Public order and people-proofing the city

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Have you noticed the people-proofing of downtown? All around the central city, the alcoves and doorways of downtown’s many (many) empty buildings are being grated and walled over. Why now? I wonder.

According to the good people of the Downtown Sacramento Parternship, the new push to close up the doorways is because of fires and other problems that come along with squatters. But workers framing a wall across the alcove of the Jon Saca-owned building at 10th and J told me it’s to keep homeless from sleeping in the spaces. And that’s certainly the impression you get from the black grates which have been bolted over various openings around town. And I can’t help wondering if there’s a connection between the new barriers and Marcos Breton’s latest.

And I can’t help thinking it a little strange that it’s illegal to sleep in the doorway of a vacant building, but it’s perfectly legal for downtown developers to leave their buildings empty and blighted year after year (after year after year).

Anyway, this week I’m posting two interviews, further exploring Sacramento’s anti-camping ordinance. One is with Michael Ault and Dion Dwyer from the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. They make the case for keeping the anti-camping law on the books, to better preserve public order. The other is with Dave Kempa, a freelance reporter who has covered homelessness in Sacramento for several years. He’s much more skeptical of the law. Go here for my earlier interview with Ron Blubaugh, a volunteer attorney with the Tommy Clinkenbeard Legal Clinic. I think the three interviews together give a decent survey of the issue.

I can understand that City officials and organizations like the Downtown Sacramento Partnership must feel overwhelmed by the downtown social scene. There are a lot of people down there, in various states of distress. But it’s not clear that ticketing people for sleeping outside, and taking their stuff, is fair, or helpful, either. Everyone agrees that housing and service are what is really needed. But I don’t see any signs that those will be arriving anytime soon. So what’s tolerable, and what’s fair, right now?

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