SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
Indybay About Contact Newsletter Calendar Publish Community

Santa Cruz Indymedia | Police State and Prisons

Parking Garage Paranoia Law Stalls Again
by Robert Norse
Thursday May 11th, 2006 5:03 PM
The Parking Lot Trespass Law as Amended and its Final Passage Again Delayed Until the Next City Council Meeting on May 23rd. It will probably happen at another hard-to-attend afternoon session.


Parking Lot Panic Law Amended and Postponed: Final Reading May 23rd


HORRIBLE LAW LESS SWEEPING--STILL BAD AND NOW OPENLY ANTI-HOMELESS

After more than an hour of public comment and city council chatter, the “Parking Lot Panic” Law was significantly amended. It now requires another vote in two weeks to assure its final passage. Hence there is still time to educate the community as to how absurd, abusive, and unresponsive to real concerns this law is.

The law as amended removes all surface lots except the Public Parking lot across from the Elm St. Mission from the Trespass law. In that parking lot (Parking Lot #9) and all four multi-level parking garages the new law will still read: “Get out in 15 minutes even if you are parking a vehicle” and “don’t come in at all without a car or bike or unless walking directly through.” Disabled people with placards will get 30 minutes rather than 15 minutes to exit from garages.

On the positive side, all parking lots, except Parking Lot 9 will remain “traditional”. That is, you’ll be able to sit in your vehicle, walk up and chat with others, linger there--even if you don’t have a car in that lot. (It sounds ridiculous that we should be feel grateful or relieved)

The anti-homeless character of the law is shown more sharply now. Parking Lot #9 is the public parking lot across from the Elm St. Mission behind Union Grove Music and the Catalyst. It is the one parking lot most heavily used by homeless people waiting for the Elm St. Mission meal. The inclusion of the lot followed testimony by the Cafe Pergolesi owner. He said he supported the law as originally written (closing all parking lots and garages) and was concerned that a customer had been jumped by a gang in the parking lot.

Best way to deal with that situation? Close all parking lots permanently to anyone not parking a car, right?

After June 22nd, if this becomes law on May 23rd, it will become illegal to do any legal activity in or around your vehicle after fifteen minutes.


WATCHES FOR SALE?

The Coonerty-Mathews-Rotkin forces pushing this law haven’t said if they’ll lend out watches to anyone parking a car of bike so they can accurately judge time and “exit promptly.” Perhaps the City can get a good deal on several dozen small clocks which can be posted at various places in the garages to help people remain “within the law.”

Local ACLU spokesperson Don Zimmermann weighed in against the parking lots, but apparently not the garages. These ACLU concerns (with no mention of the "h"--homeless--word) and reservations from the Downtown Commission (which nonetheless passed the law through on a 5-1 vote) may have had an impact on Rotkin. There we also reservations from the City Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women (CPVAW).

On top of this, activists from the Human Rights Organization and HUFF have been flyering film festival events, getting disabled people to call in, and gathering testimony from street performers whose livelihood (to say nothing of their health and safety) are at risk from the "no shelter under the parking garage" law.

All these concerns may have made Mike nervous that his “I’m a card-carrying ACLU member” button was in danger of being permanently and publicly tarnished if he endorsed the law as written. Rotkin moved to strike “parking lots” from the law, with parking garages still forbidden territory for those without vehicles (and Fifteen Minute Land for those with).

Then, perhaps as a sop to those who'd expected the whole law to sail through, Rotkin added “Parking Lot #9” to the forbidden zones--though he'd earlier said he wouldn't do so without more documentation. I've invited Rotkin to come on Free Radio to explain his reasoning, but haven't heard back from him yet.


BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR MISSING DATA!

This anti-homeless addition was done though there was no information at all about police arrests in any of the lots or garages.

No information that any parking lot worker had ever taken any of the many local terrorists to court for the many acts of abuse, vandalism, assault, and sexual perversion--which they laid out to the City in three public hearings.

No comparative data showing a special “crime wave” in the parking lots or garages compared to elsewhere downtown.

