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Panel approves bans on parking lot camping, outdoor pot cultivation
Southwind RV
Ceres resident John Warren emailed this photo of a dirty Southwind RV surrounded by shopping carts filled with trash and broken-down cars to the Ceres City Council and implored the city to do something about this type of blight. The council is looking at a camping ban.

The city of Ceres took the first step Monday in outlawing camping in commercial parking lots following a recent City Council meeting in which residents voiced concerns about blight from the problem.

The Ceres Planning Commission approved text amendments to the Ceres Municipal Code that would ban overnight camping in various zones.

John Warren addressed the Ceres City Council last month, calling attention to the growing presence of homeless persons camping out on the south side of Hatch Road which he said had “gotten out of control.” He provided the council with photos taken the week of Oct. 11-17 showing a dirty motorhome in the parking lot west of the Wendy’s restaurant surrounded by several shopping carts filled with junk and two other junky cars parked next to it. One of the vehicles was on a jack for repairs on a wheel.

The City does not currently have an ordinance in place that regulates overnight camping except for the city’s parks. The ordinance changes proposed would forbid anyone from overnight camping – even in RVs – in all public or private commercial and industrial related zoned properties. The ban covers the time period from 12 midnight to 5 a.m.

Any person violating the new law will be issued a written cease and desist notice. The written notice shall state that the individual has five days to cease any and all violations or be issued an infraction. The city manager could dismiss the charge if “in the interest of justice, at the time of citation issuance, all local homeless shelters were full to capacity, the person cited had no reasonable or adequate alternative course of action, and the person cited did not substantially contribute to the circumstances necessitating camping as his or her only reasonable course of action.”

The panel also approved a clarification in the code that outdoor cultivation of cannabis is banned.

“Following the adoption of the 2020 update it was noted by staff and council that additional language was needed to further clarify that outdoor cultivation of cannabis would not be permitted in any properties under the city’s jurisdictional authority,” said Senior Planner James Michaels.

State law and the city allow up to six marijuana plants to be grown indoors.

The two changes were approved by the Planning Commission in a 4-0 vote cast by Gary Del Nero, Bob Kachel, Bret Silveira and Chairperson Laurie Smith. Dave Johnson was not present.