As plans continue to move forward for a full-scale cleanup of the Santa Ynez Riverbed along Lompoc's eastern and northern borders, the Lompoc Police Department has begun the process of removing people from the natural waterway.

Lompoc Police Sgt. Kevin Martin revealed Tuesday that 66 eviction notices had been served to those residing in makeshift homes in the riverbed. He said that officers started delivering those notices Thursday, just two days after aspects of the planned cleanup were approved by the Lompoc City Council.

According to the plan prepared by Lompoc city staff and presented to the City Council at its Aug. 7 meeting, the city will work with partner agencies and nonprofit organizations to develop a triage center in the back portion of River Park that will be used to house some of the people who are evicted from the riverbed.

"For those who do not voluntarily vacate the riverbed, a proactive approach will be taken, including legal notice and forcible removal by law enforcement, if necessary," read a portion of the city staff report used in the Aug. 7 presentation. "Those who voluntarily leave, or are removed from, the riverbed will be transitioned to the triage center, which will be a one-way trip through the triage center to acceptable housing, without a return to the riverbed."

The timeline presented within the plan notes that 30-day eviction notices will be served to everyone who can be reached. Social services will be offered throughout those 30 days, the report states, and follow-up eviction notices of 21, 14 and seven days will also be delivered, as well as a final 72-hour notice.

The triage center, which will be staffed by an outreach partner, will remain active for 90 days, with residents able to live there for only 30 days. It will be fenced off, according to city staff, and the section of River Park where it is located will be closed to the general public.

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The plan is for the triage center to be open to residents beginning Sept. 9, according to the presentation at the Aug. 7 council meeting. City staff reported that it will be used for housing for 30 days after that and then be torn down and removed over the following 30 days, meaning it will be completely gone by Nov. 10.

As of Tuesday, there were no visible signs at River Park that the triage center was under construction.

Although the planned cleanup is beginning to move forward, a lot of variables still remain. The staff report from the city noted that the cleanup could take several months and that the total cost, which is still undetermined, will likely be substantial and probably amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Lompoc Police Department has reported that it plans to monitor the riverbed to ensure that no one returns there during or after the cleanup.

"Cleaning the riverbed and finding homes for the homeless is a large and important project," the city's staff report concluded. "It will impact many in the community and be a great benefit to all, including the homeless who are in need of the assistance. It is anticipated the number of homeless disturbances and the police response will be much lower once the plan is implemented. That will allow LPD to continue to focus its efforts on other important issues."

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.



Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base, for Lee Central Coast News. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.