City cracks down on illegal activity in parks with overnight curfew

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to impose nighttime curfews at five parks in North Park, City Heights and near Balboa Park.

The vote will establish a midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew at Cedar Ridge Mini Park, Montclair Neighborhood Park, North Park Community Park and North Park Mini Park and a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew at City Heights Square Mini Park. The move was prompted by complaints from people living near the parks. Many said that the parks are being used for illegal behavior, including drug use and prostitution.

"The people that come to the park -- they’re afraid of what might happen, and we can’t predict what might happen," resident Geroge Morgan said.

The city does not currently have a blanket park curfew making it illegal to be in a park after a certain time, but many of the city's parks close at or some time after sunset.

Multiple City Council members expressed concern that the curfews could unfairly target homeless residents. North Park, City Heights and areas adjacent to Balboa Park currently have a significant portion of the city's homeless population.

Stella Rodriguez, lives at Potiker Senior Living Facility in City Heights, which is next to City Heights Square Mini Park. She says she will not use the park at all, fearing for her safety.   “There has been prostitution, selling drugs, sleeping everywhere," she said.

"This is about trying to address legitimate public safety concerns," said City Councilman Chris Ward, who represents the district encompassing all five parks. "A huge focus of mine is to make sure that this is not inappropriately used to criminalize homelessness."

With the vote, the five parks will join Children's Park, Gaslamp Square Park, Pantoja Park, the Children's Museum Park, Fault Line Park, Cortez Hill Park and the Spruce Street Pedestrian Bridge as public spaces with overnight curfews.

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