No explanation of why 3 incidents per garage per month--by the Public Works’ Department’s own figures--justified such a fundamental reversal of both the right to privacy in your own vehicle and the right to use previously public spaces.

I am still waiting to listen to the CPVAW audio tape, since in spite of repeated requests, I was not informed that the CPVAW was considering the resolution at its early May meeting. The CPVAW after some debate and after adding reservations and removing the surface lots, passed the “get out of the garages” law by a 4-2 vote.

Zimmermann’s position, which Councilmember Rotkin quickly adopted, was also somewhat contradictory.

Zimmermann properly pointed out that there was insufficient evidence to indicate a credible security threat from the police “calls for service” or the “parking attendant logs” in either garages or lots. But then under the theory that garages appear potentially more of a "security problem", his ACLU statement doesn't object to their inclusion. He confided afterwards that this was more of a political decision.

No councilmember had asked for a specific police breakdown of where real crimes occcurred--which they could still done (call Fitzmaurice or Porter at 420-5020 to request they ask for such a report from the SCPD).


UPSIDES

There were some reasonable suggestions--none of which were incorporated in or substituted for the absurd proposed law. One was to equip parking lot/garage cleaners with a cellphone and a one-button page to the cops plus a previously assured fast response. Another was the more obvious and elementary idea of closing off parking lots and garages when cleaning was taken place and opening them up at other times.

Students from UCSC and Cabrillo College spoke against the ordinance--the Cabrillo Democratic Party Club formally came to announce their opposition. Two of them appeared later on Becky Johnson’s Club Cruz show, which will be taped and probably shown in a week or two. Others were activated to begin organizing on the two campuses against the amended law.

Leslie Scanagatti, an SEIU official, repeated her National Inquirer-style tales of homeless “masturbation” in the parking lots, in an inflammatory plea for the “safety” of Parking Lot workers. Ryan Coonerty accused Cabrillo College students of “abandoning the workers”.

Mayor Mathews only allowed speakers two minutes each and grew increasingly impatient and threatening as time went on. She did allow Zimmerman of the ACLU and Norse of HUFF to give five-minute presentations on behalf of their organizations. (NOTE: Organizations can have five minutes who ask for the time before hand. Folks are invited to do so on May 23rd when this issue returns).

Peace and Freedom Party activists Mike and Maureen Smith waited several hours for a chance to speak for two minutes each, announcing their principled opposition to the law.

A small pre-Council protest boasted some tasty soup, some literate displays, and a lone guitarist serenading the incoming public.

Shanna McCord, Sentinel reporter, announced she and her editor had decided the Council discussion and vote was "not newsworthy" as she had previously written "two stories" on the issue.

Her "Coastlines" story in the Thursday May 11 Sentinel gives the misimpression that the law has already passed and is in force. In fact, the law still requires another vote in two weeks, and will then go into effect only after a month. McCord's little unsigned story makes it look like the law is now a done deal.

Also apparently beneath McCord's official notice was the bubbling controversy involving a nasty letter from Councilmembers Rotkin and Coonerty to Tulin Ozdeger of the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty [see http://www.indybay.org/news/2006/05/1821934_comment.php#1821939]

More on this later and on my Thursday 6-8 PM and Sunday 9:30 AM- 1 PM radios show at 101.1 FM.

Past discussions are archived on the HUFF website at http://www.huffsantacruz.org under "Bathrobespierre's Broadsides".

Though the issue is one we're all real tired of, it's getting more interesting as more common sense seems to be seeping, however slowly, through the murk of paranoia and offical bureaucratic armoring.

It's not just a homeless issue, but one that radically changes how the entire community will be allowed to use their vehicles.

City Council's 24-hour line is still 420-5020. Call them and ask them to get the real statistics on actual arrests of people in parking garages.

If we're going to drastically change the rights you have in your car or in the parking lots, let's be sure the evidence is there to justify this. Before we take such a violent shift, eliminating both public and private space, let's have the facts.