Tempe City Council attempts to alleviate aggressive solicitors

Sugar Girl sits with Eric Super Man and Pony Boy, holding up a sign that says Sugar Girl sits with Eric Super Man and Pony Boy, holding up a sign that says "Homeless & Hungry" on Mill Avenue Monday afternoon. (Photo by Perla Farias)

The Tempe City Council amended its panhandling ordinance Thursday to alleviate the number and aggressiveness of panhandlers in the downtown area.

Tempe's original panhandling ordinance prohibited anyone from soliciting money within 15 feet of an ATM or the entrance or exit to a bank. It also said no person can solicit money or goods in an aggressive manner in a public area.

At Thursday’s city council meeting, members added regulations preventing panhandlers from being within 15 feet of transit stops or 10 feet from the entrances of businesses.

The new regulations focus on Mill Avenue, where the solicitation of money and goods seems to be a recurring issue for businesses and Mill Avenue regulars.

Councilman Kolby Granville said at Thursday's meeting the new regulations will hopefully make heavily populated areas, such as Mill Avenue, more enjoyable for Tempe residents to visit.

“There are a lot of interested parties in making Mill Avenue a better environment for people to live, work, and play and shop, and do all those things that they need to do,” Granville said.

The amended regulations passed with a 7-0 vote.

Some businesses on Mill Avenue, however, do not think the regulations will help deter panhandlers more.

Corey Adams, an employee at the Zuma Bar and Grill on Mill Avenue, said he does not believe the amended ordinance will reduce the number of panhandlers near the restaurant.

“I don’t think it will help,” Adams said. “I know several of (the panhandlers) personally. ... They don’t really care what anybody says. They’re going to do what they want.”

Adams said though customers are bothered by solicitors when eating on the restaurant’s patio, this has not happened frequently enough to have caused an issue for Zuma.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a regular thing,” he said. “I don’t really see it being a problem.”

Hippie Gypsy employee Ashley Smalley said many panhandlers hang around the store.

“I feel like it’s Mill in general, but we do get a lot of people near our door or around it,” Smalley said. “I feel like everywhere you go, you’re going to get that type of person, like any city.”

Smalley said panhandling on Mill is expected, and the amended ordinance will most likely not change the Mill Avenue environment.

“I feel like a lot of people already know Mill is known for that, because there’s a lot of characters or a lot of people who do that kind of stuff,” she said. “It’s just kind of known.”

She said customers are usually regulars on Mill Avenue and have learned to ignore the soliciting, even the aggressive panhandling.

“(The panhandlers) are usually always really polite,” she said. “I think (people) will just ignore it."

Reach the reporter at wpogden@asu.edu or follow her @whitneyparis10

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