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Ban on Public Assemblies in Public Parking Lots at City Council Next Tuesday
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
Thursday Oct 4th, 2007 11:21 AM
Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty's latest attack on the Constitution is a new local law. It will expand a bad law passed last year to ban lingering in a city parking garage. Coonerty's expansion will ban all those not parking a car or auto from all downtown city parking garages and now all downtown city parking lots. It will be coming to City Council for a first reading on the afternoon of Tuesday October 9th. soon after 3 PM. No more Food Not Bombs or Drum Circles on Wednesday. Cars, yes. human interaction, no.
For more details including some documents and the staff report, see:"Zooming At You: Public Assembly Ban in City Parking Lots:

For some reason the City's website does not have active links to the relevant documents (such as the text of the modified law itself, the staff report, etc.). A Downtown Commission member commented on this at the last meeting, but apparently the staff haven't seen fit to fix it yet.

Last year Ryan Coonerty's Downtown Association-pleasing "No Loitiering in the Parking Lots" law got downsized to include only the parking garages. It was still a major seizure of public space (not only for the homeless--who it was really targeting for staying overnight in garages). This year's grab (in the name of giving the police "more tools") is even bigger.

For the last year it has been illegal to walk into a parking garage (or lot #9) unless walking directly through unless you have a car or bike parked there. Even in that ase, you must leave within 15 minutes (cannot, for instance, sit in your car and read, chat with a friend, etc.).

The local ACLU came out against it (Rotkin apparently was absent) , and only one parking lot (the one across from the homeless meal and next to the Catalyist--Parking Lot #9) was included.

I've played some discussion and tape of this law in two recent FRSC shows. I interview the owner of Bad Ass Coffee, the only merchant to publicly oppose the law:

There's scattered discussion of the proposed law at

And I will be discussing and archiving the subject with greater focus tonight (10-5) on Free Radio (to be archived in a few days at Tune in to discuss the issue 6-8 PM at 101.1 FM http://www.freakradioorg 427-3772.

More on the twisted progress of this suspension of the Constitution in parking lots:

The promised "6-month" review of the more limited Parking Garage law never came.

Even this Garage law should have been sunsetted since, in my view, it actually makes people less safe (when there are fewer people around, violent crime, car theft, etc. becomes more likely). But the Downtown Commission gave NO consideration to eliminating this bad law.

The Downtown Commission did initially give the expansion to this law a thumbs down in May when police (rather arrogantly or negligently) failed to provide any new statistics showing any crime problem in the parking lots they want to remove from public assembly use.

But last week (September 28th), the Downtown Commission, faced with a big turnout from Keith Holtaway's Downtown Association and the SCPD brass, took a dive. They voted 6-1 (Sheila Coonerty dissenting) to forward this law to City Council.

One of their reasons was that some "stakeholders" like downtown merchants, two city councilmembers (Coonerty and Lynn Robinson), and (silent but looming) top cops showed up.

The shadowy Downtown Improvement Task Force, which meets behind closed doors (merchants invited, public excluded), was a prime mover here in its push to make the downtown more "safe and appealing" though noone from this group gave an explicit report or any public testimony. They apparently keep no audio tape of their meetings. It's a matter of dispute as to whether they keep minutes (Councilmember Robinson, a regular participant, said she didn't know).

To see the current law (which presumably will be similar to the new law except it will include all city parking lots, not just #9) go to:

City Council members should be called at 420-5020 or e-mailed to demand consideration of this law, doubling the amount of "forbidden space" downtown, until the staff complies wil a real six month review (ie. giving us the actual crime stats in the parking garages as well as the crime stats in other parking lots, as well as the parking attendant logs in the lots).

None of this was made available at the Downtown Commission hearing (hearings, actually, the police had three separate opportunities).

