The Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District will a hold a meeting tonight in order to gather public input about the possibility of allowing sleeping in public I.V. parks.
The open meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the University Religious Center, is the second meeting in two weeks regarding the proposed ordinance, which the IVRPD will vote on April 18.
The board voted on March 7 to draft an ordinance which would allow sleeping, but not camping, in I.V. parks, after they discovered in February that the county ordinance that bans sleeping and camping does not apply to parks under the IVRPD’s jurisdiction. For years, the IVRPD and I.V. Foot Patrol operated under the assumption that they were required to cite citizens who were staying in one of I.V.’s 25 parks.
On Jan. 29, about 15 homeless people stationed themselves in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park to protest the assumed camping and sleeping laws. In January, local homeless advocate Chris Omer told the Daily Nexus that they hoped to set up a short-term emergency shelter and eventually establish a permanent campground in I.V. where the homeless could legally park cars and set up tents. The group, which is now stationed in Estero Park behind the I.V. Teen Center, has since changed its objective from a set campground to petitioning the board to pass an ordinance like the one currently proposed.
IVRPD board members Pegeen Soutar and Harley Augustino were selected to solicit input from the community and make a recommendation to the board.
Soutar said that at the first community meeting held at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park roughly two weeks ago many attendees supported the proposal. However, Soutar said residents and business owners have expressed concern to her since then, and she expects they will be at tonight’s meeting.
“There are concerns coming out of homeowners and residents. There’s a safety issue when new homeless people come into the area … I know a lot of people who have been here for years, and they’re nice people … but once you open it up, you don’t know who comes to town,” she said.
Soutar said the principal of I.V. Elementary School, who attended the first meeting, as well as parents are concerned about the safety of children walking to and from school.
“Children walk down Camino Corto and through that gully to I.V. Elementary, where people sometimes sleep,” Soutar said. “Parents want to know if kids walking through that area going to be safe.”
Other concerns were the question of enforcement and the ability to maintain a positive atmosphere at the parks for all I.V. residents, Soutar said.
“One of my concerns is if the public feels comfortable at parks. Pardall [Gardens] is not a public park any more,” she said. “I found that enforcement is extremely hard- what’s the difference between sleeping and camping? It’s tricky to enforce, if [IVFP officers] do at all.”
Tonight’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the URC, which is located at 777 Camino Pescadero.