Starting this summer, San Clemente plans to make it illegal for panhandlers to aggressively ask passersby for money in public places.
The City Council, on a 5-0 vote Tuesday, June 20, introduced an ordinance banning aggressive solicitation in public – whether for money or for other types of exchange.
“The ordinance is modeled after ordinances that regulate this behavior while providing constitutional protections for free speech in public areas,” City Attorney Scott Smith said in a report to the council.
If the City Council follows up with a second vote, adopting the ordinance at the council’s next regular meeting July 18, it would take effect 30 days later.
“It’s actually categorized as an offense against public peace and decency,” Smith said. “It basically involves accosting someone, touching someone, blocking the ingress or egress of someone to travel along a public property or a public parking lot without the consent of the person that they are soliciting.”
It applies not just in city facilities and on public right-of-way but in places that provide regular access to the public like parking lots and shopping establishments, on public transport or blocking the path of a car or pedestrian, Smith said.
This new ordinance comes on top of a trespassing law the city adopted in November in response to complaints about people loitering on private property in commercial areas. The city has had numerous complaints about people panhandling and interfering with business activities.
That law gives property owners a tool to help business owners remove trespassers who won’t leave when told. This new ordinance adds a new remedy when people are being hassled on public property.
Smith noted that it does not apply to every panhandler – there has to be aggressive behavior.
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