Testify against it by phone, e-mail, or snail mail,but I suspect only the very real possibility of massive civil disobedience and/or lawsuit will stop this freight train.
It's Item #20 on the City Council agenda--the last action item of the evening, after Oral Communiations and the Transportation Commission Mission St. Recommendations.

If you can't come down, call City Council at 420-5020 to tell the Council the 100 things they'll be banning downtown when they close the lots.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Becky Johnson
(becky_johnson222 [at] Friday Oct 5th, 2007 7:40 AM
First, since this law was proposed a year and a half ago, I have been paying special attention to Santa Cruz' parking lots for signs of gathering, litter, or crime. I have not noted this to be a problem anywhere, as parking lots rarely have people gathering in them. If this is a problem, why use a cannon to swat a fly?

Second, almost everyone I talked to about this law, raised their eyebrows and said "Well you know, it WILL be selectively enforced!" This is the publics' perception that only the "undesirables" (those who are not shopping vigorously enough) will be targeted. Very few citations have been issued (I only know of two) but the move-alongs have been frequent---especially in Lot #9 where a large tree is located which was donated to the City years ago complete with park benches!! (now removed permanently, apparently). This is a perfect place for folks to gather and visit in the shade and off the bustling and often crowded Pacific Ave.

But "the powers that be" have no concern for the right of the people to peacably assemble. Ryan Coonerty---crack Jurisprudence expert (or "expert" on crack?) says that "since the parking lots are not a public forum, the City can ban the human beings that bought them, continue to pay for their upkeep, and who use them. (Oddly, Ryan also said the that the City Council is "not a public forum" which is ridiculous when on every item there is public comment).

I don't think there is any evidence that the law worked in the four downtown parking garages. Did the law stop car break-ins? Did the law stop assaults? As a woman, I would prefer to be in a parking garage or parking lot with other people walking around the area than to be there all by myself. I not only feel safer with people around me---I AM safer!! Having law-abiding citizens as potential witnesses to crimes or assaults protects both persons and property.

Where are the stats comparing the garages before the law to since the law passed? And hasn't forcing poor folks out of the garages just plopped them on the public sidewalk in front of the businesses?
by hilf
Sunday Oct 7th, 2007 11:39 AM
hey - call the Sentinel and tell them to straighten out the title to your article. They have it written as : "Robert Norse: Police state must let homeless can sleep"

by scotts valley sentinel
Sunday Oct 7th, 2007 11:57 AM
by Robert Norse
Monday Oct 8th, 2007 1:22 AM
This op-ed piece, printed in the 10-7 Sentinel, originally had an on-line comment section. I only saw one comment (a personal "why don't you let them live at your house?" attack), but it was removed and the comment section deleted.
by Robert Norse
Monday Oct 8th, 2007 1:27 AM
Two weeks ago, the Good Times published the following column ("The Ticker" "Northern Anarchy") which conflated vandalism at City Hall with the Homies for the Homeless protest a month before. []: I requested a retraction or at least a clarification from writer Peter Koht and/or editor Greg Archer. The first refused; the second said he'd "consider it", but didn't do it.

Instead they published my letter which follows the original article below.

Northern Anarchy
Written by GTstaff [RN: Peter Koht, actually]
Wednesday, 26 September 2007

After a summer of escalating protest actions at City Hall that included a six-day “Homies for the Homeless” campout, public testimony and picketing and discussion of the city’s camping ban, things took a criminal turn on Sept. 19, when anonymous homeless advocates took their message to the complex’s adobe walls. The sleeping ban essentially prohibits camping or sleeping on benches or parks within city limits between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Discovered in the early morning hours by police, the walls of city hall were tagged red and black with anarchy signs and profanity directed at councilmember Mike Rotkin. Similar vandalism occurred the same evening on the Bay Federal ATMs adjacent to Clouds restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz.

Critics of the sleeping ban maintain that the law is both unconstitutional and discriminatory to low-income persons. The city issues between 30 and 60 citations a month for violations of the ban while supporting homeless services to the tune of $400,000 annually. Homeless advocates believe that even this sum doesn’t do enough to shelter Santa Cruz’s relatively large homeless population.

