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Astoria considers changes to abandoned vehicle ordinance

ASTORIA — City leaders have amended Astoria’s abandoned vehicle ordinance in a move they hope will help address growing concerns about RVs and other vehicles abandoned on city streets.

The update to the ordinance is part of several so-called “livability” ordinances the city has considered in recent months with a direct link to homelessness-related issues in the community.

In a number of cases, people are sleeping or living out of the vehicles that have caused community concern.

The amendment adds a definition for a “non-compliant vehicle” — a vehicle that is partially dismantled or inoperative, or that may have expired or altered tags or expired registration, among other conditions.

Former Astoria Police Chief Geoff Spalding spearheaded many of the city discussions around homelessness. He retired last month but continues to remain involved with some of the projects. He told the city council on Monday that he hears concerns about vehicles left on city streets on a daily basis.

The amended ordinance provides police with useful tools, he said, but the changes to the ordinance are not “a panacea.”

“These are simply additional tools to address some of the livability concerns and address some of the complaints we get from members of our community,” Spalding said.

The ordinance, even as amended, does not address every situation. And, Spalding added, “every situation has to be handled on a case by case basis.”

He noted some cases will involve people who are sleeping or living in their vehicles.

“So we have to treat those separately as well,” Spalding said. “At least, we want to treat those separate.”

The updated ordinance reflects language other cities have begun to adopt as communities struggle to address homelessness amid new court rulings and state laws.

In Seaside, city leaders last week adopted a new camping ordinance in an effort to control and curb how and, to some extent, where people living out of RVs and other types of vehicles make camp. The city had allowed a makeshift camp to grow at city property on Necanicium Drive, but is looking for other locations for people to park.

In Astoria, the vehicle ordinance is separate from a camping ordinance that is still under discussion. Spalding cautioned that the language in the abandoned vehicle ordinance is subject to change as courts “continue to wrestle with some of the ambiguous language we’re dealing with right now.”

But Mayor Bruce Jones says the ordinance is an important first step that will begin to address community concerns.