City Posts New Anti-Panhandling Signs

Citing safety concerns for those soliciting on the medians at East Blithedale and Camino Alto, city posts signs encouraging residents to give to local charities instead of panhandlers.

“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.

Roy Forest July 12, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Ridiculous! The wasted time spent at meetings and the cost to make and put up these signs, should have been better utilized elsewhere. They will probably be the first signs to be defaced, trashed and graffiti covered... Then what.. you guessed it: ANOTHER MEETING!
Greg July 13, 2012 at 04:33 AM
What's most interesting to me is that I haven't seen anyone out there since the signs went up. So I think something "more" is going on here that we are not hearing about because the signs are nothing but a couple fools righteous cranial anal impaction. I actually gave all those people money and though the ones in the medium were risking injuries versus the ones on the sidewalk, they all were friendly and sure needed the money. To suggest that I give my money to some "real organization" is beyond stupid...I can do what I want with my money! I hope you all end up standing on that curb one day because it sure seems like you need it!
Rebecca Chapman July 13, 2012 at 06:19 PM
i chatted with one of the gentlemen who asks for money out there, and he mentioned that a bunch of them were getting sick, maybe because of temperatures, allergens, car exhaust, or whatever. so, they'd mostly stopped before the signs went up, apparently...
william luke rice September 12, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Well some homeless people put themselves there, some fall on hard times. Once you are homeless, even for a short time, it isn't easy to avoid drugs and alcohol, in fact it isn't even easy to remain sane, even if you remain sober, lack of sanitation, lack of sleep is the biggest factor, lack of food, anxiety etc. You could abandon the situation and let mill valley become a slum, you could over rely on police presence and risk becoming a fascist-enclave, like some of the gated communities in L.A. Or people could pull the resources together to put up a safe homeless shelter in Mill Valley, screen people for mental issues and drug use. The biggest problem with homeless people is separating the drug users from the mentally ill from few sober and sane homeless people. Most people who pull themselves out of homelessness have amazing mental resources and/or got a break somewhere. It isn't like you can just walk into a place and beg for a dishwashing job like you could 40 years ago. I haven't heard good things about any of the so-called shelters in Marin... Correct me if i am wrong....
LS September 12, 2012 at 05:32 AM
The reality is that being homeless is a full time job. Trying to find food, a place to rest, go to the bathroom, wash up, etc. takes a huge amount of time and a huge amount of effort. Getting to the social service agencies in Central and Northern Marin is almost impossible as public transportation costs money and isn't easy to access when you have all of your belongings with you. And with the economy the way it is, space in shelters and treatment programs is at a premium. Someone won't know if they can get a bed or services until they make the trek there. Consider yourself lucky if you've never had to spend the night in a shelter or rely on these agencies. Some are helpful and have dedicated staff, but some are not. A bed maybe available at night, but during the day you have to find another place to be. And there's no stability or guarantee you'll get the help you need - one night there's space, the next you arrive too late and all the beds are taken. Once you get into that situation, it's virtually impossible to get yourself out without serious help. We need alternatives for the homeless in Southern Marin. Something more then treating them as sub-human or shipping them to San Francisco / San Rafael. Let's see the Mill Valley City Council take that up at their next meeting and make a firm commitment to the safety and well-being of all its residents. Until then, I'll give money to whoever I decide to give it to.


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