“Spray painting your message on the walls of City Hall isn’t the best way to achieve political reform,” says Santa Cruz Police Department spokesman Zach Friend. “I’d be surprised if causing $1,000 in damages to a historic structure changed any minds. Clearly there are better ways to win over support for your cause.”

While the mess was nothing to laugh about, comic relief came in the form of John Loudon Norris’ burglary attempt on City Hall’s vending machine. Failing to notice that he was standing underneath a surveillance camera, Norris unwittingly posed for the police repeatedly as he broke into the municipality’s cache of KitKat bars.

While still in possession of his sweet and stolen contraband, Norris was identified and detained by officers the day after the burglary, Sept. 20. Turns out it’s not the first time he’s made the acquaintance of an officer. He’s carrying around priors on domestic violence, narcotics possession, battery, armed robbery and vandalism.

LETTER TO THE GOOD TIMES (published in the October 1 Good Times, but not on line)

It's always nice when taboo subjects like the City's Sleeping Ban make their way into the Good Times. But Peter Koht's "Ticker" column (GT 9-27) does need a little rewinding

The Ban criminalizes the act of sleeping for homeless people on ALL public city property and much private property (not just in parks and beaches); it's also from 11 PM to 8:30 AM (not 7 AM).

Police propagandist Zack Friend may think homeless advocates vandalized city hall, but he's keeping the proof to himself. On the other hand Chief Ranger Wallace's "clean-up" crews regularly shred and trash homeless survival gear in the Pogonip--but that’s not vandalism, that’s environmentalism!

Tickets cost $95 to begin with and grow to $900 unanswered.

$400,000 sounds like a lot of money for homeless services, but it provides drop-in emergency shelter for only 160 in the winter and 40 the rest of the year for a homeless population of 1500-2000.

Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, and Richmond have dropped their nighttime sleeping bans under order or pressure from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Its April 2006 Jones decision ended the LA Skid Row sleeping ban. The city attorney has defied this decision. Next on his court calendar--a lawsuit forcing Santa Cruz to do what L.A. has been told to do: let homeless people sleep--not anywhere and everywhere, but somewhere.

Vice-Mayor Coonerty backed the ban. We peacefully protested outside his Bookshop Santa Cruz--since he's rarely in his office, he banned us.

Coonerty likes bans. Rushing through City Council next is Coonerty's ban on public assemblies in parking lots,/ It will remove 5 square blocks of public space in order to "protect" the public. You'll be able to park your car or bike, but then must leave within 15 minutes. The Downtown Commission passed this 1984-style law 6-1 on September 27th.

An entire meeting for the SCPD and Holtaway’s Downtown Assocation-backed “No Loitering” law. Speak out too loudly? You may end up like Tony Madrigal.

Meanwhile the Vice-Mayor and his merchant friends hold up on public bathrooms, hold closed Downtown Improvement Task Force meetings and sponser shopkeeper snitch seminars targeting visible homeless people, street performers, and political activists who ruffle their feathers.

Boycott bigotry downtown. Stop the Coonerty assembly ban. End the Sleeping Ban.

It’s time, ticker.

Robert Norse
by layoffs
Monday Oct 8th, 2007 8:37 AM
in this article about an endangered tortoise found walking in Branciforte Ave, they refer to 'water foul' instead of water fowl.
by Becky Johnson
(becky_johnson222 [at] Tuesday Oct 9th, 2007 12:55 AM

Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty's Parking Lot tresspass law coming up on the Santa Cruz City Council Agenda, Tuesday Oct 9th will remove 5 city blocks of public space from public use

by Becky Johnson

October 9 2007

Santa Cruz, Ca. --- As national treasure/asshole Ronald Reagan used to say, "There they go again!" "They" being the Santa Cruz City Council, and their latest stunt, led by Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty, part-time cashier and college Constitutional law teacher is to make it a crime to BE in a parking lot for longer than 15 minutes. Even if you are nursing a bad headache in your car while your husband shops, or even if you're a grandmother who's agreed to sit in the car with a sleeping baby allowing her mother to pick up bread and milk.

