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Street Musicians Navigate a Myriad of City Ordinances in Downtown Santa Cruz
by Alex Darocy (alex [at]
Monday Nov 12th, 2012 9:59 PM
A recent trip to downtown Santa Cruz revealed how difficult it can be for street musicians to navigate the many different city ordinances that affect them, some of them unfairly. The downtown is patrolled by officers from the Santa Cruz Police Department, both on foot and in vehicles, and also by private security forces which include uniformed guards employed by First Alarm. The Downtown (business) Association's own representatives, who are called "hospitality guides" dress in bright yellow and also enforce city ordinances by threatening to call the police if individuals do not comply with their demands.
On the Friday evening of November 9, a group of four musicians who were playing in front of the New Leaf Market, located on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Soquel Avenue, were told by two Downtown Hospitality guides to stop playing because the crowd listening to them had become too large. The band did not argue and they moved across Soquel Avenue to resume playing in front of the new Forever 21 store.

Taking the band's place in front of New Leaf was a single woman who sang and played an acoustic guitar. Shortly after she began to play, she was told by a hospitality guide that she was violating the city's noise ordinance and that she would have to stop what she was doing.

The young woman was told that she would have to stop playing was because the complaint came from someone, "trying to conduct business."

"I'm trying to conduct business," she emphatically stated when interviewed.

"This is the third time [in one day] I have been stopped," she said, sadly.

When asked if she thought she was playing louder than the four person band who were previously there, and still playing across the street, she said, "I think they were much louder."

"I have a lot of energy, always, and sometimes that energy is too much for people," she explained.

She said she was downtown in Santa Cruz trying to earn money to eat and to buy her friend a new pair of shoes. When she arrived at the spot in front of New Leaf she said found a box with some slices of french bread in it, explaining she was happy to have found it as she chewed on a piece.

As she continued to talk about her encounter with the hospitality guide, a woman walked by and consoled her affectionately: "I love you and all of your beautiful singing," she cooed.

It's unclear if the young woman with the guitar ever moved from that spot in front of New Leaf after she was warned, and a few minutes later, the hospitality guide returned and was telling her she had received another noise complaint.

She asked the guide, "I am a tiny little girl and was I louder than a four person band?"

The guide's response: "I don't do that, I am complaint driven. If someone calls me and complains, I have to address the, I am going to go pick on them right now."

Before leaving, the guide told her about other spots she could play at, including the spot in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz farther down on Pacific where there are less restrictions. She also suggested the young woman play during First Friday. To what extent that information was helpful is uncertain, as the woman needed money for food, and shoes for her friend, and First Friday was more that three weeks away.

The fairness and impartiality of the code enforcement being conducted by the hospitality guides has been called into question by community members over the course of the program's tenure downtown. The program is privately operated and lacks the same transparency, however modest and in need of expansion, which public enforcement agencies themselves are subjected to.

At one point during the street musicians' security encounters that evening, Sergeant Bush of the Santa Cruz Police Department walked by. He passed by individuals sitting on the sidewalk, apparently choosing not to hold them to task for violating the city's sit-lie ordinance which prohibits the act of sitting in most places along Pacific Avenue.

The hospitality guide, however, did not let the sidewalk sitters stay seated when she saw them. Even though they take up less space and protrude less than the individual who was also there enjoying the music with a baby in its stroller, the guide made them get up.

The downtown hospitality guide interacted with the musicians a number of times, as can be seen on the video:

0:00 Woman with guitar in front of New Leaf Market told to move because she has received a noise complaint.
2:20 Four person band plays in front of Forever 21.
2:51 Hospitality guide tells band members not to sit on the planter boxes, that they have to be at least 14 feet from the "Imagine Positive Change" meters, and that they need to "relocate."
3:21 Woman receives another noise complaint in front of New Leaf.
5:59 Hospitality guide reminds band that they have to be "seven squares out" and that they have to relocate every hour.
7:00 Sergeant Bush of the SCPD walks by an instrument case that is not "seven squares out" and also individuals sitting on the sidewalk. The Sergeant walks by without stopping.
7:18 The hospitality guide tells two audience members they may not sit on the sidewalk, and tells a band member not to sit on the planter again.
7:36 The woman asks the guide again why she was singled out for a noise complaint.
7:50 The band engages in some lite civil disobedience.
8:05 The guide tells band they have to leave.

