic individuals in Travis County were hospitalized with COVID-19, representing around 78% of all hospitalizations.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates for Travis County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
92nd coronavirus death reported in Travis County

Active hospitalizations in the metropolitan area dropped from 97 to 88 over the past 24 hours.

The Central Texas Food Bank hosted a food distribution event in South Austin May 28. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Texas Food Bank serves 1,071 families at South Austin distribution event

The food bank created the emergency drive-up events to reach more individuals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Travis County continues to urge residents to follow social distancing guidelines when out in public. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis County officials: 20 new coronavirus hospitalizations per day would strain local hospital capacity

Dr. Mark Escott said new admissions per day is a key measure to determine if the county should be more or less restrictive in its guidance to residents and businesses.

A May 27 preliminary budget discussion showed Central Health expects to see a slow-down in property tax revenue growth in fiscal year 2020-21. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Early budget forecasts from Central Health show anticipated 'slow-down' in tax revenue collection

Preliminary budget forecasts from Central Health show the health care district anticipates a slow down in tax revenue collection growth.

A photo of red wine being poured
Hamilton Pool Vineyard & Farms now open in Southwest Austin

The vineyard will also eventually include a farm-to-table restaurant and wedding venue.

Outdoor venues in all Texas counties will be permitted to operate at up to 25% capacity starting May 31. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Spectators to be welcomed back to Texas outdoor sporting events May 31 at 25% of venue capacity

Venue owners must operate under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing.

The new Summer Moon Coffee is located at 5701 W. Slaughter Lane, Ste. A170, Austin. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Summer Moon Coffee now open in Circle C Ranch

The newest Summer Moon Coffee location officially opened May 25.

Each eligible child will receive $285 in benefits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Some Texas students eligible for one-time federal benefit to aid with food purchases

Texas received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in pandemic food benefits.

Zilker Theatre Productions announced May 28 that its summer musical, "Mamma Mia," has been postponed to 2021. (Courtesy Zilker Theatre Production)
Zilker Theatre Productions postpones summer musical to 2021

This will be the first time the free outdoor show in Zilker Park has not run since it began in 1959.

A photo of a man making a curbside purchase at Bikealot
South Austin bike shops connect with new cyclists during “no ordinary bike month”

Local bike shops have seen a swell of Austinites dusting off old bikes to get moving during the coronavirus pandemic.

A map of the Jester King Brewery property
Jester King Brewery to reopen with new, park-style amenities May 29

Following Gov. Greg Abbott's go-ahead for bars and breweries to reopen last week, Jester King is opening its property to guests.