Yep, Ryan, who is NOT an owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, is concerned that the customers of Bookshop Santa Cruz "don't feel safe" while walking from Bookshop Santa Cruz to their cars in public parking lots.

Police stats presented show less than 500 crimes in 6 selected parking lots for the past 18 months. While this sounds like a lot, it has to be compared to the 99,000 calls for service the SCPD handles in the same 18 month period.

Recently Vice-Mayor Ryan Coonerty wrote that I was "permanently banned from stepping foot in Bookshop Santa Cruz. If I, my sister or one of our managers see you enter the store, we will have you arrested."

Now Ryan wants to have me arrested in my own PUBLIC parking lot too! His store is one thing, but to outlaw 5 City blocks of public space that I have paid for year after year with my tax dollars, with my parking tickets, and meter fees, so that Bookshop Santa Cruz customers can feel safe?

But has the council really thought this through? What about the unintended consequences?

Won't driving all the scary, frightening, horrible, violent, alcoholic, drug -dealing, needle-dropping, meth/rapist, peeing, poop-smearing, trash-enclosure-sexuals, scrotum and penis-chalking, garbage picking, lazy, loitering HOMELESS bums from out of 5 City blocks of surface parking lots end up concentrating them on the downtown sidewalks including right in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz?

by Go get mental health care
Tuesday Oct 9th, 2007 7:48 AM
You're obsession with Coonerty has devolved into madness.
by Robert Norse
Tuesday Oct 9th, 2007 2:10 PM
The Santa Cruz Sentinel is taking comments on the proposed Ban on Public Assemblies in Parking Lots law at

Here's mine:

Banning pedestrians from public parking lots (a traditional public space) is a drastic action.

Rushing folks to and from their cars and bikes under penalty of $100+ fines is a significant imposition on visiters and residents.

See the wording of the law at /07/10-9meeting/10-9rpt/Revised%20(10- 8)%20Parking%20Garage%20Lot%20Ordinance.pdf

Police citation/arrest statistics are provided at:

This table totals 431 citations/arrests in the six lots surveyed over a period of 18 months.

Why the police didn't provide the date for the other 14 lots is not clear. Nor is it clear why the didn't provide figures for the rest of downtown to show whether the lots are a particular problem.
Nor did they provide any figures showing the picture over time.

The incomplete figures they did provide show a total of 431 citations/arrests over a period of 18 months.

Arrests, of course, are not convictions (and those figures weren't provided), but assume they are all valid.

Assume a like number of arrests for the other lots--that's around 1500 citations and/or arrests in all the lots over the last year and a half.

Over that period there were 15 vehicle burglaries. Multiply this by 3.25 (to extrapolate for the missing lots), and you get 51 vehicle burglaries for all the lots. That's less than 3 burglaries per month in all the parking lots in the downtown over the last 18 months.

Is that better or worse than elsewhere ? The SCPD and the Downtown Commission don't tell us.
They didn't provide the figures.

But it doesn't sound like a crime wave requiring us to close off public space and prohibit public gatherings there.

Officer Zach Friend's figures show 10 assault/battery/theft/armed robbery arrest/cites; adjusted that means (extrapolating to the unsurveyed lots) about 33 direct crimes of a more upclose and personal nature over a period of 18 months.

That's less than 2 violent crimes a month for all the parking lots. Sounds like the parking lots are safter than the sidewalks and the streets.

Also, the police claim lots of other arrests/citations which they don't itemize. 2/3 of them are unnamed.

How can the Council and the community make an intelligent decision based on such statistics.

