The Nevada Independent

Nuestro estado. Nuestras noticias. Nuestra voz.

The Nevada Independent

Washoe County prohibits living in vehicle, obstructing sidewalks, soliciting on roadways

Commissioners voted Tuesday to follow Reno and Sparks in considering inhabiting cars and sleeping on public property a misdemeanor.
Carly Sauvageau
Carly Sauvageau
HousingLocal Government

Washoe County Commissioners passed an ordinance Tuesday making it a misdemeanor to camp or live in a vehicle on county-owned properties or public places. 

The ordinance also prohibits camping within 1,000 feet of the Truckee River, parking oversized vehicles on public property, obstructing uses of public sidewalks or roads, using open flame devices on county or public property and soliciting 15 feet from a road or highway.  

After hours of public comment and significant discussion from county commissioners, the ordinance passed by a 3-2 vote. Republican Commissioners Jeanne Herman and Mike Clark voted in opposition. Commissioners Alexis Hill and Mariluz Garcia, both Democrats, and Commissioner Clara Andriola, a Republican, voted to pass the amendment to county code.

Hill said she voted in favor partly because county staff were requesting a tool to do their jobs better, but she wants to revisit the issue in 2025.

“The one thing that is great about this job is nothing is written in stone,” Hill said. “I absolutely want [this ordinance] to come back to us in a year to consider any changes that we want to make to it or if we want to keep it.”

Though this is a new ordinance for Washoe County, the jurisdiction’s most populous towns, Sparks and Reno, have already approved similar ordinances. Washoe County’s choice to restrict camping on public property and county lands will apply to unincorporated and rural areas such as Sun Valley and Gerlach. 

It will also create a cohesive code on the issue among Northern Nevada local governments. 

Several speakers in public comment expressed disappointment in the county’s decision following the vote.

“I cannot believe it. I’ve been a proud Democrat my whole life,” said Pam Gormly, a Washoe County resident. “I am not a proud Democrat today.”

Other opponents included Jewish and Christian faith leaders who are part of Faith in Action Nevada, a faith-based social action group.

"We hope instead of this ordinance, you will continue the wonderful and important work you've done finding a way to make sure each and every person in this county is cared for and given the opportunity and possibilities to succeed,” Rabbi Benjamin Zober said before commissioners voted on the issue. 

Nick Martin, a 50-year Washoe County resident, said he favored the policy change and hoped the amendments would help keep parks safe for kids and parents. He also challenged people who opposed the ordinance to do more.

“You can do something right now to fix this problem … none of them will, none of them have ever done it,” Martin said.

This decision comes less than a month until the Supreme Court of the United States revisits Johnson v. Grants Pass, determining whether to uphold the decision made in 2022 that declared it unconstitutional for a local government entity to criminalize sleeping outdoors when there is no adequate shelter available. 

The meeting also comes months after Nevada’s two largest cities — Las Vegas and Henderson — signed an amicus brief aiming to restore local jurisdictions’ power to ban sleeping outdoors on county and city property.


Featured Videos

7455 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy Suite 220 Las Vegas, NV 89113
Privacy PolicyRSSContactNewslettersSupport our Work
The Nevada Independent is a project of: Nevada News Bureau, Inc. | Federal Tax ID 27-3192716