New park rules, homeless ordinances passed

Several updates to city ordinances were passed at Tuesday’s city council meeting, the first of the new year.

Codes dealing with conduct in parks saw many updates, including a revamping of park rules, which hadn’t been updated in two decades.

The updated set of rules includes a list of civil infractions and their penalties, most of which come with a $50 fine.

The most expensive civil infraction is distracting an on-duty lifeguard, which has a $500 fine attached to it.

Other infractions include letting dogs onto athletic fields or swimming beaches, littering, swimming in boat launch areas, operating unauthorized drones or remote controlled boats and using a PA system without a permit, among others.

A list of misdemeanors was also included in the code.

Misdemeanors can land a violator in court with a criminal charge and include damaging public property or feeding or harming wildlife, dumping waste, lighting fireworks and carrying or firing a bow and arrow.

Using any kind of tobacco in a park, including smoking cigarettes and cigars, as well as chewing tobacco, is now a crime, as is using electronic cigarettes.

Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

Police can also trespass people from parks for up to one year for misdemeanor activities or by receiving two civil infractions in a 30-day period.

The new code will become effective on March 31.

Rules concerning camping on public land were also adopted at the meeting by a 6-1 vote, with newly elected council member Steve Fields voting against it.

Camping on city parks or trails has been illegal, and will remain so.

Camping on city-owned streets and sidewalks or right-of-way will be illegal too, as is camping on publicly-owned parking lots or property.

The code was rewritten to take court rulings that state it is illegal for cities to sweep people from public spaces if there is nowhere for them to go.

Formerly, all camping was prohibited on any public lands under city code.

Redmond legal staff said the change to the code was due to the courts ruling the practice of kicking unsheltered people from some public spaces when they had no other options was a violation of their sixth-amendment Constitutional rights.

However, a further ruling known as the Boise Decision, allows cities to move people from all public land if there are shelter beds available for them to use.

Consequently, camping on some publicly-owned property will be allowed if there are no shelter beds.

It is unclear exactly how enforcement will work, but at previous council meetings, Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson said this will bring the city into compliance with the Boise Decision.

It was also unclear whether the public land where unsheltered people can sleep is in practice accessible to them.

The ordinance defines available shelter beds as meaning one which a person or family can legitimately access.

If there are beds in a shelter that a person can’t access due to their sex, marital status, religious beliefs, disability or length-of-stay restrictions, then the code says they it does not count as an open bed and police cannot sweep the person from designated public lands.

The city’s rapid growth in recent years was one of the considerations that drove the new updates to both the park and camping laws.

The 2017 Point-in-Time Count of unhoused people showed there were some 11,643 homeless people in King County, with nearly half being unsheltered.

There were more than 600 homeless people in east King County, which includes Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, Sammamish and some unincorporated parts of the county.

Countywide, some 77 percent of people who were homeless lost their most recent housing in King County, and 57 percent of unsheltered people have lived in King County for more than five years.

In the most recent Point-in-Time report, low income, a lack of affordable housing, money for moving costs, a difficult housing process and transportation were listed as key factors as to who many people are experiencing homelessness.

The next count will take place on Jan. 26.

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