Controversial Penticton sidewalk sitting ban results in drop in loitering complaints downtown: city

The City of Penticton says a controversial new loitering ban downtown has resulted in a decrease in complaints since the bylaw amendment was adopted on June 4.

Changes to the city’s Good Neighbour Bylaw make it illegal to sit or lie on some public sidewalks downtown during the tourism season.

Those who violate the ban could be handed a $100 fine.

The measure is in an attempt to curb what the city describes as social nuisances in the downtown core, such as panhandling, loitering and inappropriate behaviour.

Bylaw services supervisor Tina Siebert said no tickets have been issued so far for the bylaw infraction, but complaints about loitering near businesses in the downtown area have dropped.

“I’m sure it has had some impact in conjunction with other efforts as the message was clear to persons taking over public sidewalk spaces,” she said in an email.

“With the increase in pedestrian traffic and positive outdoor activity taking place there are a lot more residents and visitors using the sidewalk spaces and public spaces downtown with the events and festivals that are underway.”

Photographs surfaced on social media Tuesday of a group of transient people congregating outside the Penticton Public Library at 785 Main St. Siebert said the city predicted some level of displacement when the bylaw amendment took effect.

“Most of these individuals are homeless so no matter where they are going people are calling their movement in to our office,” Siebert said.

“We don’t want anyone to take over public spaces like the library. RCMP and Bylaw have taken a lot of time and effort to build rapport with these individuals who we know quite well, and that helps us get them to move along,” she added.

The city said it does not allow any permanent structures on public spaces.

“With continued support services and housing coming soon we should see some improvement,” she said.

The bylaw amendment is controversial because anti-poverty advocates say it is discriminatory and targets only one group of people.

The loitering ban is in effect between May and September.

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