There has been no clear showing that there's any significant crime problem in the parking lots, different from anywhere else in the downtown area.

Why not? Police had many months to present these statistics but failed to. Instead merchants came and talked about making Santa Cruz "safer and more appealing".

Apparently the right to assemble, the right to privacy in one's own car, and the right to relax and sit down are no longer important.

We need empty spaces where cars and bicycles have the only right to be there without people cluttering up the area--chatting, musicians strumming, and moms taking a day nap in their car while waiting for their kids.

All these and many more ordinary peaceful pursuits become illegal activities under this law.


This measure needs to be sent back to committee for reexamination.

We need more public spaces, not less. More options, not less.

Go post a comment of your own and contact City Council at 420-5020. Then get ready for some "mass loitering" protests and citizen-arrest-of-loitering-tourist actions.
by The numbers convinced me.
Tuesday Oct 9th, 2007 6:47 PM
The stats you provided show that the police observed and intervened in:

-24 drug sales or possessions
-40 parole violations or outstanding warrants
-5 assault or armed robberies
-20 vehicle robberies or burglaries.

To you, that's apparently not a bad set of statistics. To me, it's a sad acknowledgment of how much the quality of life is effected and has deteriorated in S.C.

That's 89 incidents that I don't condone, don't engage myself, and don't want my family or friends exposed to.
That's 89 incidents that I don't consider to be "peaceful assembly", or "relaxing and sitting down".

People can still sit and relax and assemble out in the open with this new policy. The new policy isn't banning me from public space, as you maintain. It's simply stopping me from spending more than 15 minutes sitting in a parking lot. I have no problem with that. A parking lot is a place to park my car, it's not a place where I congregate for social gatherings.

