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Bad Law Rises Up to Bite the Homeless Again--Parks Boss Steals More Public Space

by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]
In 2006, under Mayor Mike Rotkin, the Santa Cruz City Council passed MC 13.04.011, vastly expanding the powers of the Parks and Recreation head, Dannettee Shoemaker, allowing her to bypass the Parks and Recreation Commission. Under MC 13.04.011a, public assembly in traditional areas can be severely limited by "closing hours". I discuss this below as well as at . The code is reprinted verbatim.
In 2006, I warned City Council was preparing (in another summer sneak-it-past-the-students measure) to give Shoemaker unbridled power.

See "Two Nasty Ordinances Heading for Passage at City Council Tuesday" at .

The staff was baldly honest about who they were targeting with this measure:

"At the Special City Council meeting of April 4, 2006, City Council discussed the declining public safety and environmental conditions in City parks, waterways, and greenspace areas. Staff reported that these issues stem from an increase in the frequency of illegal activities such as drug use and trade, camping, and trash dumping, and a decrease in the number of City maintenance and enforcement personnel, which has had a compounding effect. "

The measure passed unanimously as part of a quadrupling of enforcement personnel and activity under the notorious Chief Ranger John Wallace in the Parks and Recreation area. Wallace is an unapologetic supporter of the "destroy all homeless property" approach being used by his clean-up crews in the Pogonip. Though they violate state law and the Federal Kinkaid decision in Fresno (where the homeless community won $2.3 million), Wallace's Labor Ready "trash their survival gear" gangs do not store, but trash everything they find after a 3-day notice is posted.

Even though the camps are clearly not abandoned and state law requires a 60-90 holding period (now required in Fresno under Federal Court order), Wallace explained to me several years ago as I checked over his Sleeping Ban ticket records that "it was too burdensome" to store homeless property. That process, as I recall his words, was abandoned in 2002.

To be fair, some homeless people down on the levee have reported Wallace easing up on attacks on homeless camps (though the deforestation and ticketing continues there). One man described Wallace's describing how he didn't like the City's policies and felt sleepers should be left alone.

I found this a change from Wallace's general behavior towards the homeless, which has been militantly hostile under color of law. In personal conversation John is an amiable and well-spoken man, but unfortunately his actions--like those of so many other cops--speak louder than his words.

Shoemaker, Wallace's boss, seems to be required to at least consult the Parks and Recreation Commission to obtain input when she rules certain areas forbidden zones. I shall be asking her in a follow-up letter today, when she met this requirement.

The "All Power to the Parks Czarina" Ordinance

found at
Chapter 13.04 ACCESS AND USE

13.04.010 Limitations on access and use or public property.
13.04.011 Hours of operation.
13.04.020 Designation of areas withdrawn.
13.04.021 Lighthouse Point.

Whenever this code or any ordinance or resolution of this city designates and describes any public property as having been withdrawn from personal access and use by members of the public, or as having been limited as to access and use by members of the public and notice thereof has been posted conspicuously on or adjacent to the property so designated, it is unlawful for any person to thereafter enter upon or use such property without permission or in a manner other than that prescribed. (Prior code § 3636).

(a) The parks and recreation director may, by regulation, establish hours during which any park, park road, park trail, grounds, building or facility is open to the general public. Said hours shall be established for the purpose of protecting park properties, park roads, park trails, and other areas from acts of vandalism and to prohibit the general public from engaging in unlawful activities. These provisions shall be applicable to all park properties, park roads, park trails and other areas under the jurisdiction and control of the parks and recreation director. For purposes of this chapter, the area under the jurisdiction and control of the parks and recreation director encompasses without limitation all city parks and greenbelts, all city park trails and roads, all city park facilities and buildings, including Lighthouse Field State Beach, DeLaveaga Golf Course, Main Beach, Cowell’s Beach, Steamer Lane, Harvey West Pool, the Beach Flats Community Center, the Louden Nelson Community Center, the Teen Center, the Civic Auditorium, City Hall Courtyard, Mission Plaza, the Town Clock, the Natural History Museum, the Surfing Museum, Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, Pacific Avenue, West Cliff Drive (Pelton Street to Swanton Boulevard), the San Lorenzo River Levee and bike path, the San Lorenzo Benchlands, the inner banks of the San Lorenzo River within the City limits, the Branciforte and Cabonera Creeks within the city limits, Jessie Street Marsh, plus any other facilities or areas assigned to the parks and recreation department by the city manager. The parks and recreation commission and the San Lorenzo River committee (as appropriate) shall be consulted to obtain input on any proposed modifications to the hours of operation of parks and open spaces.
(b) Notice of such hours of operation shall be conspicuously posted and maintained.
(c) No one shall enter or remain in any park, building, facility, grounds or park road (except a specifically designated, and clearly marked, public access way through a park), during those hours that the place or facility is closed to the general public.
(d) Persons found to be in violation of any provision of this section are guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of fifty dollars. Violations occurring on separate days are separate infractions
(Ord. 2006-09 § 1, 2006: Ord. 84-08 § 1, 1984).

There are withdrawn from public use and access those portions of the public property more particularly described in the sections immediately following, and the director of parks and recreation is directed to post notice of such withdrawal conspicuously upon or adjacent to said property. No person shall enter upon or use any portion of the public property described in the following sections.(Ord. 87-26 § 1, 1987: prior code § 3636.1).


That portion of the public property, commonly known and referred to as Lighthouse Point (sometimes known and referred to as Santa Cruz Point), lying seaward of any fence situated along the easterly, southerly or westerly perimeters of said property. (Ord. 87-26 § 2, 1987).
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