Dinuba bans encampments in public parks

Permanent prohibitions on camping, bathing and other related activities in public parks find a home in the city’s municipal code

(Kenny Goodman)
(Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published June 28, 2023  • 
2:00 pm

DINUBA – A permanent ordinance being added to the city’s municipal code could leave an impact on homeless individuals in the community with the banning of unauthorized encampments and related activities in public spaces; although there are some exceptions.

Dinuba City Council voted 5-0 to pass Ordinance No. 2023-05 at their meeting Tuesday, June 27, which adds chapter 49, “Unauthorized Encampments and Prohibited Activities on Public Property,” to Title 9 of the Dinuba Municipal Code. The ordinance is a continuation of an urgency ordinance first passed in 2022 and extended earlier this year.

“It was really in line with what a large number of cities are doing up and down the state,” Daniel James, Dinuba assistant city manager, said. “It’s really to provide clarification.”

Ordinance No. 2023-05 makes it unlawful to “establish, maintain or operate a camp or occupy camp facilities” in any city park or recreational facility; or to have a camping facility or equipment within 10 feet of park amenities. It also outlines prohibited activities in public spaces, including the consumption or possession of alcohol, the use of fires for personal warmth, the use of park waters for bathing and the parking of vehicles adjacent to city parks between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.

At previous city council meetings, discussions of homelessness and the presence of homeless people in city parks have accompanied readings of the ordinance. James said the goal with the ordinance is not for it to be punitive but rather to provide clarification on city policies related to activities in public parks.

“I think what it comes down to is a balance between supporting people, making sure that they have a clear pathway to exit homelessness and get the help they need, but also providing clean parks and things for the general public,” James said.

James said that for the last three or four years, Dinuba has been working with the Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance to get people experiencing homelessness the help that they need. He said recent changes in code enforcement are meant to be in conjunction with efforts to assist people.

The ordinance text states that “the City of Dinuba is currently experiencing an increase of encampments in public parks which is negatively impacting the overall welfare of the community.” It calls upon the county, state and federal government to expand shelter capacity and provide outreach services to “adequately address and solve homelessness.”

Violations of the ordinance could result in a misdemeanor entailing a $1,000 maximum fine and up to six months in prison.

The ordinance states that an individual or family unit will not receive a citation if there is no shelter space available to them between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. That exemption does not apply if the camping activity poses a substantial danger or threat, is located within 1,000 feet of certain facilities including schools, is in open space or near waterways or is near a transit hub with appropriate signage warning of camping prohibitions.

The city council also voted to extend Urgency Ordinance No. 2023-04, which includes many of the same provisions as the official ordinance, to ensure enforcement continues over the 30-day period before the permanent ordinance takes effect.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter