Seeking to prevent unhoused people from continuing to camp at Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), elected officials on Thursday approved stricter rules about who can be on airport property.
Reports of people living at the airport have increased in the past year, alarming airport officials and others who asked police and the city attorney to step in. According to a staff report reviewed by councilmembers, as many as 14 people were spotted living at the airport last fall, including one man who had been there six weeks.
On Thursday, City Attorney Jeffrey Ballinger outlined proposed changes to the city’s trespassing laws that apply specifically to the airport. Those changes were unanimously approved. The new rules were written after consulting existing regulations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). That entire airport is technically closed to the public, something Ballinger avoided by focusing on the activities of individuals instead of their general location.
Under rules adopted Thursday, individuals may enter or remain on PSP property, but only for specific legitimate airport purposes such as traveling, shopping, eating, working at the airport, or waiting or escorting somebody engaged in any of those activities.
Law enforcement officers can now remove unhoused people from airport property, encouraging them to seek assistance but ultimately letting them know it’s against the law to linger unnecessarily.
“It’s a test of reasonableness,” Police Chief Andy Mills told the Council. “If you’re sitting there having a cup of coffee and that takes a while, that’s fine. We all enjoy that. But if that cup of coffee takes seven or eight hours to enjoy, then that’s unreasonable.”
The city operates a homeless access center across the street from the airport, contracting to provide certain services for unhoused residents during the day. Some in the community had expressed concern that its presence would lead to an increase in homeless individuals at the airport.
Mills said he was unsure whether the access center contributed to the problems at the airport, relaying that one individual simply took up residency at the airport and then encouraged others to do so. That person has since relocated to Canada.