Sacramento City Council updates ordinance to keep sidewalks clear for pedestrians

Tents and other obstructions blocking sidewalks will need to be moved under an update to the city’s sidewalk regulations adopted unanimously Tuesday by the Sacramento City Council.

The language passed by the Council requires at least four feet of space to remain clear for pedestrians and bicyclists to get by. Also off limits is four feet around the entrances to businesses.

The ordinance allows City employees other than police, such as staff from the Department of Community Response, to make contact with campers and encourage compliance, with police available to step in if they refuse.

“In my opinion, this ordinance is necessary,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said. “Our city sidewalks must be clear and safe for the residents of our city, including children walking to and from school. Assuring that safety … is common sense, and it is one of the most basic functions of city government.”

The City must provide eight hours of notice before removing an obstruction unless there’s an immediate threat to public health, welfare or safety. Absent such an immediate threat, the ordinance says it shall provide an alternative location to move or store the items obstructing the sidewalk.

The ordinance, brought forward by Councilmember Jeff Harris, classifies blocking sidewalks as a misdemeanor, which gives the city the legal authority to move people who refuse to remove obstructions from the right of way.

Steinberg put forth a resolution adopted simultaneously by the Council Tuesday that states the City “to the fullest extent practical” will not pursue fines against people experiencing homelessness who block sidewalks and will avoid taking them into custody.

The Mayor’s resolution also directs City Manager Howard Chan to prioritize people camping on the sidewalk as the City negotiates a partnership agreement with Sacramento County on providing services and treatment.