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Law Banning Public Meetings in Parking Lots on Downtown Commission Agenda September 27th ?
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Thursday Sep 6th, 2007 1:50 AM
Downtown Commissioner Joe Ferrara (who also owns Atlantis Fantasyworld downtown) has advised me that the September 27th Downtown Commission will be facing new SCPD/Public Works proposals to shut down public parking lots to the community unless they have a bike or car (and then only for 15 minutes). We need more not less public spaces available to congregate
Joe Ferrara said that the Commission will be meeting last Thursday of the month--September 27th--at 8:30 AM in City Council chambers. Though he hasn't read the agenda, he thinks the Commission will reconsider expanding the "Parking Garage Trespass" law.

Masterminded by Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty last year, the current law makes it illegal to walk into a parking garage any time day or night (allowing police to cite or drive away homeless people who duck in out of the rain or try to find shelter to sleep). Even ordinary citizens are allowed only 15 minutes while they park or pick up their car or bike.

The SCPD and Public Works Department's attempt to expand this abusive, unnessary, and repressive law to all the city's lots was rejected buy the Downtown Commission earlier this summer, but only because the SCPD was too lazy to present any new statistics. They are apparently planning to come back with tales of terror to eliminate the right to gather in public parking lots.

Concerned citizens should contact officials below and demand they make no decision on this matter until the entire community can see the police stats and weigh them. The police are prone to leak "smear stats" to the Sentinel (as they did in the Sleep Out at City Hall in early August), claiming greater problems than actually existed.

In the Homies for the Homeless sleepout, a nasty Jennifer Squires story in the Sentinel extensively quoted Zack Friend, SCPD minister of propaganda (See "Homeless camp-in booted from lawn in front of Santa Cruz City Hall" at

A subsequent Public Records Act request revealed only six citations were written during the entire week the homeless protesters were there--all for sleeping (citations that will ultimately be used in a lawsuit demanding the SCPD and City Manager follow the Constitution and the federal courts Jones case requirement: no arrests unless you have shelter available). I am still trying to squeeze the specifics of any other "complaints without citations" out of the SCPD, which is charging $30 plus for the info, when such public records should be free.

To get more information, contact Marlin Granlund, Parking Programs Manager 809 Center Street, Room 201 Santa Cruz, CA 95060 at (831) 420-5184 or e-mail: pw-downtown-commission [at]

Marlin agreed to let me know if this Parking Lot Panic measure was coming back, but it's apparently slipped his mind.

Those interested in opposing this new seizure of public space and attack on the homeless (as well as on the entire non-vehicle owning community) might want to contact Don Zimmerman of the ACLU. Last year, he successfully persuaded City Council and the Downtown Commission to cut back on the scope of the law.

This year, assuming the ACLU isn't too busy dodging the Sleeping Ban issue, or barring critics from their public meetings (see "Activists ask ACLU to help end sleeping ban" at 08/26/18443532.php), Zimmerman may still be interested in this issue. He can be reached by e-mail at donzim [at]

Let us know if he returns e-mails.

Earlier comment on this issue can be found at: "Parking Lot Panic Expansion Law Headed for Downtown Commission 5-24"

As an afternote: open public space (albeit concrete parking lot space) is currently being destroyed across from the Cafe Bene on Cedar St. to make way for condos. There is also reportedly a plan to build over Parking Lot #4 next to the weekly Wednesday Farmer's Market where the drummers and Food Not Bombs congregate. RVs are being banned from beachfront parking lots on the West side (see "Coastal Access Denied to Motorhomes and Trailers in Santa Cruz" at 18444952.php).

Those who want to preserve public space need to speak up clearly and loudly.

Join the protest against Vice-Mayor (soon to be Mayor) Ryan Coonerty's anti-homeless laws (see "Holding Coonerty Accountable: the Festivities Continue" at php?show_comments=1#18445738) to mobilize against this latest blow.