Martinez Set to Talk Homeless Encampment Ordinance

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

On Wednesday, the Martinez City Council is set to tackle a critical infrastructure encampment and transit regulation ordinance.

At City Council Meeting held on April 17, 2024, the Council directed staff to draft an ordinance prohibiting encampments at and near critical infrastructure locations and regulating conduct at the Martinez Intermodal Facility. Staff is now returning to the Council to seek additional guidance in drafting the ordinance.

Staff is requesting the Council provide input on the following discussion points:

What should be included in the definition of “critical infrastructure”? Flood protection facilities, including levees, pumps, drainage ditches, access and patrol roads and related facilities; and sloughs, rivers, canals and waterways, including shoreline of said waterways. Government buildings, such as fire stations, police stations, jails, and courthouses; hospitals; structures, such as antennas, bridges, roads, train tracks, or drainage systems; systems, such as computer networks, public utilities, electrical wires, natural gas pipes, telecommunication centers, or water sources; parks; and youth-serving facilities Intermodal transit facility and adjacent parking lots Real property or a facility, whether privately or publicly owned, designated by City Council resolution as so vital and integral to the operation or functioning of the City that its damage, incapacity, disruption, or destruction would have a debilitating impact on the public health, safety or welfare. Should youth-oriented facilities be included? If so, what should be included in the definition? Public or private pre-schools, primary or secondary schools, day-care facilities, after-school facilities, public libraries, playgrounds, public swimming pool facilities, youth clubs, or any other facility where minors gather for educational or recreational activities. Should areas at risk of wildfires be included under this ordinance? Land that is covered with grass, grain, brush or forest, whether privately or publicly owned, which is so situated or is of such inaccessible location that a fire originating upon it would present an abnormally difficult job of suppression or would result in great or unusual damage through fire or such areas designated by the Fire Marshal or Fire Chief of the responsible fire authority or California Code of Regulations, title 24, part 9, section 202 How much notice should be provided prior to abatement of an encampment prohibited by the ordinance? Jurisdictions vary between 24-72 hours with exceptions such as immediate health or safety risk, inherently dangerous location (e.g. under bridge or in a wildfire risk area) or to clear access when an encampment is blocking the access

Transit Facility Regulations: Staff is requesting the Council provide input on the following discussion points with regards to transit facility regulations:

Should the ordinance include a provision whereby a violator could be expelled from the transit facility for a specified period of time, subject to appeal to the City Manager The time could range from 24 hours for a first offense up to 6 months for a fourth offense committed on the transit facility. It could also include an immediate longer exclusion period, such as following an arrest for a misdemeanor or felony for acts involving violence, threats of violence, lewd or lascivious behavior or possession for sale or sale of a controlled substance, for example.

Currently, the Martinez Municipal Code prohibits camping on public property between 11pm and 8:30am and maintaining campsites at any time. However, the regulation provides that no one can be held in violation of these prohibitions unless they are (1) informed of the whereabouts of homeless shelters within Contra Costa County, (2) shelter is available and (3) they refuse to stay in the shelter.

The exception in this regulation is based on court decisions that prohibit criminal enforcement of no-camping provisions (e.g., criminalizing sleeping in public places where the person has no other lawful place to go). However, the scope of the court decisions is not unlimited and other jurisdictions have enacted ordinances that address the unique problems that encampments pose in and around critical infrastructure locations and youth-oriented locations. These ordinances balance public health and safety with the interests of unhoused persons.

If You Go

Martinez City Council Meeting
Wednesday, March 15 at 7:00 pm
525 Henrietta Street, Martinez
Staff Report – click here


author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.