“Want to help the needy? Rather than give money to street solicitors, contribute to recognized local charities and benefit our community.”
Those words appear on new signs posted this week at the intersection of East Blithedale Ave. and Camino Alto as part of the city of Mill Valley’s efforts to , citing concerns about safety and potential driver distraction.
The signs have incited a range of reactions.
“It’s dangerous for people to be on the median on East Blithedale, and they’re there because people give them money,” said Councilman Ken Wachtel. “I believe in that sign.”
Councilwoman Shawn Marshall said she agreed with the sentiment that residents should support local charitable organizations that help homeless people.
“On the other hand, as somebody who does periodically help out someone on the street corner, I feel like putting those signs up is a bit intolerant and lacking in human response,” she said. “It’s not my way of being in the world. Putting a sign up there is basically code for saying, ‘We don't want you in our town.’”
Marshall also questioned the sign’s effectiveness in spurring potential charitable donations.
People asking for money on Mill Valley’s prominent medians isn't a new phenomenon, and the same sign was posted at Miller Ave. and Camino Alto several years ago.
But the idea for the new signs originated from a number of residents’ complaints and about the issue over the past two years, according to City Manager Jim McCann. The posting of the signs was not the result of a council vote but by informal direction from a few councilmembers, he said.
In its discussions over the years, the council has stopped short of amending the city’s municipal code to prohibit soliciting in the public right of way areas like medians. That has largely been due to the complexity of “soliciting,” which could also encompass lemonade stands or community fundraisers in public areas, McCann said.
The signs strike a cost-effective balance between discouraging soliciting on the medians without getting into the broader issue of people soliciting within pubic spaces, McCann said.
The signs went up this week, with street supervisor Robert Zadnik saying that they were positioned under the traffic signals on the median, at least for now, because the intersection is laden with signage elsewhere.
So what do you think? Are the signs a good idea? Will they be effective in discouraging panhandling and encouraging donations to local charitable organizations?
Tell us in the Comments below.