New prohibitions on sitting and lying in downtown Kennewick will be considered by the Kennewick City Council Tuesday night.
It would be the fourth area of the city in which restrictions would be placed on people lying on a sidewalk or near parking spots or sleeping on benches to issues such as panhandling on street corners.
“We’ve gotten numerous calls in the downtown area,” said Police Chief Chris Guerrero at last week’s council workshop. “It is something we continually see.”
Councilwoman Gretl Crawford, who serves on the Historic Downtown Kennewick Board, said business owners have struggled with how to handle issues that include not only lying on benches but defecating in planters.
The council will consider making downtown Kennewick between First Avenue and Canal and between Dayton and Washington streets a zone with restrictions on sitting and lying. The area does not include Keewaydin Park or the city hall area near Kennewick High School.
From 6 a.m. to midnight the zone would ban sitting or lying on the sidewalk or in a right-of-way.
At no time could people sit or lie at the entrance to a building or parking lot or in a loading zone.
They also would be barred at all times from sitting on structures not meant for sitting, such as trash containers and bicycle racks.
There would be multiple exceptions, such as for medical emergencies and people with disabilities, and during events such as parades, festivals, rallies and demonstrations.
The city of Kennewick wants to avoid the court challenges, which other Northwest cities have faced, by limiting sitting and lying restrictions to specific and limited areas, and also including restrictions on time and manner, said Laurencio Sanguino, Kennewick assistant attorney.
“We have to designate a specific area for a specific reasons,” said Guerrero. “We cannot make the entire city a ‘no sit, no lie’ area. ... We have to have cause.”
Complaints from downtown property owners and police observations would serve as cause for the newest proposed zone.
Sanguino said the chief was proposing expanding “no sit, no lie” regulations to the downtown area due to the concentration of foot traffic and the desire to increase vistors to businesses, after council members asked at the workshops about also expanding it to other areas, such as near Winco on Clearwater Avenue.
If all or much of the city were covered by the restrictions it could be seen by the courts as targeting the homeless without giving them options, Sanguino said.
However, evaluating whether sitting and lying restrictions are needed elsewhere in the city will continue to be evaluated, city officials said.
There already are citywide restrictions on trespassing; urinating or defecating in public; public use of drugs; and disorderly conduct, such as interfering with pedestrian or traffic movement.
The three current districts with restrictions on sitting and lying, a misdemeanor, in Kennewick are:
▪ From Clearwater Avenue to Kennewick Avenue, between Yelm Street and Huntington Street. It includes the area of Taco Bell, Golds Gym and Starbucks, and the Breezeway Apartments.
▪ From 24th to 28th avenues between Tweedt and Olson streets. There have been issues there with people sitting to panhandle, Guerrero said.
▪ Canal Drive between Young Street and Kellogg Street, which include the area near Best Buy.
The council meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at 210 W. Sixth Avenue. It also can be watched online at bit.ly/KennewickCouncil.