Inside San Diego

Stories about City Services, Employees, Residents and Communities

City Addressing Encampments Imposing on the Public Right of Way

Growing homeless encampments are presenting significant public health and safety challenges for people experiencing homelessness as well as residents and businesses in San Diego neighborhoods – and the City is taking action to address the situation.

In areas like Downtown’s East Village, Barrio Logan and City Heights, homeless encampments have made some sidewalks wholly impassable, forcing pedestrians, and even children walking to nearby schools, into the street in order to pass.

“We are not going to be a city that’s content leaving people to live on our streets, sidewalks, along our riverbeds or in our canyons,” Mayor Todd Gloria said. “We cannot tell our children that we prefer them to walk in the middle of the street to get to school, and we cannot tell elderly or disabled residents that they must find a way to get around a line of tents. We cannot surrender our sidewalks to unsafe encampments. The bottom line is that sidewalks are not homes. We have shelter options that can get folks off the street right now, as well as storage for their belongings.”

Encroachment enforcement operations are typically preceded by the City’s outreach teams repeatedly visiting an area and offering shelter and services to residents whose encampments are blocking sidewalks. Officers with the San Diego Police Department’s Neighborhood Policing Division then will contact people found to be in violation of the law, offering services and shelter at every interaction and applying their progressive enforcement model.

While officers will be emphasizing the enforcement of PDF icon encroachment, where an obstruction of the public right of way is present, other violations of the law will be addressed as well. Unsheltered residents are also offered storage at the City’s two storage centers for belongings they’d like to keep and are given the opportunity to discard unwanted items. Workers will not discard items a resident indicates they’d like to keep; however, they may be cited for blocking the public right of way. After three citations, a person can be arrested for the repeated violations. If a person is arrested, their belongings will be impounded and instructions provided for their retrieval.

“NPD’s goal is to achieve a higher level of public safety in the area through increased presence, enforcing clear violations of the law and holding individuals accountable,” said Neighborhood Policing Division (NPD) Captain Shawn Takeuchi. “Our officers are trained to lead with compassion by offering services and shelter every time, and then follow our progressive enforcement model.”

The City’s Environmental Services Department will assist with the cleanup of any trash and debris in the area or abatement of property that is left behind after enforcement actions are taken. According to San Diego Police conducting the encroachment enforcement, most of the people contacted this week declined offers of service and shelter, and the majority of arrests were made for outstanding warrants on both felonies and misdemeanors.

The City provides a wide array of services to assist residents in ending their homelessness including outreach, shelter, storage centers, safe parking and more. Since July 2021, more than 600 people have been connected to permanent or longer-term housing directly from the City’s shelter network. Many others have found a home through other City-funded service programs.

The City will continue to address the proliferation of encampments in other neighborhoods across San Diego.