A city ordinance aimed at curtailing items being left outside by the homeless won preliminary approval Tuesday night.
Officials voted 5-0 in favor of a law that would allow the city to collect and store items on behalf of the homeless in a central location.
The Churches Consortium provides storage for the homeless at the base of the parking garage at the Crossing Church on Newport Boulevard, but Assistant City CEO Rick Francis said the location is too far away for some who rely on it and cannot accommodate larger items.
"We don't want this to be an overly punitive issue, but at the same time we do need to balance the needs of the residents who call all the time about visual blight," Francis said.
Response from those who attended the meeting was mixed, with some Westside residents saying it would give them back use of Lions Park, which is frequented by the homeless, while others said such a measure was unkind to the downtrodden.
The ordinance would allow the city to take unattended items left on city property and store them at the police station for up to 90 days.
Notices would be left where the items were taken, during which time owners could reclaim their belongings. After three months, the stored property would be disposed. The city has a similar law on the books, but it doesn't detail what to do with the confiscated property.
Consortium Director Becks Heyhoe advocated for the measure.
And Mercy House Director Larry Haynes called it part of a longterm strategic plan to address homelessness.
"This is kind of a no-brainer," Haynes said. "This is terrific."
The ordinance still requires a second vote for final approval. Councilwoman Sandy Genis said she would not vote in favor of any law that tried to criminalize homelessness.
Mayor Jim Righeimer said the city was trying to balance compassion with a need to clean up some sections of the city.
"At a certain point in time, we have to take back our parks," he said. "We have to take back our neighborhoods."
The council also approved a redesign, 3 to 2, with Genis and Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissenting, on the plan to revamp the City Hall and Police Department lobbies, as well as the city clerk's office and the now-closed print shop in City Hall. Dougherty + Dougherty Architects will do the work for about $85,000.
Robin Leffler, who heads Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, was among those who objected.
"Before we have things we want that aren't necessities, I want to be sure we can fund it and see it through," she said.
The city recommended the changes citing security concerns and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.