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Group Files to Put No-Camping Law on Ballot : Homeless: Initiative effort comes even though council is preparing to prohibit encampments.


SANTA MONICA — A community group that has been pressuring the Santa Monica City Council to pass a law forbidding camping in city parks and public areas has filed papers with the city clerk to place a no-camping initiative on the November ballot.

The group, Save Our City, began the initiative process Thursday even though the City Council has already retained a special counsel to write an ordinance that would make encampments illegal.

"It is entirely possible that they have brought in someone who will write a fine law, but we can't wait," said Jean Sedillos, a spokesman for Save Our City. "If we wait to see what kind of ordinance they come up with, it will be too late to qualify an initiative for November."

The proposed initiative ordinance, called the Safe Parks Act of 1992, is modeled after a West Hollywood law. It would make camping out in a park, on a public street or sidewalk an infraction punishable by a $25 fine.

"The idea is to have the ability to tell someone to move on," Sedillos said. "Santa Monica laws will be the same as other cities. The way it is now we are the only city where it is legal to live in our parks, and they have become a magnet."

Sedillos said the City Council has indicated that it wants to approve an ordinance that will satisfy the group and make an initiative unnecessary. "They don't want this initiative to be on the ballot with them," she said.

To qualify the measure for the ballot, the group must collect the signatures of 10% of the city's registered voters--about 5,200 signatures.

An encampment ordinance was a central component of a comprehensive plan for dealing with the city's homeless that was recommended late last year by the city's homeless task force and endorsed in concept by the City Council.

The council in January asked City Atty. Robert M. Myers to draft a law similar to West Hollywood's. Myers, an outspoken defender of the rights of the homeless, refused, contending that the West Hollywood law is unconstitutional.

Before Save Our Cities can begin canvassing the community for the signatures, Myers is required by law to write, within 15 days, an impartial summary of the proposed measure.

"Can you imagine the title he'll come up with for the measure?" Sedillos asked.

Myers declined to comment on the proposed ballot measure, saying he has not had enough time to go over it.

"I don't have a reaction yet," he said Thursday, "and I don't know whether or not I will have a reaction."

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