Panhandling: How the City of Boca Raton Does It

Update: At bottom we’ve posted a federal case that upheld Pembroke Pines’ ordinance against panhandling and similar behavior.
In our recent article on panhandlers, a lot of readers have asked why we don’t see them in the city of Boca Raton. The city adopted specific ordinances to deal with the problem, and not just panhandlers.
First, there’s an ordinance about soliciting on streets:

Sec. 16-3. – Soliciting, collecting, etc., upon streets.
No person shall stand or walk on the paved portion of any right-of-way, except sidewalks and bike paths, or in any paved or unpaved median strip of any street, road or highway in the city for any of the following purposes:
(a) Soliciting donations of money or of property of any kind for charitable, religious, educational, benevolent or any other purposes from the occupant of any motor vehicle;
(b) Collecting donations of money or of property of any kind for charitable, religious, educational, benevolent or any other purposes from the occupant of any motor vehicle;
(c) Soliciting the purchase of property or of services of any nature whatsoever by the occupant of any motor vehicle;
(d)Selling property or services of any nature whatsoever to the occupant of any motor vehicle.
(Code 1966, § 21-82; Ord. No. 5132, § 2, 4-27-10)

Note that it allows sidewalks and bike paths. This is important from a constitutional perspective because it fits under “time, place and manner” restrictions. Also note that it does not discriminate based on the type of solicitation. That also helps make it constitutional in that it’s not based on the content of the person’s “speech” (solicitation being a form of speech).
Second, they created an exception to the rule for “special events,” requiring a permit:

Sec. 8-160. – Special event permit to solicit funds, donations, etc.—Required.
It shall be unlawful for any person to conduct a special event, solicit funds or donations of money or of property of any kind for charitable or benevolent purposes without first obtaining a special event permit from the city and payment of the fee specified in the Boca Raton Municipal Facilities and Services User Fee Schedule. A special event is defined as any meeting, activity, gathering, or group of persons, animals, or vehicles, or a combination thereof, having a common purpose, design or goal, upon any public facility, street, sidewalk, alley, park, or other place or building where the special event substantially inhibits the usual flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic or which occupies any area or building generally open to the public and preempts use by the general public. A special event shall include but not be limited to a festival, carnival, concert, parade, walk, race, fund-raising sale and similar gatherings.
(Code 1966, § 16-24; Ord. No. 4533, § 3, 9-12-00)

The exception includes an application process in Section 8-161 and 8-162. It requires proof of various things such as that the person is genuinely employed by a genuine charitable organization.
Our county elected officials are hiding behind the false idea that they can’t stop panhandlers and others from creating traffic hazards because of constitutional limitations. Most of our readers figured out this was phony because they see that the problem is far less in cities like Boca Raton. The way Boca Raton does it shows how it can be done if our county commissioners want to do it.
For now at least it’s apparent that they don’t. We specifically asked Commissioners Berger and Abrams (who represent West Boca) and they have not responded, instead hiding behind the County Attorney. In light of the County Attorney’s response, we have again asked them and they have so far not responded.
Please note that Commissioner Abrams faces challenger Andy O’Brien in the election going on right now. We will ask Mr. O’Brien if he has a position on the issue.
Update: A reader sent us this case from the federal court that covers South Florida, regarding this issue in Pembroke Pines. The court ruled in favor of the city’s ordinance restricting panhandling and similar behavior.
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Boca Raton: City vs. Not, with Robert Weinroth

A reader asked us a question:

Hi there – can you possibly explain in a future post what exactly it means to be outside of the Boca city limits? (Ie 33498) I understand annual beach parking is limited to south beach park- what other limitations or perks exist due to the city limit restrictions? Thanks in advance!

We didn’t know the answer, so we asked Robert Weinroth serving his freshman term as a member of the Boca Raton City Council. We first met Mr. Weinroth when he was running for a county office. Until recently, he and I were fellow members of the West Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce and we have seen each other at a number of the events held in the City and West Boca.
Here’s his answer:

Thank you for passing along the question received from your reader. Since it appears primarily focused on recreational facilities, let me focus on that first:
Our Beaches & Parks are actually funded through the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District. The area covered by the district is not exactly the same as the city of Boca Raton. The farthest West either goes is currently the Turnpike.
If you go onto the Beach & Parks District web site they first define “residency” with respect to the beaches & parks:
* Residents are considered persons who live in the City of Boca Raton and/or the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District.
* Sugar Sand Park is open to the general public; there is a residency requirement for groups of 10 or more visiting the park or Children’s Science Explorium. Groups of 10 or more must make a reservation through the Children’s Science Explorium to visit the park for both indoor and outdoor facilities.
Here is a map of the District:
residencymap2 cropped
As you will note, whereas the pink reflects the City’s legal boundary, the yellow (essentially going West to the turnpike) adds additional “residents” to the District. District residents are assessed for the annual operating budget. The District has five elected Commissioners (independent of the Mayor & City Council) with two of those living within the district but outside of the City.
There is a great deal of cooperation between the City & District since there is a fair amount of overlap as Recreation Department personnel oversee many of the programs run at the beaches & parks.
“Non-residents” living outside of the District’s area but within Palm Beach County, may purchase a permit for South Beach Park, only, at the same rate (currently $55) as “Residents.” The Boat Launch and Recovery facilities at Silver Palm Park Boat Ramp are, likewise, available to any Palm Beach County resident for a daily fee of $20.00 or an annual fee of $55. Non-Palm Beach County residents must pay a daily fee of $50 or an annual fee of $435.00
The following fees are charged for issuing a permit for all groups, other than Independent Youth Sports Associations and Youth Travel Teams, requesting usage of an athletic field owned by the City of Boca Raton. Fees and inventory of fields available for rental subject to change.
Resident rates in bold, Non-resident rates in italics
• Baseball/Softball Field $20.00 per hour $110.00 per hour
• Soccer/Football Field $25.00 per hour $140.00 per hour
• Basketball Courts (Woodlands Park)
Volleyball Courts (Meadows Park – Sand Court): $13.00 per hour $70.00 per hour
• Batting Cage $10.25 per hour $30.75 per hour
Boca Raton is a “full-service” City providing police (Boca Raton Police Services), fire protection (Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services), water, sewer and and garbage pickup. Residents living in West Boca are protected by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Services and garbage pickup is overseen by Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority.
Residents of the city can use either the Palm Beach County Libraries or the two city libraries. Residents living outside the City, wishing to use the City of Boca Raton Libraries, may purchase an individual card for a $150. annual fee, or a family card (immediate family only) for a $250. annual fee.
Last but not least, come election time, voters within the City & Beach and Parks District will be asked to select a Mayor, four City Council Members (all five of whom also act as Commissioners of the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency) and five Beach & Parks District Commissioners, all elected “at-large.”
Residents in the City and residents in West Boca will each be asked to select a single Palm Beach County Commisioner. There are seven Commissioners elected by District. West Boca is within District 5 and represented by Commissioner Mary Lou Berger. The City of Boca Raton is within District 4 and represented by Commisioner Steven L Abrams. Since West Boca Raton is “unincorporated,” Commissioner Berger is often considered its “mayor,” working closely with the West Boca Community Council and others within her District to facilitate their needs.
I hope this comprehensive overview of the City of Boca and West Boca Raton (more properly referred to as unincorporated Palm Beach County) provides some clarity for your readers.