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.


Big Sky Ranch community sign
700 homes now for sale in Dripping Springs’ new Big Sky Ranch community

The new community is located near Founders Memorial Park.

A photo of the exterior of Epic Fun
South Austin entertainment center reopens with revamped health and safety measures

Epic Fun is fighting to keep its family-friendly offerings going despite economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order, the University Interscholastic League is requiring the use of facial coverings when practical to do so for all summer activity participants, among other guidelines. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
UIL releases guidelines for conducting summer activities during COVID-19 pandemic

The University Interscholastic League released udpated guidelines for schools conducting summer activities such as sports training and marching band practices on July 8.

A photo of a road sign that reads, "Eyes Up; Buckle Up."
High-injury roadway Slaughter Lane to receive safety updates this month

Slaughter Lane is among 13 roadways targets by Austin Transportation Department as part of its Vision Zero program.

Dell Children's Medical Center sleep lab
Dell Children’s Medical Center doubles size of pediatric sleep program

The newly expanded, six-bed sleep lab at Dell Children’s now has the ability to offer diagnostic sleep studies and therapeutic studies for children with potential sleeping disorders.

An orange virus graphic that reads "Today's coronavirus data updates"
Travis County reports 753 new coronavirus cases July 8

The Austin MSA is still hovering near Stage 5 risk with 67 new hospital admissions in the past day.

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis hosted an online press conference with Austin ISD teachers July 8. (Screenshot courtesy Education Austin)
Austin ISD teachers demand keeping classes online for start of school year

Education Austin says that keeping all classes online is in the best interest of district employees, students and families.

Census worker
2020 census: Bureau prepares nonresponse follow-up field operations

For individuals who have not responded to the 2020 census, one of about 500,000 census takers will visit the their household between Aug. 11-Oct. 31.

Emler Swim School operates 28 year-round locations in Texas and Kansas. (Courtesy Emler Swim School)
Emler Swim School now offering interactive lessons online

Families can choose to receive training via weekly video calls or through instructional videos online.

Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim health authority, said in a July 8 news conference that officials are "desperately trying to avoid" both overcrowding hospitals and shutting down the economy with another shelter-in-place order. (Courtesy ATXN)
If new shelter-in-place orders are needed in Austin, local officials hope to have 'productive dialogue' with Gov. Abbott

With area ICU beds at 85% capacity, officials are preparing the Austin Convention Center to accept hospital patients and are calling on health professionals from around the country to assist in Texas.

Stage 5 is not triggered by an exact number but could be triggered anywhere above 70 hospitalizations per day over the past seven days, depending on the recent rate of the increase. (Courtesy Travis County)
With 74.8 new hospitalizations per day over past week, Travis County could move into coronavirus risk Stage 5

Under Stage 5, Austin Public Health could suggest only essential businesses remain open.