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No place to sit
City to consider removal of downtown benches
downtown benches
The misuse of public benches in the downtown area has become an issue, according to the Turlock Downtown Property Owners’ Association (Journal file photo).

The Turlock City Council will vote in April whether to remove benches from downtown sidewalks, in an effort to prevent their misuse.

Travis Regalo, executive director of the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association, has pointed out that the benches are often used by homeless persons to sleep on, which leaves virtually no room for downtown shoppers who want to use the bench to rest or eat a snack purchased from a downtown vendor.

Recently, however, the misuse of the benches has also become a public health issue.

“People are literally using them as toilets,” said Regalo. “For sanitary reasons, we need to pull them out. It’s becoming a daily occurrence to have then urinated on, or defecated on, or vandalized with graffiti.”

Armrests were installed on the benches to make it impossible to stretch-out and sleep on the bench.

“But after we put in the armrests, but people just kicked them out, which caused damage to the wooden benches. Now, that’s another issue,” said Regalo. “Until we can come up with a better solution, we’re seeking permission to remove the benches.”

The issue went before the City Council last month as a discussion item. The council voted to make it an action item for its April 4 meeting.

Regalo and his team are working on alternatives to the traditional park-style bench.

“One option is a circular-style bench, with armrests between each seat,” said Regalo. “But this style of bench would be made of metal. That way, it prevents people from sleeping on them, it would be more difficult to destroy, and it would be easier to clean.”

Another option would be to replace the benches with curbside flower barrels. 

“We’re working a lot of ideas,” said Regalo.

During the last year, downtown merchants have become more vocal about their frustrations regarding Turlock’s homeless population. A group of business owners banded together to collect photographs of the blight and published those images on Facebook in an attempt to jolt the city into action.

Since then, the city has partnered with Legacy Health Endowment, a Turlock non-profit organization, to launch a multi-pronged effort to consolidate Turlock’s homeless outreach services.