Crusty Crackdown

Tempe City Council primed to pass new "sidewalk squatting" law

In other words, sidewalks are for walking, dummy. End of free-speech challenge.

The Ninth Circuit's lone dissenter, Judge Harry Pergerson, wrote: "Seattle seeks economic preservation by ridding itself of social undesirables--homeless or otherwise--who sit or lie on the sidewalks, and this is done to protect the sensibilities of shoppers.

"Although aesthetics may be a legitimate concern of lawmakers when debating whether to allow signs on utility poles, such a concern is questionable when evaluating restrictions that directly impede individual expressive conduct."

"We're confident we're on solid constitutional ground," says Keeling.
Like Tempe's aggressive-panhandling and urban-camping ordinances, Keeling says, the sidewalk-squatting ban will likely produce few arrests.

"It's more of a tool for the police. It will empower a cop to come up and say, 'You can't sit on the sidewalk, and I can cite you if you don't move along.'"

The pending sidewalk ban aside, street life on Mill has already gotten rougher for this year's crop of crusties: The public bathrooms behind the Crocodile Cafe have been removed; so has the ramada (four benches under a shade structure) across from Long Wong's, which used to be a choice spot to crash for a couple of hours.

Also, the Pink House squat, an abandoned neighborhood Mexican restaurant on the northwest corner of Farmer and University, which became a crash pad for dozens of travelers last season, was demolished over the summer, and is now the construction site of a new Boston Market franchise.

Lobo says he'd been told to look for the pink house near Mill, but didn't see one, so he and his friends have been sleeping in pipes along the riverbank in a Rio Salado Project construction site.

"I don't like to sit on the sidewalk, anyway," Lobo says of the proposed new law. "I like the benches better. More comfortable."

Still, he says, if Tempe becomes inhospitable, he already has an alternate winter locale in mind.

"I've been hearing a lot from the Rainbow Family kids about this place called Sedona."

Contact David Holthouse at his online address: dholthouse@newtimes.com

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