To view the video on youtube, see:

For more information about the Downtown Hospitality Guide Program, see:

Alex Darocy
by Alex Darocy Monday Nov 12th, 2012 9:59 PM
This band relocated to this spot in front of Forever 21 after being told to stop playing when they were in front of the New Leaf Market because their crowd of listeners was "too big."
by Alex Darocy Monday Nov 12th, 2012 9:59 PM
§Sitting is prohibited in most places on Pacific Avenue
by Alex Darocy Monday Nov 12th, 2012 9:59 PM
Sitting is prohibited in most places on Pacific Avenue, even when they take up less space than those near them who are standing.
§A downtown hospitality guide with Sergeant Bush of the SCPD
by Alex Darocy Monday Nov 12th, 2012 9:59 PM

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by brent adzmasndmski
Monday Nov 12th, 2012 10:29 PM
forgive the lack of hard evidence here.. but didn't i read that the Unreasonable Noise Ordinance is now unenforceable?
I played in a street band for more than 7 years and i found that when officers claim to have a complaint, they rarely do.
there is a law office above Forever 21 who has pre-signed these tickets and will see anyone in court upon police request.
by Dan
Tuesday Nov 13th, 2012 6:10 AM
.... I'm reminded of what our last City Council President Larry Westerlund (who's a lawyer) here in Fresno once famously said: "the Ninth Circuit doesn't tell us what to do!" Courts may rule but once appealed the ruling is then unenforceable. So the "unforceable" noise ordinance is likely now enforceable.
by Robert Norse
Tuesday Nov 13th, 2012 11:23 AM
Police are reportedly misusing the Move-Along ordinance by not providing for the warning AFTER an hour that is required. (See MC 5.43.020(3) below).

The whole ordinance is an unconstitutional restriction of the right to, say, set up tables to register voters--since it bans all tables--i.e. display devices--along any sidewalks next to businesses along Soquel and Mission streets and other business districts that have sidewalks narrower than 10'--which is everywhere except Pacific Ave.

The relevant "Move-Along" ordinance is MC 5.43

It reads: 5.43.000 DEFINITIONS. For purposes of this chapter, certain words and phrases are defined as follows: (a) “Noncommercial use” means any political, civic, religious or other public service or charitable activity, including speech, or the distribution of literature, whether or not such activity is conducted with the assistance of a display device, and where the use is conducted for either the sale of merchandise or the solicitation of donations. (b) “Display device” means a table, rack, chair, box, cloth, stand, or any container, structure or other object used or capable of being used for holding or displaying
tangible things, together with any associated seating facilities; “display device” does not include any street furniture such as benches or planters, or any other structure permanently installed by the city of Santa Cruz or with the consent of the city of Santa Cruz, or news racks placed in conformity with the provisions of this code regulating news racks.

5.43.010 CONDITIONS OF USE. Persons may place, erect, or maintain a display device for noncommercial use on any public sidewalk only as provided in this chapter. A display device may not exceed six feet by three feet in size. A display device
may not exceed six feet in height.

5.43.020 PROHIBITED LOCATIONS. (1) In order to assure safe, orderly and adequate public access and pedestrian traffic on city streets and sidewalks, no display device shall be placed in any of the following locations in the C-C Community Commercial, C-N Neighborhood Commercial, C-B Commercial Beach, CBD Central Business District, and R-T Tourist Residential zone districts: (a) Within ten feet of any building. Where any portion of the building is recessed from the public sidewalk, the ten feet shall be measured from the point at which the building abuts the sidewalk; (b) Within ten feet of any street corner or intersection; (c) Within ten feet of any kiosk; (d) Within ten feet of any drinking fountain, public telephone, public bench, public trash compactor, information or directory/map sign, sculpture or artwork displayed on public property, ATM machine or other cash disbursal machines or any other outdoor machine or device which disburses or accepts coins or paper currency except parking meters and newspaper vending machines; however, the distance restriction set forth in this subsection shall not apply to the public sculptures or directory sign located on the southeast corner of the Cooper Street and Pacific Avenue intersection; (e) Within any portion of the sidewalk between the license-area limit line of any sidewalk cafe or other open-air eating establishment and the curb of the sidewalk and in no other location within ten feet of any such license-area limit line; (f) Within ten feet of any vending cart; or (g) Within 10' of any fence that abuts a public sidewalk.

