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Tent Cities: Is Suburban Blight the New Normal?

Updated: Apr 9, 2021



We're used to urban blight. But now in the twenty-first century we are facing suburban blight. And we're trying not to pay attention. But maybe we should pay attention before it gets worse. This is Marin, these are all pictures taken on the morning of April 8th, 2021 in Novato in and around Lee Garner Park and the public library. We've been talking about homelessness for awhile now... But we haven't been talking about it the right way. We've talked about the harm to the environment... Trash dumped in creeks probably isn't a good thing. We've worried about property values... this is Marin... People CARE about real estate values. We've talked about crime and quality of life.... People have screamed in the streets about "compassion" and cost of living. But we've failed to talk about fairness.

Allowing and ENCOURAGING a small downtown park --a park with wheelchair accessible paths designed for people with disabilities and parents pushing strollers-- to become a residential encampment for a couple of dozen individuals is inherently UNFAIR to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of local residents who would normally use that park to walk, picnic on the lawn, play... lean over the bridge with their children and try and catch a glimpse of a fish in the stream below.



What we are seeing here is a prime example of a mis-use and appropriation of a public area for private use. Property owners pay taxes to maintain public use areas in Novato. Sadly for almost a year now the library has been providing reduced services due to Covid. (Taxes have not been reduced of course.) And... in the meantime a new "community" has built a tent village in the park and chosen to live by their own rules.




The new rules this new community is living by are an overt attack on the existing rules. Because... shockingly enough it is not merely "custom" that has kept people from throwing trash in the creek, camping out on the lawn and having cook-outs. There are rules. We even still have a sign that details some of those rules.




A picture of the sign is above. Apparently a permit is necessary for cookouts, or consuming alcohol.... No barbecues are allowed and people aren't supposed to use the park during closed hours. Well... less than 55 feet from the sign forbidding barbecues there is now a cooking tent with a barbecue permanently set up. A picture of the barbecue and cooking area is below.

There are roughly 20-35 permanent tents. And on New Year's Day of 2021 this Millennial Republican blogger witnessed about a dozen people having a party on the lawn passing around a bottle of tequila.




As for trash? Well... there is a lot of litter now. A lot. So we must ask.... is this an example of different rules for me and thee? If a mom wanted to have a party for her kids at the park she would need a permit to get a bouncy house but apparently it is now "compassion" to allow dozens of people to set up residence in the park and barbecue.



Is it "fair" to allow a public park that should be used by thousands of people to become the semi private residential area of a few dozen? Is this good for the community? For the environment? For taxpayers? Is it fair?



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5 Comments


Renee Sapp
Renee Sapp
May 23, 2021

Anyone can still use the park. There is no guarantee that you won't be uncomfortable but what this article insinuates is that people should be free of the uncomfortable truths of inequality.

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Renee Sapp
Renee Sapp
May 23, 2021
Replying to

Where should a homeless person go that not afford rent or any other shelter? It is back to the problem that there are underlying conditions such as mental health etc, that do do allow for a person to generate enough income to provide a home or it is too expensive. California has outlawed criminalizing homelessness. Almost anywhere they go on private or public land, they will not be "following the rules". You still have not proposed any solutions to the underlying problems. I have worked with these populations, no one would envy their lives. They are stuck. Maybe Marin could provide a safe place for homeless people to go to live in tents or something but Marin as a who…

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Renee Sapp
Renee Sapp
May 23, 2021

Wow., All I hear is me, me me, me, me and me, No solutions about the underlying problems. I wonder what other countries do in this situation?

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Replying to

The question should not be what "other countries" do in this situation. The question should be what do other counties within the United States of America do in this situation? What does Kansas City do? What does San Francisco do? What should Marin do? Should we allow a new "enclosure" of the public commons? Allowing public parks --which should be available for the use of the WHOLE community-- to become the private residential area of a few dozen tent dwellers is a hardship for the entire community. Particularly the mothers of young children who would normally be playing in that park.

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