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Parking Lot Panic at City Council Tuesday May 9th
by Robert Norse
Monday May 8th, 2006 9:42 PM
The Fifteen Minute Trespass Law has its final reading as item #17 on the afternoon agenda at Santa Cruz City Council Tuesday May 9th. A protest with food and frolicking will precede the Council rubberstamp at 2:30 PM. Item #17 on the City Council agenda will come up sometime after 3 PM (anywhere from half an hour to several hours).
If the law passes second reading in unaltered form (as is likely), it will go into effect 30 days later.

So on or around June 8th, your right to read a book, listen to a CD, rest quietly, wait for a relative, or meditate in your own legally parked, legally owned vehicle in a city parking lot will cease after fifteen minutes.

If you don't have a vehicle or bicycle which you are parking, it will become illegal for you to enter a parking lot at all unless you go directly through, have a permit to be there, or are a city employee on city business. Disabled? No exceptions. Ducking out of the rain? No exceptions. Helping an elderly friend to the car with her grociers? Sorry.

Trying to put a flyer on a car window? Hmm, only if you are in one of the posted "free speech" areas. Doesn't this sounds hauntingly familiar--like President Bush's special "protest pens" keeping political opponents many blocks away from his calvalcade in special "Free Speech areas"?

The American Friend Service Committee's Street Spirit editor Terry Messman, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom, the [Santa Cruz] Human Rights Organization, the [Santa Cruz] Peace and Freedom Party, the [Santa Cruz] Green Party, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty have all written to City Council opposing this law.

It represents a radical reversal of the traditional right to privacy in your vehicle and the right to freedom of association in previously public parking lots and garages. Many square blocks of public space are now being "closed off" for "security" concerns.

It is actually an anti-homeless law dressed up in fashionable security rhetoric. Homeless people use parking lots for shelter from rain and wind. Santa Cruz has emergency shelter tonight for 40 of the City's 1500-2000 homeless people. Homeless "crimes" (of sleeping, camping, urinating, defecating) seem to be the biggest concern here.

Even though it's ALREADY ILLEGAL to camp or sleep in parking lots, parking lot workers and their bosses want to increase the fear factor (though not necessarily increasing any funding for police enforcement) by making any presence without a vehicle illegal.

There has been no record given of actual arrests made for actual crimes in the parking lots and/or garages in spite of three separate Downtown Commission hearings and one City Council hearing. Instead a vague record of police "calls for service" has been compiled as well as an anecdotal listing of parking lot worker complaints.

Even those records, which only cover 4 parking lots and the 4 parking garages, do not indicate any more than 3 incidents per month per garage. Incidents such as "camping", "suspicious person", "vandalism". No cases in the last year have been presented of rape. There have been several assaults, but no comparative record of how many more assaults there have been downtown generally.

No attention has been given to a real discussion of real solutions like opening bathrooms or portapotties at night, providing better lighting, involving the community in a discussion about these issues.

Even solutions which I don't necessarily favor have more surface rationality like more police patrols, better surveillance, and an on-site attendant--and theyaren't being seriously discussed. Just a "got no car?, get out" sign and a "do your business in 15 minutes or else" sign for those with vehicles.


SMILING AS WE STRIKE BACK

The kind of protests I suggest are summed up at:
http://www.indybay.org/news/2006/05/1821107.php

A second "training session" for parking lot overflow activity in front of the downtown businesses may be in the offing for the weeks ahead.

Also under consideration: a scavenger hunt in the parking lots, a lawsuit with the help of Palo Alto attorneys, and a sleep-out to reclaim public space and apply the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' "Jones" decision from L.A. here in Santa Cruz. (Arresting homeless people for sleeping when there is no shelter is a violation of the 8th Amendment banning cruel and unusual punishment).

Want to help? Give a call to HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom at 831-423-4833.

You can also phone City Council at 831-420-5020 or e-mail them at citycouncil [at] ci.santa-cruz.ca.us .

For more info on the law check out:
http://www.indybay.org/news/2006/04/1817776.php