(2) No person shall allow a display device to remain in the same location on the sidewalk for a period of time exceeding one hour. After one hour the person who placed the display device on the sidewalk shall not place a display device on the sidewalk within one hundred feet of the original display device location. After one hour the person who placed the display device shall not place a display device in the original display device location, or within one hundred feet of the original display device location, for twenty-four hours.

(3) No person shall be cited under this section unless he or she has first been notified by a police officer, public officer or downtown host that he or she is in violation of the prohibition in this section, and thereafter continues the violation.

(4) As used in this section the term “person” shall refer to any individual person, group of persons or organization.

See "Deadly Downtown Ordinances" for selected relevant portions of most of the Downtown Ordinances at . The updates are in the comments section.

Thanks for posting this expose. I encourage others to do likewise or come to the HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) meeting at Sub Rosa Cafe (703 Pacific) 10 AM to noon each Wednesday.

The Unreasonably Disturbing Noise law now reads: “Section 9.36.020 Unreasonably Disturbing Noises. No person shall
make, suffer or permit to be made any noises or sounds which are unreasonably disturbing or physically annoying to people of ordinary sensitiveness or which are so harsh or so prolonged or unnatural or unusual in their use, time or place as to cause physical discomfort to any person.”

Additionally: “Section 9.36.025 Public Health & Safety.
(a) This chapter shall not apply to refuse collection, recyclable collection or street sweeping activities undertaken by, or pursuant to contract with, the city of Santa Cruz. Similarly, this chapter shall not apply to any other activity undertaken by the city, another governmental agency, or city contractor, for public health and safety purposes when, in the judgment of the city or governmental agency, such activity cannot be undertaken effectively or efficiently in compliance with the regulations set
forth in this chapter.
(b) This chapter shall not apply to any event that is conducted in accordance with a permit, and all applicable permit conditions, issued by the city of Santa Cruz.”

The Bryant-Robinson ordinance (so named after the two Councilmembers who moved it) law goes into effect on November 22nd or thereabouts. Until then there is no operational noise ordinance prior to 10 PM downtown.

The city council actually made the law worse, because previously exempted noise "necessary in connection with an activity which is otherwise lawfully conducted."
by sc local
Tuesday Nov 13th, 2012 5:15 PM
Can you imagine , going to san fran and seeing NO street artist at the wharf, or magicians, music,.... I cant, for when the sf city tried to relocate the artist ,,, sales dropped, tourist left,,, So they again allow artist to entertain,, But in santa cruz... O NOOOO.. We cant have YOU people performing here. We dont want it????
I tell you... There is NO doubt in my mind I can bring back downtown for ALL of us..
I am a 50 year local. And I wont bring My family downtown , for the last time we were there . We stepped in dog shit on the sidewalk.. I then was told with 4 year old son must not Sit and enjoy or snack together on the mall....
I closed my shop on the mall 10 years ago because of this same ol BS......
GET REAL!!!!!! A basketball arena....CLUELESS>>> Youir all fired!!!!!!!!!
And now we have a " compasionate republican in the council.. aka" COMSTOCK" GO back where you came from.. We are here to stay,, US LOCALS THAT IS... take your consevitve values to carmel.. YOU DONT BELONG HERE!!!!!RECALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IS A COMIN
by fbf
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2012 6:33 AM
Only reason I was there was to protect my friend from the repeted harassment she ongoingly receves from officer warrin, etc..
He said he wanted to give her a ticket for her playing music too but she wasn't currently.
Her and him had a court thang in 2 days from said harassment.
But get this...
First place I move my belongings to after getting a ticket, this new leaf kiosk lady flipps out on me. I was in a heated mood and told her to eat it. She then said I wasn't alowed to be there anymore. I tryed to have a civil discussion with her but she picked up a telophone and said she would call the cops. So I kissed her kiosk window and left to stand on the connecting street. Cops came. Warrin again. Rushed up to me. Yelled at me. "Did you lick the window?? Did you lick the window?? Do you want a felony he asked me. Told me that I must be under the influsnce (I was not).. told me that I wasn't alowed downtown anymore. That I was done. Leave. Almost didn't let me get my stuff. My plan is to start a non prophet where we table downtown so I can do my community sercive doing the same thing I got the ticket for :p
by too late
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2012 2:06 PM
Who wants to have a civil conversation with someone who just told them to "eat it". Not me, and probably not you either.
by end the oppression
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2012 2:18 PM
that people constantly have to interact with the downtown association's security guards and guides is a crime in itself.

