San Diego’s camping ban enforcement in August: dozens of warnings, five tickets, no arrests

A homeless person sleeps on a bench at Girard Avenue and Coast Boulevard in La Jolla.
(Alice Rosenblatt)

Data confirm that police focused on Balboa Park during the first four weeks of last month.


San Diego police recently warned more than 80 people that they were violating the city’s controversial new ban on homeless encampments.

Five were alleged to have broken the rules again and got a ticket. But nobody ended up in jail for being stopped a third time.

The ordinance prohibits encampments on public property when shelter beds are available, and people can be cited or arrested if they refuse an available shelter bed.

Encampments also are banned in many areas even if no shelter beds are available — two blocks from existing shelters or schools and in all city parks, riverbeds, waterways, trolley stops and transportation hubs.

New data show there has not been a dramatic spike in citations or arrests related to several laws used to clear encampments, even as the number of people sleeping outside in parts of San Diego falls.

Capt. Shawn Takeuchi, head of the city’s neighborhood policing division, said outreach teams spread the word about the new rules before enforcement began, which may have led some people to preemptively move.

Only a handful of people accepted offers for shelter, he added.

The City Council narrowly passed the restrictions June 13. Proponents of the ordinance say the status quo creates too many public health risks, while critics argue the law only makes it harder to reach a vulnerable population.

The camping ban data cover the first four weeks of enforcement, from July 31 through Aug. 27, and were obtained through a public records request. According to the ordinance, a first offense results in a warning. A ticket is given for the second, and a third triggers an arrest.

City officials have repeatedly said police would initially focus on schools and parks, and all five citations were given in or near Balboa Park. Two came near the San Diego Zoo and one was on B Street, near Garfield High School.

The men and women who were cited ranged in age from 28 to 55.

Police declined to provide raw data about the warnings given to homeless people — an official called those “field interviews” and therefore protected investigatory records — but Takeuchi said there had been 88 by the end of last month.

Though no arrests related to the camping ban were reported during that period, officers made at least 177 arrests from Sept. 1, 2022, through Aug. 27 using San Diego’s encroachment law, which bars people from blocking public spaces with “any vegetation or object.”

Over the same period, more than 480 tickets were issued for cases of misdemeanor encroachment. That does not include encroachment infractions, a less serious offense.

Police also rely on a state law banning illegal lodging. Over the past year, officers issued 67 misdemeanor citations and made 28 arrests under that restriction. ◆