The City’s updated sidewalk ordinance has gone into effect. How will it be enforced?

The City of Sacramento’s updated sidewalk ordinance, which protects people’s rights to safely travel along sidewalks and enter and exit buildings, went into effect Sept. 23.

The updated ordinance, which the City Council amended in August, requires at least four feet of space on sidewalks to remain clear for pedestrians and cyclists to get by. Four feet of space around business entrances and exits also needs to remain clear.

Now that the ordinance is active, how will it be enforced?

The first point of contact to resolve any issues regarding blocked sidewalks will be the City’s Department of Community Response.

DCR currently is focused on a month-long outreach and engagement campaign to inform residents, including people experiencing homelessness who may be camping on sidewalks, of the new requirements, said Nick Golling, manager of homeless services for DCR.

“The goal is to provide everyone with opportunity to comply voluntarily and maintain the proper clearance,” Golling said.

While educating residents on the new regulations is DCR’s primary focus, the City will respond to any immediate public health and safety concerns.

Residents can report blocked sidewalks by either calling 311 or by using 311 online.

When requesting service using 311 online, there is a specific category for “Homeless Camp” and a subsection where people can click “Homeless Encampment Blocking Sidewalk.” After the required information is entered, it is sent to DCR.

Depending on the number of requests pending, it may take a day or several days for DCR to respond to a location.

“We have found that most people living unhoused are not trying to create a problem,” said Ben Worrall, DCR’s manager of outreach services. “When we offer to help them keep the sidewalk clear by storing some of their stuff or hauling away trash, most of them want to work with us.”

According to the ordinance, the City must provide eight hours of notice before moving an obstruction unless there is an immediate threat to public health, welfare or safety. Absent of such an immediate threat, the ordinance says an alternative location for people to place or store items will be provided.

The ordinance classifies blocking the sidewalk as a misdemeanor, which gives the City the legal authority to move people who refuse to remove obstructions from the right of way. City Code Compliance and the Police Department will be working closely with DCR as needed.

While amending the ordinance in August, the City Council adopted language 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.

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