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Anti-Homeless Laws at Santa Cruz City Council

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
3:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Event Type:
Robert Norse
309 Cedar PMB #14B Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Location Details:
809 Center St. Santa Cruz City Council Chambers

Santa Cruz is now considering an anti-homeless "no loitering on the median" law (not just a study of an anti-homeless law as Monterey was doing with Sit-Lie, the Smoking Ban, and the Parking-Overnight Ban proposals). This is item #15 on the Afternoon Agenda for Tuesday 5-28 at 3 PM (likely to come up slightly later).

As is typical for those trying to restrict public spaces and criminalize homeless presence without saying so, the staff report (and the complaint anti-homeless "Public Safety" Committee) uses a "public safety" pretext without any statistical documentation.

Even the staff report (go to click on item #15) acknowledges there is no documentation backing up the "Public Safety" cover story for this latest "pander to prejudice" proposal.

No statistics indicating any accidents involving people, no car crashes--simply some traffic signs crashed into (which has nothing to do with people on the median--who may actually make drivers more careful).

The Terrazas-Mathews-Comstock "Public Safety" committee also used a police report about complaints about folks on two medians and anecdotal anti-panhandler NIMBYtalk to ratify a staff proposal. That proposal impacts ALL medians and roundabouts in the city. If it passes (as is likely without massive protest), we shall have "thou shalt not loiter" restrictions starting July 11th.

The ordinance as written not only outlaws traditional use of the medians downtown (in front of Zachary's, for instance) for socializing, but will outlaw holding political signs during the regular protests that happen.

The right-wing crowd attending the "Public Safety" Committee meeting (Deborah Elston of Santa Cruz Neighbors, for instance) made it clear that their target was "panhandlers" (by which they meant poor homeless panhandlers, not City Council enablers of million dollar De Sal consultants, of course).

The gruesome threesome making up the committee also noted they'd be considering stay-away orders from public parks (after citation and prior to any charges being filed or trial), triple-fine zones throughout the city for (homeless) infraction offenses, more park rangers replacing security guards, and other anti-homeless delicacies.

Repeated twice in the no-First-Amendment-on-the-Medians ordinance is the homeless-hostile rhetoric which reveals the ordinance's true targets: " a purpose other than...assistance in crossing the street including the purposes of disorderly conduct, solicitation of money, solicitation of prostitution, consumption of alcoholic beverages, or other activity not related to crossing the street. Ironically all these activities are already illegal (including panhandling someone in a vehicle).

Making illegal asking for help with signs is grossly abusive of the First Amendment, of course, as well as a callous slap in the face at those in need. It is also a violation of elementary morality, as well as a sign of the desperation and determination of NIMBY bigots to clear the streets of visibly poor people messing up the fantasy of healthy happy neighborhoods.

A second ordinance being proposed (item #16 on the afternoon agenda) proposes up to $1000 fine and six months or a year in jail for someone who "willfully harasses or interferes" with a city employee in the park or on the beach--which will create a wealth of jury trials for those who want to challenge them.

Attempts of the city attorney to later reduce such measures to infractions (which would strip folks of their trial and public defender rights) comes into conflict with state law limiting such shenanagans.

The real focus, however, seems to be Section 2 which provides for 24 hour stay away orders from the park at the whim of the offended officer if any "no smoking", "no sleeping" or other crimeless crime citations are issued. And again the ordinance provides for misdemeanor penalties. Dangerous, overbroad, unconstitutional, and targeted legislation.

The restrictions of these ordinances do provide for an interesting Constitutional challenge for those willing to face jail (say by holding up a political sign in a park after dark or on a median).

The police-partial city staff got the 24-hour stay away ordinance from San Jose and Santa Clara County. Councilmember Posner reported that the ordinance did receive two negative votes in the Parks and Recreation Commission when it was heard there (no publicity either before or after).

The ordinance will require a second reading to pass, so in theory there will be a second opportunity to fight back, perhaps with help from folks in other cities fighting similar ordinances.

Monterey activists recently forced an unanimous vote to turn down even a study of a Sitting Ban (Sit/Lie) Ordinance at last Tuesday's City Council meeting there. See and click on the evening meeting, to witness the outpouring of public testimony against it).

The Monterey City Council did forward for study a "no smoking" ordinance and a "no parking overnight" law which pretty clearly were motivated to give the police "tools" to "move along" homeless people--which is the point of the two Santa Cruz laws.

Videos of police (and private citizens) harassing people under the Downtown Ordinances are helpful tools for those of us resisting these not-so-subtle attacks on the poor outside. Take them and post them!

I may be showing a video myself at the 5 PM session of City Council during Oral Communications.

Added to the calendar on Sun, May 26, 2013 9:36PM
The full text of the new law, which goes into effect on July 11th reads:

“13.08.090 Disorderly Conduct on Park Property
(a) Any person who willfully harasses or interferes with a City of Santa Cruz employee in the performance of his or her duties in a City park or beach, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(b) Any person who by his or her conduct, or by threatening or abusive, or profane language willfully molests or unreasonably interferes with the use of a City park or beach by any other person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

“13.08.100 Order to Vacate any Property Maintained by the Parks & Recreation Department
Any person who receives a citation or is arrested o\n City park or beach property or any property maintained by the Parks and Recreation department,for a violation of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code or state law may be directed by the citing/arresting City officer at the time of the citation/arrest to vacate that park or beach property and not to re-enter said property again for a 24-hour period from the time of the arrest/citation. Any person who violates such an order from a City officer shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,
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deep cover
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