The Huntington Beach City Council is approving new rules limiting activity for homeless people in city parks and parking structures amidst a promise to residents that big changes are coming. 

Last Tuesday, the council unanimously introduced two new ordinances that would enforce stricter rules in parks and parking structures with minimal discussion.

The proposed rules come as a new council majority campaigned on a 90-day plan to end homelessness in city limits, pledging in a January meeting to refocus the city’s efforts on enforcing anti-camping laws and pushing people toward the homeless shelter or out of the city altogether. 

“What we asked for has a very strong focus on enforcement, there’s a reason for that. Success is not just about helping a homeless person, it’s about helping the rest of the residents,” Councilmember Gracey Van Der Mark said at the Jan. 17 meeting. “We need to control the homeless situation.”

At last Tuesday’s public meeting, Councilmember Casey McKeon said they’ve been working with the police department on the ordinances.

“We’ve reached a boiling point with the community, we keep saying we ran on this specifically, this is part of our 90-day plan,” McKeon said. “We’re moving every day to really focus on this, so we went out to the police department and asked them, ‘What more tools do you need?’”

The plans are drawing concerns from Brooke Weitzman, an attorney for the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center that advocates for homeless people.

“While other cities continue to move toward evidence-based solutions to healthcare and housing needs, the new Huntington Beach City leadership seems to think it can arrest its way out of homelessness, an effort that has failed every time,” Weitzman said in a phone interview.

The ordinances will return to the council for a second reading at their March 7 meeting and are slated to take effect 30 days after that if the council approves them. 

The proposed ordinances crafted by city staff specifically target the city parking structures and parks, two of the biggest areas of concern for homelessness in the city.

Before, the rules for cars in city parks were just that they couldn’t be driven onto the park itself, and if they were they could be towed away. 

Now, there’s a proposed ordinance against blocking parking stalls with bicycles or barriers of any kind and no one is allowed to sleep overnight at any park without obtaining and paying for a permit.

Under the proposed ordinances, personal property also cannot be left in parking lots and all tents in parks must also have at least two sides open to view in order to prevent prohibited acts. 

Overnight parking in parks is already not allowed.

As of now, the ordinances would only apply for camping at Lake Park, Farquhar Park, Huntington Central Park and Norma Brandel Gibbs Park, which represent nearly half the city’s total park acreage combined. 

In parking structures, sleeping, bathing or camping in any public restroom would also be prohibited. Officials are also looking at preventing loitering in city-owned parking structures.

The Elder Law and Disability Rights Center sent a letter — signed by Weitzman — to the Huntington Beach City Council last month criticizing the 90-day plan.

“As we told the City in a recent letter about the 90-day plan, OC HoME (a coalition of legal service providers in Orange County) is watching the city and members are prepared to take appropriate steps to protect the constitutional rights of our clients should the city move forward with actions that violate those rights,” Weitzman said.

The letter claims the plan infringed on the rights of homeless people and fails to address solutions to the housing crisis.

“The proposed plan lacks concrete details, but it appears to implement additional limits on park hours, increase policing, and target individuals who live in vehicles,” the letter reads. “It does not provide housing, medical services, mental health services, or other evidence-based solutions.”

​​Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @NBiesiada.


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