a person shouldn't have to explain their every move on public sidewalks to the downtown association.

they are obviously lying to people and making up laws.

there was a time when there were no police or security guards downtown whatsoever.

those were better times for everyone downtown.
by too late
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2012 7:51 PM
I've lived in this town over 20 years, and I've never once had a conversation with or been approached by one of the Hospitality folks.

Maybe it comes down to what your doing and how you handle yourself. And don't tell me its all how you look, cause I've been as scruffy as they come in my day.
by fbf
Thursday Nov 15th, 2012 2:43 AM
Wensday: Cops stoped me downtown with a giant baloon whale in my hands.. just to remind me that I'm not allowed downtown supposidly.. tryed to say I was under the influance again.. said iv made powerful people angry..called me a window licker even after I told him I kissed it.. said if I go near kiosk lady its big trouble.. made me friends move.. lied about being 6 feet away from her.. they also let a homless lady call us assholes and talk all kinds of ish.. good thing I recorded it all.. my name is london laidlaw please surcome to alien annalation after they shoot me planet earth....
by G
Friday Nov 16th, 2012 5:26 AM
It is interesting to discover how shamelessly comfortable people are with the selective deletion of 'others'.

Santa Cruz policies, rooted in the 1950's (or worse), remind me of three water fountains. One for the acceptable people, one for the unacceptable people, and a missing water fountain for the deletable people.
by Robert Norse
Friday Nov 16th, 2012 5:14 PM
I just reviewed the video a bit more closely. If the "Hospitality" person in yellow was telling the musician that she was violating the Unreasonably Disturbing Noise law, that was clearly false. The old law was overturned by the District Federal Court in early October. The new law doesn't go into effect until later this month.

As one can read from the clear words of the Move-Along law (MC 5.43, quoted above), an individual or group has to be warned specifically after an hour is up and then refuse to move to get a ticket.

In the past, I'd have advised folks to simply take the ticket, continue to play, if the police or parapolice "Hospitality" snitch do not warn you that you have to move on AFTER HAVING PLAYED AN HOUR. The ticket itself is technically a "non-custodial" arrest, but if they make an actual custodial arrest, sue for false arrest, preferably with lots of video documentation and witnesses. (Of course, you'll have to find an attorney or go to small claims court.)

A false arrest for blocking the sidewalk happened to me in front of New Leaf in 2002. After months in court, the cop (Sgt. Loren (Butchie) "Sticky Fingers" Baker didn't show, and two years later I won $5000 from the City.

On the downside, I lost two more recent absurd citations. One was for "blocking the Metro sign" in front of the Metro Center. Another for singing "Downtown" with homeless lyrics in the so-called Free Speech zone in front of the Bookshop Santa Cruz. Bias judges convicted in both cases (you don't get a jury trial in these cases).

For a historical look back at those cases, check out

(2002) "Homeless Activist Wins In Fed. Court Suit Against S.C. Police For False Arrest" (in three parts) at & &

(2009) "Judge Returns Guilty Verdict in Metro Trespass Trial" at

(2010) "Sing a Song, Go to Jail"
See & /

All history aside, please post more video, audio, and written descriptions of the abusive authority action to shoo away those regarded as "undesirable" downtown.

We also need to reactivate the Street Performers Guild and/or SAFE (Society for Artistic Freedom and Discussion). Call me at 831-423-4833 if you're interested.

by brent whatever
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 11:30 PM
After several comments on posts through the past months have been removed, I'm pressed to ask why this is?
The one that was removed from this thread attacked no one and contained a personal experience relating to the story.
What the fuck?
by brent whatever
Monday Nov 19th, 2012 11:31 PM
never mind, I've found the last one