SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A proposed major shift in Sacramento’s homelessness policy will be going before voters in November.
The Sacramento City Council members voted in favor of a ballot measure that requires the city to provide housing for those without and it requires unhoused residents to accept it.
But even those who support the idea are not happy about how it is making its way to voters.
“You’ve got a gun to our head,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg, during Wednesday’s special meeting.
In February, Daniel Conway and the Sacramento for Safe and Clean Streets and Parks Coalition launched an effort to put an initiative on the November ballot requiring the city to create a shelter for unhoused residents or face legal action. The measure appeared poised to gather enough signatures to quality, but city officials said they realized early on it could cause major problems for the city.
“Having that ballot initiative be so out of line that it would literally create insolvency concerns for this city puts us in a tricky spot,” said Councilmember Angelique Ashby.
City staffers led by City Manager Howard Chan worked with Conway’s coalition to create a less expensive and more achievable ballot measure. But it did not allow council members or the community enough time to review it.
“By getting this language on Monday after what happened on Sunday with the horrific shooting and then trying to vote on this today is really not appropriate,” said Councilmember Katie Valenzuela.
Conway, formerly chief of staff to former Mayor Kevin Johnson, defended the coalition’s position of only agreeing to withdraw their original ballot measure if the council voted to adopt the amended ballot measure at Wednesday’s special meeting.
“From our perspective, there’s no reason to delay. We want to get to work; we want to start this campaign,” Conway said.
Ultimately, the council voted 7-2 to place the amended measure, called the Emergency Shelter and Enforcement Act, on the ballot. They said despite the process used, they support the fundamentals of the approach.
If voters pass the measure, the city would be required to provide shelter for at least 60% of people experiencing homelessness. Those living on the streets would have to take the housing if it’s offered and available. And there would be a ban on encampments— defined as four or more unrelated people staying within 50 feet of each other.
“It’s telling them that what they’ve been doing to survive is no longer legal, and they have to take whatever they can carry and go to a spot in a designated government camp. I think that’s terrifying,” said Joe Smith, director at Loaves and Fishes.
Smith, an advocacy director, said the advocacy community is working on how to respond to the measure, but he does think it at least gets one thing right: It allows the city manager, not public opinion, to decide where housing goes.
“The ballot measure would block the NIMBYism. That’s the positive out of all of this,” Smith said.