Sep 6, 2023 - News

San Diego's camping ban hasn't prompted many citations, or any arrests

The sun sets on a homeless encampment in downtown San Diego

A homeless encampment in front of San Diego City Hall. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

It's been over a month since the city of San Diego passed a prohibition on homeless encampments in a broad swath of the city, but the effects of the change are still coming into focus.

Driving the news: San Diego police have issued few citations and haven't made any arrests under the new ordinance, according to Voice of San Diego.

Why it matters: Mayor Todd Gloria pushed the policy through a divided City Council as his signature response to the top concern among residents.

State of play: California officials last month echoed Gloria's argument that responding to homelessness requires cracking down on encampments, led by San Francisco's push to reverse a December 2022 federal court ruling blocking the city from clearing camps.

  • "Federal courts block local efforts to clear street encampments – even when housing and services are offered," Gov. Gavin Newsom posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Courts must be held accountable. Enough is enough."
  • "We are prepared, through our city attorney, to do whatever it takes for us to do our job," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed, during an Aug. 23 rally outside the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "It is not humane to let people live on our streets in tents."

By the numbers: Between July 31 and Aug. 30, SDPD officers issued four misdemeanor citations and gave 85 warnings under the new law, a city spokesperson told Voice of San Diego.

  • The spokesperson said officers are now focused on encampments near parks and schools, after initially concentrating on Balboa Park.

What we're watching: The San Diego River Park Foundation is monitoring whether encampments in out-of-sight riverbeds will increase as the ban pushes homeless residents off city streets, according to the U-T.


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