Dueling Camping Bans on Tap at City Council
Special called meeting next week to resolve issue
New public camping restrictions will be considered in two proposed ordinances at a special called Council meeting next week. The first one, drafted by Council Members Kathie Tovo and Ann Kitchen (and now co-sponsored by CMs Leslie Pool and Alison Alter), would prohibit camping, sitting, or lying on some streets altogether – including Congress Avenue, Sixth Street, East 11th and 12th streets, and parts of West Campus between MLK and 29th. Camping along "safe routes to school" would also be included in the proposal's prohibitions.
The second proposal, from Mayor Steve Adler and CM Greg Casar, was released shortly after Tovo and Kitchen's, and does not prohibit camping on specific streets. Instead, it clarifies what a prohibited encampment looks like: anything that does not provide a four- to five-foot "clear zone" along a "sidewalk, shared use path, or trail" would be considered in violation of the ordinance. An idea specifically from Adler would designate particular roadways with high volumes of pedestrian traffic – such as some blocks along Congress and Guadalupe – as subject to recently adopted rules governing parking for micro-mobility devices (e.g., scooters).
Both proposals agree that limitations should be placed on camping at transit stops, on sloped areas underneath highways, in flood plains, and near existing and future shelters offering homelessness services. Casar and Adler's proposal defines a radius for prohibiting camping around shelters (three blocks within the Central Business District and around the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, and a quarter- to half-mile in the rest of the city). Tovo and Kitchen's proposal would also limit camping around shelters, but does not define an exact radius.