Hey, if the homeless aren't the ones engaging in all of this illegal activity, then the new ordinance will protect them from being victimized in these crime plagued areas. If they are the ones engaging in the illegal activity, then this will reduce it. Win-Win situation.
by Was There
Wednesday Oct 10th, 2007 1:46 PM
At the meeting last night Becky J sounded like an incoherent piece of work. Inarticualte and not effective.
She didn't even have her facts straight while trying to state her case. She said that these parking lots were paid for by her tax dollars and now she would be "banned" from the lots she pays for.
She was reminded that city tax dollars do not pay for the lots, the downtown business owners pay for the lots through an assessment.
The amazing part of this whole thing was that neither Robert nor Becky looked terribly upset when the proposal was passed. Robert was too busy schmoozing and giggling with Shana McCord to pay attention.
But both of them got their air time and are probably satisfied with that.
by Local Lurker
Wednesday Oct 10th, 2007 8:18 PM
I heard that comment during the council meeting too. The one about the lots being paid for by an "assesment" OK....perhaps they are. Im no expert on internal city workings; but I believe that the assesment mentioned pays for the clean up, painting, lighting etc. What I want to know is who owns the lots. And more importantly how was the original purchase of it payed for? With every real property parcel there is an owner who has title. I would bet this is the city. Just because the city extorts money from downtown shops, does not mean these stores "own" a public parking lot.
by Was There
Thursday Oct 11th, 2007 5:33 PM
The city owns the lots and the land under them. But the cost for maintenence, improvements, construction etc is paid for via a parking assesment on downtown business owners. And by business owners that does not just mean retail shops but also lawyers, doctors, accountants, The Good Times, gyms, printers etc. All businesses.
No tax dollars go to pay for any of this.
There are also many other plots of land that the city owns, but the buildings on them are private.
For Becky to say that "her" tax dollars go to pay for the lots is a false statement. Not one penny of them does.
by Doug Enns
Thursday Oct 18th, 2007 10:00 PM
My tax dollars go to dealing with Becky and Robert's bogus lawsuits and their frivolous pastime of being a public nuisance. You don't hear me complaining do you? No, I just keep paying my taxes and watching these two trust fund wastrels force the city to squander it dealing with the Huffsters nonsense.
As soon as you leave the garages, you're on the sidewalk, children. There's your public space. Strum your guitars there. Or else, pay your parking deficiency fees like all the other merchants, and then come back and claim your right to congregate in them.
This is what happens when you have your money given to you with no strings attached. First you play Magik, The Gathering for 20 years, and then when this leaves you unfulfilled, you take up some bogus cause, call yourself an activist, and make a nuisance of yourself until past retirement age.
by Anon
Monday Oct 22nd, 2007 12:51 AM
Ok, so if the garages are paid for with an assessment on the downtown businesses then it should apply to all of them equally, and like any tax on a business its not the business that pays for it but the customer in the end price of the good/service. You only pay for the garage if you pay for the shit they are selling you downtown.
Does anybody know what defines downtown? What is the are that this assessment applies? How is it figured or rated?
Is it at all possible that there is anybody out there that thinks that there are other wonderful places to play and dance than on the concrete shelves where people stash their ghastly autos while they peruse the downtown merchandise?
Is it not completely absurd the downtown merchants have such a controlling interest in the workings of this town as to be able to limit the actions of others because they might hurt the merchant's interests even while they are out of their building? That their reach will be extended to places that may conceivably affect people that might want to their things?
And one more thing... Whats with all the Coonerty bashing? Yeah, I hear he's an asshole in a lot of ways but I would expect that of any business owner/politician. Seems I saw earlier that it was some Coonerty that was the only reasonable dissenter to this thing rolling along quicker, his wife? Sister?
by Was there
Monday Oct 22nd, 2007 6:50 PM
You know that there are parking lots which are not under the "control" of the Downtown Association (which are ALL businesses downtonwn, not just retail stores) on which you can play.
Go hang out on the parking lot at the county building. It's public.
Go hang out on the parking lot at the police station. It's public.
Go hang out on the parking lot behind city hall. It's public.
Go hang out on the parking lot at the public schools. They're public.
All the parks are public.
The beach is public.
by Anon
Monday Oct 22nd, 2007 7:39 PM
I still fail to see how these lots are not public space like the ones named above. The signs on them say Public parking. Not Downtown Association Business Parking. If the DTA really controls them why dont they fence them all and hire lot attendants during 8 to 5 business hours?
On other thing I noticed is that not ONE bar supported this. Dont they [Catalyst, Blue, Red Room, Clouds etc] have a say in this? Are the bars not part of the downtown association?
by Doug Enns
Tuesday Oct 23rd, 2007 9:03 PM
That's right. Public "Parking". Not Public "parking". Not Public Strumming. Public....Parking...Get it?
by Was there
Wednesday Oct 24th, 2007 8:52 AM
Anon, I think that both the Red Room and The Catalyst did send letters in support of this measure. Also the guy from Hula's came to the Council meeting and voiced his support of this measure as well. The people from Red have been very supportive of safety measures in downtown, not only with the parking situation.
Just because a building or structure may have a sign with the word "Public" on it does not mean it can be used by everyone for whatever purpose they want. There are "Public Beaches" where you have to be off of by a certain time and must be used with restrictions. Same goes for parks, as when it says "Closed at sunset". There are also "Public Parks" where you are not allowed to camp as when they have signs that say "No Camping".
Public spaces often come with restrictions.
by Was There
Wednesday Oct 24th, 2007 9:02 AM
"Seems I saw earlier that it was some Coonerty that was the only reasonable dissenter to this thing rolling along quicker, his wife? Sister?"
His Aunt.
Did you listen to what she was saying?? She was worried that by putting the 15 minute restriction on the lots it might mean that the drug use and homeless community might just move to other residential neighborhoods. Her neighborhood perhaps. It was more about her saying "I don't want this mess in my backyard, so keep it downtown." She wanted to keep it in the lap of the Downtown Association rather than have her neighbors deal with it.