Downtown business owners have complained for years that an array of bad behavior like public urination, sleeping on sidewalks and aggressive panhandling spooked away customers and scared employees. After months of contentious debate about how to address the problem, the Missoula City Council on March 3 banned sleeping or lying on sidewalks between 6 a.m and 11 p.m. The council also prohibited sitting within 10 feet of a business entrance and expanded an existing no-solicitation buffer zone around business entrances from 6 feet to 10 feet.
After all of that wrangling, what do these bans actually accomplish?
We surveyed the main Higgins Avenue corridor to identify spots where it remains legal to sit and solicit. These "green zones" marked on the map aren't exact measurements—we found additional wiggle room at the edge of the city's 16-foot-wide sidewalks, for instance, and other small pockets between businesses—but they provide a guide for how much you can still do downtown. We also checked in with more than a dozen businesses, including those most critical that the city didn't do enough, to see what they think about these changes. Overall, this graphic illustrates a situation that remains far from settled.