City Council amended Albany Municipal Code 7.28.245 during its March 13 meeting, making prohibited camping a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100.
The council opted for an ordinance with an emergency clause that allowed the change to take effect Wednesday night rather than the standard 30-day waiting period.
According to Albany Police Chief Mario Lattanzio and city attorney Sean Kidd, the change brings the code into line with other changes the city made in light of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year.
That decision prohibits cities from citing individuals who sleep on city property, citing constitutional violations.
“We changed that immediately,” Kidd said of city codes that were not in line with the decision. “But this [AMC 7.28.245] was hiding in the park statutes.”
Lattanzio explained the change would lessen enforcement and officers would no longer be able to arrest individuals for camping illegally. He also supported the council approving the ordinance with the emergency clause so the change could be made in the Albany Police Department’s system immediately.
If left unaltered, prohibited camping would remain an unclassified misdemeanor offense, rather than an offense that could generate a citation.
Councilor Alex Johnson III expressed concern over the $100 fine. Mayor Sharon Konopa and Kidd noted that the ordinance allowed for a fine up to $100 and the amount was at the discretion of a judge.
“They could impose a fine of $1,” Kidd said.
The council voted unanimously to make the change.