Costa Mesa officials say they have no plans to reconsider their decision to remove certain bus stop benches and shelters, a move meant to discourage the homeless and curb vagrancy.
The action came under fire during last week’s City Council meeting, when Councilwoman Katrina Foley urged the city to reconsider the decision, which was done at the administrative level and never run past the council.
About a week ago, an online petition at Change.org urged the city to return the shelters and benches. Their lack, the petition states, “hurts the disabled, pregnant women, the elderly, individuals with health issues and everyday bus riders.”
By the end of the week, nearly 200 people had signed the petition.
City staff have removed nine benches and four shelters, leaving the vast majority of the bus stops unaffected.
The bus stops in question were frequented by homeless people and drug users, making them hostile places for everyday users, according to city staff. Scheduled cleanings of the stops, done by an outside contractor, were also difficult and sometimes couldn’t happen because of people loitering on the benches, according to staff.
“That just contributed to the sanitary issue,” said city spokesman Tony Dodero. “They weren’t getting cleaned and were becoming a health hazard.”
Added city CEO Tom Hatch: “The prior conditions were unacceptable to bus riders and area businesses. The city continues to balance the needs of all those impacted and will implement solutions that will consider each location’s particular needs.”
Some of the solutions included installing new “anti-vagrant” benches with partitions that make sleeping on them difficult.
City officials have earmarked funds for replacing some of the shelters and ultimately want to install dozens more of the partitioned benches.
Foley said removing the benches and shelters has had unintended consequences users of for public transportation.
“I’m thinking we should come up with some kind of alternative,” she said, adding that she wasn’t sure removing the structures was “the right thing to do.”
Zint writes for Times Community News.