TURLOCK -- Pedestrians better get a move on now that a city ordinance has banned them from street medians.
The Turlock City Council unanimously amended its Municipal Code on Tuesday night in an effort to curb panhandling and improve road safety. The new law prohibits stepping, standing, sitting or lying on city-owned road medians except for the purpose of crossing the street at marked crosswalks or sidewalks.
The ordinance exempts city employees and contractors, emergency personnel and other authorized individuals.
Council members noted that panhandling on city island medians has become commonplace and can be hazardous to drivers and solicitors alike.
"One of the intents of this particular regulation is to not only safety-ize the islands, but also to ensure we haven't got the undesired solicitations taking place. I understand there are some legal issues with respect to how we word those things," said Councilman Bill DeHart. "I know there are provisions under the law that prevent us from using the word 'panhandling.' ... But we would like to have it have as much teeth as we could."
Turlock police Special Operations Capt. Jeff Lopes said the city studied what language was permissible and formed the ordinance around traffic safety.
This is not the first time the city has sought to cut down on solicitations on its streets. In 2010, it passed a strict sign ordinance that effectively outlawed human sign wavers. But the law has not been widely enforced and been under active review since last year.
City Manager Roy Wasden minced no words when addressing how best to stop Turlock's panhandling problem, in medians and elsewhere.
Wasden: Better way to help
"Quite honestly, they would not be here soliciting money if they were not being given money," he said. "If people want to help those in need, we have wonderful entities like We Care, United Samaritans and Turlock Gospel Mission who can very appropriately receive and apply those funds to help people.
"The money given to panhandlers goes to drugs and sustaining very problematic lifestyles. So I hope there is a large watching audience that could hear that just nothing good comes out of passing out money to panhandlers."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.