In the midst of a mild winter, the urgency with which Yuba and Sutter counties passed prohibitive camping ordinances has lessened. While the ordinances were passed in November, just ahead of the traditional rainy season, Yuba County has yet to start enforcing the ordinance and Sutter County just began enforcing the ordinance on Wednesday, February 19.
The almost duplicate camping ordinances prohibit camping and storage of personal property on private and public property and certain areas in unincorporated parts of the county or city, particularly along the Feather River.
There are a few differences between ordinance implementation – Yuba County’s ordinance has a 48-hour window of notice before a citation is issued, and Sutter County has a 72-hour window. Yuba County also plans to issue fees for holding possessions in storage, while Sutter County does not.
In Yuba County, Code Enforcement Manager Jeremy Strang said there are still some details to fine-tune before enforcement starts.
“I would’ve hoped that we would be a bit further along at this point,” Strang said.
What has been identified, Strang said, is a location for a storage locker where people’s possessions will be kept if they are issued citations. What remains to be determined are the exact methods for cataloging the items in storage and handling the fees or fee waivers for retrieving belongings in holding.
“Decisions have to be made if the people have not moved, or have moved and left stuff behind,” Strang said. “Then retrieval process: Who’s answering the phone, who’s getting them their stuff, repossessing their property.”
In the interim, before Yuba County is ready to start enforcement, Strang said code enforcement officer Frank Knight regularly visits with people who are in areas which will be affected by the ordinance. He said the delay in enforcing the ordinance just gives the county time to reach people.
“It’s the outreach that may be repetitive but it creates a relationship of trust,” Strang said. “The longer it takes, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because people are recognizing that they might be in harm’s way.”
Sutter County just started enforcing the ordinance last week, through issuing 72-hour abatement notices, Sutter County Sheriff’s Deputy Andre Licon said. He said officers, accompanied by health and human services employees and nurses issued 9 or 10 warning notices.
“We’ll follow up with those folks after the 72-hour window,” Licon said. “Then we’ll go back and, based on the ordinance, it would be in an infraction-–the penalty is a fine, or a citation.”
Licon said deputies took photos of the encampments and noted the coordinates so they can go back and find where they issued warning notices. He said the county is also looking into implementing diversion programs, which would offer alternatives to paying the ordinance fine.
If there are items which need to be stored, Licon said the county has purchased a shipping container to store possessions, as long as the items are free of mold and other unsanitary materials. He said each person will receive a property sheet with a rundown of what possessions are in storage, to help with the item retrieval process.
“A lot of the time individuals don’t have the means to transport the possessions – they don’t have a storage unit or anything,” Licon said. “So we will store them and they don’t need to worry about them getting stolen.”
Strang said Yuba County also aims to mirror their storage process, so the operations run similarly.
“The overarching goal on approach is going to be very similar,” Strang said. “Crossing the river shouldn’t mean a 180-degree difference.”
Both counties emphasized that the goal is to keep people safe.
“Really we want everyone to be in a safe housing location,” Licon said. “That’s really our end goal.”