City News

YOUR GOVERNMENT: Council considers repealing sit-lie ordinance to comply with state law

The Salem City Council will review an ordinance repealing the city’s ban on sitting or laying on sidewalks during the day at a meeting Monday. Councilors will also consider new, more functional, doors at the public library and take a step toward several improved crosswalks.

The Council meets Monday, May 8, at 6 p.m. in-person at the city council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E. room 220, with the meeting also available to watch online. The meeting will be livestreamed on Capital Community Media’s YouTube channel, with translation to Spanish and American Sign Language available.

To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday.

For written comments, email [email protected] before 5 p.m. on Monday, or on paper to the city recorder’s office at the Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. S.E., Room 225. Include a statement indicating the comment is for the public record.


Camping regulations

In 2021, and following federal court decisions, the Oregon Legislature passed two bills restricting how the cities and counties can regulate camping on public property. The bills require three-days notice before clearing camps and that unsheltered people have access to certain public spaces.

During Monday’s meeting, the city council will have its first reading of an ordinance that would change city code to comply with House Bills 3115 and 3124. The proposed ordinance would repeal the city’s restrictions on unattended property on a sidewalk and regulations for sitting and laying on sidewalks.

During Monday’s meeting, the council would consider either advancing the ordinance to a second reading and a vote, or scheduling a public hearing. 

The proposed ordinance defines a camp as anywhere items for sleeping, like a blanket or sleeping bag, are placed, or where someone has a stove or fire.

The requirements follow federal court decisions Blake v. City of Grants Pass and Martin v. Boise, which found that ordinances designed to prevent people without shelter from sleeping outside violated their constitutional rights.

The following state bills, effective July 1, require that the city give 72 hour notice before removing an established camp, that any personal property the city collects be preserved, and that people who are homeless must have reasonable access to public areas.

Current city code prohibits camping on all public property and restricts sitting or laying on sidewalks during the day. People also cannot leave personal property unattended on sidewalks for over two hours, which the city said has already not been enforced, according to a report from City Attorney Dan Atchison.

The proposed changes to city code would repeal the above restrictions, but would maintain camping restrictions in parks, near vision clearance areas and building entrances, residential zones, near existing shelters and “areas designated by City Manager as no camping,” according to the report.

The city manager could potentially designate high traffic or environmentally sensitive areas as ‘no camping,’ or sites that become “a threat to public health or safety,” or are near schools or social service providers, according to the ordinance.

Camps on sidewalks would be required to leave 36-inches of room for ADA-accessible pedestrian passage.

New doors at the library

The council will consider spending $70,000 from the city’s general fund to replace the main entrance doors at the Salem Public Library, with construction costs to be covered by savings from staff vacancies in the Enterprise Service Department.

When the library was renovated in 2020 and 2021 to meet earthquake safety standards, the sliding doors at the library were replaced with doors that swing out and have had repeated mechanical failures, according to a staff report from Chief Financial Officer Josh Eggleston.

Though the new doors are under a warranty, Eggleston wrote that the swinging style of doors will continue to fail due to the frequency of use. 

Pedestrian safety projects

As part of its pedestrian safety project, the city will also consider several agreements with the Oregon Department of Transportation to begin managing federally funded sites. 

The city is looking to improve pedestrian safety at crosswalks at State Street and Southeast 21st St, Northeast Lancaster Drive and Northeast Weathers Street, and North River Road near River Road City Park, according to a staff report from acting Public Works Director Brian Martin.

Another agreement would allow the city to improve other crosswalks on Northwest Orchard Heights Road, which has heavy traffic according to Martin. The improved crosswalks are planned for Northwest Snowbird Drive and Northwest Westhaven Avenue, to give safer access to the community park and build sidewalks.

Floodplain study, more apartments

A motion from Councilor Micki Varney would have the council provide a letter of support to the Glenn-Gibson Watershed Council’s grant application to the state for an assessment of threatened and endangered species in the Willamette River floodplain in the Salem area.

The council will also hear about a recent approval by the planning division of plans for the East Park Apartments, which would add 42 units in the East Lancaster neighborhood.

The four apartment buildings are planned to be built on the 4900 Block of State Street, near Northeast Greencrest Street.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.