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Uniform park closure plan

Homeless will be able to sleep on city sidewalks dusk to dawn

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Uniform park closure plan

Park closure sign at Library Park

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POSTED September 29, 2017 1:24 a.m.

In a bid to crackdown on illegal camping, loitering, and other illicit activities in municipal parks , the Manteca City Council on Tuesday will decide whether to make park closing uniform from dusk to dawn throughout the city.
At the same time those opting to sit or lie on public property such as the Manteca Library grounds and public sidewalks would  legally be able to do so from dusk until dawn instead of the current language that restricts such use to between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The ordinance language regarding sidewalks and public places that aren’t secured by fencing or such or specifically banned from being used for such purposes  is modeled after ordinances in other California cities where the municipal code has passed muster with legal challenges. It essentially acknowledges the need of homeless to sleep — hence the current reference to sitting or lying on public property for a seven-hour period between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. 
The new wording means the time such use of sidewalks for lying down or sitting and other public areas besides parks or where it isn’t specifically prohibited will actually increase and decrease as the seasons charge. However, no one can sit or lie on a sidewalk during those hours if there isn’t adequate passage as defined by laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means for all practical purposes the only sidewalks where such behavior is allowed during time specified by the city is in commercial districts.
The ordinance specifically makes  it illegal to camp, occupy camp facilities, or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas:
uThe Manteca Transit Center at 220 Moffat Blvd.
uThe Moffat Community Center at 580 Moffat Blvd.
The move before the council on Tuesday is designed to eliminate any confusion the public or law enforcement officers may have. The current policy closes all parks from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. except when designated by City Council resolution. The council will still have the ability to make exceptions to the rules as they have in the past by designating some parks as being closed from dusk to dawn.
A more uniform park closure aimed at eliminating any ambiguity that may exist was part of a list of possible additional courses of action city staff laid out earlier this month to step up efforts to make sure quality of life issues were addressed.
The public has raised concerns about increased illegal behavior of people, including the homeless, in city park.
All parks — including the 3.4-mile long Tidewater that slashes through the heart of the city — will be closed from dusk until dawn. The bike path is already posted as such.
That means anywhere in a city park where an officer comes across anyone whether they are sleeping, loitering or even bicycling or walking along the Tidewater Bikeway can legally direct people to leave and cite them if necessary.
The Tidewater is a popular sleeping destination for homeless especially in shrubbery near downtown as long as behind trees next to the fence on the Moffat Boulevard segment.
If the council adopts the ordinance medication Tuesday and then approve a second reading on Oct. 17, the uniform park closure rule will go into effect by December.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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