BEND, Ore. - The Bend City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to tighten the rules when it comes to blocking downtown sidewalks and other public spaces, specifically including the breezeway between Wall and Brooks street.
The move comes a month after some business owners in downtown Bend showed up at a council meeting to detail why they were upset with people using drugs and blocking sidewalks.
City Councilor Bill Moseley told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday the problem is actually getting better, now that those business owners have taken steps to deter people from camping out in front of their shops.
"Every year, it gets to be a problem, and we have things like people sleeping perpendicular to buildings and obstructing the sidewalks," Moseley said. "You know, that is not okay. Bend has a lot of people that are shopping around downtown, they're trying to have a nice time. The people, the merchants that work down here depend upon tourists and other people shopping down here."
The city council was asked Wednesday night to amend Bend Code Chapter 6.15 regarding obstruction of public ways.
The new code adds language that would include the breezeway linking to Riverfront Plaza and prevent people from blocking the sidewalk with any belongings, requiring a six-foot-wide clearance.
The new code says Bend police would have to warn the person before issuing a citation.
That prompted some debate Wednesday night, as Moseley proposed lifting that requirement as too restrictive for police. But Associate City Attorney Ian Leitheiser noted it's common language in others places' sidewalk rules and that people asked to move usually do. Moseley's motion failed by a single vote, 3-4.
Leitheiser said requiring a six-foot-wide accessible passageway is an "objective standard we didn't have before" and borrows from ADA regulations.
In response to a question from Councilor Bruce Abernethy, Leitheiser said restaurants and other businesses such as sidewalk vendors already have separate code governing their operations and should not be affected.
Larry Borden, who has owned Clementine Urban Mercantile for 10 years in downtown Bend, told NewsChannel 21 businesses owners have taken steps to move traffic along the breezeway.
Borden said the city and business owners recently put in gates in some of the alcoves and have also sprayed down the breezeway, which encourages people to move along.
She said she has never felt unsafe while working in downtown Bend.
"I know there are times that there are some things where it makes people feel uncomfortable, and I understand that too, but I never felt unsafe. I know I can call Bend PD and they can defuse the situation," Borden said.