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Ryno seeks clarification on camping policy in residential zones
Homeless camping on Hatch
Scenes like this, of homeless persons camping in a Hatch Road commercial parking lot last October, is prompting the city to outlaw camping in public. At least one councilmember is concerned that the crackdown will send homeless onto residential streets.

As the city moves to ban camping in public places like shopping center parking lots, Councilwoman Linda Ryno last week sought clarification on how changes to the Ceres Municipal Code would guarantee homeless persons couldn’t move onto residential streets.

The new law will ban persons to live in cars and RVs in all commercial and industrial zones. Ryno, however, questioned the language of the new ordinance relating to residential zones. She wondered why residential was left out of the unlawful camping section.

City Manager Tom Westbrook noted that the city does allow a person to stay in an RV or other type of vehicle on a residential property up to 10 days if they are a guest of that residence and if they obtain a permit from the city. The Zoning Code however does not permit camping in residential zones, prompting Ryno to suggest that it’s confusing for police and code enforcement officers.

Westbrook further explained that the state vehicle code does not allow a person park an RV on a street for longer than 72 hours if unoccupied. If it’s occupied then a visitor of a resident could be on the street for up to 10 days after securing a city permit.

Ceres resident John Warren phoned in to suggest that the city quit using the phrase “overnight camping because people can camp during the daytime just as well as they can the nighttime.” City Attorney Tom Hallinan answered by saying the city now addresses “illegal camping” and took out any mention of specific hours during the evening.

The new ordinance requires a person who is violating the ordinance eight hours to clear out after being cited.

The other ordinance change approved in last week’s 4-0 council vote makes it illegal for anyone to grow cannabis plants outdoors in the city, regardless if someone possesses a medicinal marijuana card. State law allows persons to grow up to six plants indoors.