During the May 5, 2021 Lodi City Council meeting, the issue of the anti-homeless bars came to a close as the City Manager gave his final report.
Lodi City Manager Steve Schwabauer presented a report outlining the end to the matter of anti-homeless bars on City benches in the downtown area. City staff removed the bars on Thursday, April 29th after three weeks. The City Manager was in contact with the “responsible parties” and asked them to reimburse Lodi Public Works for removing the bars. The parties agreed to pay the $400 for labor, and City Manager Schwabauer considered the case closed.
At the conclusion of his report, City Manager Mr. Schwabauer notified the City Council that they could take additional measures if they choose, but he would prefer this to be the end of the issue. He went on to say the bars have created a great deal of distraction and redirected energy from the Council. However, the City Staff has been looking at ways to solve the problem without creating additional negative energy that will get in the way of the ultimate project, which is the creation of a new homeless shelter.
Each of the five City Council Members then gave their thoughts on the issue before the end of the meeting.
Mayor Pro Tempore Mark Chandler said he wanted to listen to all sides. Going forward, he would like to review the benches alongside the Council to get everyone’s opinion on the need for anti-homeless architecture in downtown Lodi.
Council Member Shak Khan stated we should have a clear answer as to who put the bars in. But at the same time he wanted everyone to know that he was also there for the businesses. As a small business owner himself, Council Member Khan wanted everyone to know that he stands with the downtown business community. Unfortunately, public trust in the council has eroded, given that many believed the City was behind the anti-homeless architecture.
Council Member Mikey Hothi also wanted to comment on the ruined reputation of Lodi, as this news was shared across the county. He went on to say the City should take action against the perpetrators if there are similar measures taken going forward. But if the City wants to approve anti-homeless architecture he wouldn’t be opposed to that.
Council Member Doug Kuehne mentioned how the benches were put in because Lodi is a tourist destination, though tourism and businesses have suffered due to the COVID pandemic. He continued by saying he was glad the bars were removed because they were unsightly and should have an approved armrest in the middle. The topic should be revisited, and if the architecture is approved there should be an armrest running down the middle.
Mayor Alan Nakanishi had the final remark by stating homelessness has been one of Lodi’s top issues since 1915, alongside dealing with gangs. It’s a tough situation because we want to be compassionate with the homeless, but we also want to keep the streets safe and clean.
“We’re doing what we can. We will continue to do what we can. And right now as far as the bars are concerned, we’re taking them off. We’ll go forward and see how it will pan out in the future.”-Mayor Alan Nakanishi. May 5, 2021 City Council Regular Meeting
Mayor Nakanishi then adjourned the meeting, without the public knowing the identity of the responsible parties behind the illegal anti-homeless architecture.