Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson spoke about the city’s trespass ordinance on Tuesday evening. The council voted unanimously to move forward with the ordinance. (Screenshot)
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The Eureka City Council moved forward with a trespassing ordinance to correct what it considered deficiencies. The ordinance, approved unanimously Tuesday night, will amend the city’s municipal code and take effect 30 days after final passage.

“California’s existing trespass laws are inadequate, they’re deficient, they’re confusing and poorly written, which is why we have this ordinance before you today,” Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson told the council Tuesday. “And business owners really lack the adequate recourse under existing laws which don’t provide them sufficient means to protect their employees and their customers.”

He said the businesses are in Eureka need some recourse for dealing with unwanted individuals on private property.

“Within the City of Eureka, businesses struggle to regulate the conduct and presence of individuals on their commercial premises,” the agenda summary for the item states, which was prepared by Watson. “This can lead to negative impacts to the economic prosperity of such businesses.”

Under the code amendment, individuals who have been asked to leave will not be allowed on private property. Failure to comply could result in either an infraction or a misdemeanor, Watson said.

“EPD will respond to investigate trespass complaints or calls for service under this ordinance,” he said.

According to the agenda summary, there are similar laws in San Rafael and Redding.

Councilwoman Marian Brady was the only person to comment on the bill, asking about a form that businesses fill out outlining which individuals are not allowed on the premises.

Watson said copies of the completed form would be kept track of in multiple layers, meaning it will be scanned into the department’s records system. Watson also noted the form would be available in patrol cars for situations in which it might be needed.

Charlotte McDonald, the executive director of Eureka Main Street called the move “proactive.”

“I think that what the city is doing is proactive and something that is needed,” she said today. “People that are on the streets have rights but so do property owners and business owners and there needs to be a balance. We applaud and support the ordinance.”

Other business

The council spent some time Tuesday evening debating whether to keep the city’s energy commission up and running after nearly a year of continued struggles in obtaining a quorum to conduct business.

The council in February was asked to consider disbanding the committee but decided against it. The committee, formed in 2008, is supposed to have seven members — four are necessary for a quorum.

“Since we had a meeting, about four months ago, we have been unable to get a quorum since then,” said city clerk Pam Powell.

Councilman Austin Allison said expressed an interest in dissolving the group if troubles persist.

“This is our second chance we are giving the energy commission,” he said. “… What’s most important is whether you can make quorums. If you can’t make quorums, let’s dissolve the commission.”

After a lengthy discussion, the council directed staff to look into amending the ordinance that created the committee and reduce its size to five members instead of seven. That would mean three was a quorum, rather than four.

Finally, Mayor Frank Jäger noted it will be his last meeting before the council swears in a new mayor.

” I am going to miss being involved in city government and working with a great staff,” he said before he pounded the gavel a final time. “… It’s an honor to serve with you and I won’t miss these long meetings.”

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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