Crime - Sacto 911

City considers closing loophole in public nudity law

San Francisco police lead Gypsy Taub, right, and Jaymz Smith, left, to a van after their nude wedding outside City Hall in December, 2013. In Sacramento, a proposed amended ordinance would make it illegal to be nude on city streets, sidewalks or on private property visible from a public right-of-way.
San Francisco police lead Gypsy Taub, right, and Jaymz Smith, left, to a van after their nude wedding outside City Hall in December, 2013. In Sacramento, a proposed amended ordinance would make it illegal to be nude on city streets, sidewalks or on private property visible from a public right-of-way. Associated Press file

Walking down J Street naked isn’t illegal now, but Sacramento is working to change that.

Next week, the City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee is expected to fast-track amendments to the city’s code that would effectively ban all forms of public nudity. Under current rules, public nudity is prohibited only in parks, playgrounds, beaches and nearby waters.

So being naked on city streets and sidewalks is perfectly legal – for now.

City and police officials want the loophole closed so that all nudists – whether they are on city sidewalks or in a city park – are covered by the law.

“It’s simply time to update the ordinance,” said Randi Knott, director of government affairs at the city of Sacramento.

Public nudity is “just as offensive whether you’re standing on a sidewalk or on the grass of a park,” she said.

Bob Morton, executive director of the Texas-based Naturist Action Committee, called the Sacramento ordinance an “overreaction.” His group has fought nudity legislation across the country.

“I think this is a symptom of a city government that has lost its focus,” he said. “Why concentrate on this when there are so many larger things?”

The catalyst for updating the law, Knott said, came from recent incidents in which individuals were arrested on public nudity charges, but couldn’t be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office since they were on sidewalks and not in city parks.

The proposed amendment explicitly states that “no person shall be nude upon public property or upon any portion of private property that is visible from public property.”

The current nudity law has been on the books for several years, if not decades, according to Knott.

“Now, as we become more urban,” she said, “the (nudity) incidents have occurred a little bit more frequently. We want to make sure we can effectively contain the problem.”

Knott added that most of the incidents have involved inebriated individuals and homeless people.

She expects the City Council to take up the ordinance by June in anticipation of summer, when outdoor events and festivals are popular.

Exceptions to the amended law would include children under the age of 10, breastfeeding mothers, theatrical performers and nudity on public property inside a fully enclosed structure.

Violation of the proposed amended ordinance would be a misdemeanor and usually involve a fine.

The amended ordinance would require a majority approval from the City Council before taking effect 30 days later.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang. Bee staff writer Bill Lindelof contributed to this report.

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