LIVERMORE -- Livermore is moving ahead with an urban camping ban that officials say will improve health and safety-- a move the area's homeless say will leave them no place to go.
Before a full house of nearly 100 people, the Livermore City Council on Monday voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance prohibiting tents and makeshift shelters on public property or on private property with a public right-of-way.
The ordinance, aimed at eliminating homeless encampments, would also ban overnight storage of "camping paraphernalia," including sleeping bags.
City officials stressed the move isn't meant to criminalize homelessness, but to help with sanitation problems -- especially at encampments near Arroyo Mocho Creek -- and as a way to engage he local homeless.
"This is a public health and safety ordinance to support the community," said Mayor John Marchand. "It's not about fines. It's not about revenue. It's about how do we best communicate the resources and get these people out of some nameless, faceless camp in the arroyos."
Councilwoman Laureen Turner, who cast the lone "no" vote, called it "ludicrous."
"I think it's crazy that we're doing this," Turner said. "Nothing in this ordinance provides services to those people ... We are harming, potentially, the very people we should be protecting."
Monday's hearing drew local homeless and about a dozen speakers, most opposed to the ordinance.
Mickey Kundert, who manages Cornerstone Fellowship's homeless outreach program, said she supports cleaning up unsanitary camps, but she's concerned about how the ban would be enforced.
"I would feel good if we had a safe place to put (the homeless)," Kundert said. "You're throwing them out of what they call a home, with no alternative."
Livermore has no permanent shelter for homeless men. Nick Tynin, who grew up in Livermore and is currently homeless, told the council he has "no other options," and worries the ban will punish those trying to get their lives together.
"I would hope the city would use some discretion," Tynin said. "It just sends the message 'if you're homeless, get out of here.'"
Residents living near the Arroyo Mocho Trail applauded the ordinance, saying they worry about health and safety.
Terry McCune, who lives near the trail, said he and others often clean up along the creek, often encountering drug sales, broken glass and human feces.
"It's gotten really bad," McCune said. "I would've been happier if there was something in the ordinance that helped the homeless population, but it's out of control. We have to do something."
The city estimates the homeless at about 60 to 80, but homeless advocates say it could be triple that.
Police Chief Mike Harris said enforcement would be largely "complaint-driven." First-time violators would be subject to civil infractions and fines of $100 or less. Subsequent offenses would be misdemeanors punishable by jail time and/or a fine of up to $300.
The ordinance will return to the council for a second reading and formal adoption Feb. 10, and would become law after 30 days.
The city will survey the homeless population over the next few months.
Marchand said he will convene a "summit on homelessness" to see how to best utilize existing resources, adding he has invited Veterans Affairs' officials for a visit to address the problem of homelessness among veterans.
"You cannot police your way out of homelessness, it takes regional resources," Marchand said.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.