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Anti-Homeless Laws at Santa Cruz City Council
Date Tuesday May 28
Time 3:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Location Details
809 Center St. Santa Cruz City Council Chambers
Event Type Protest
Organizer/AuthorRobert Norse
Emailrnorse3 [at]
Address309 Cedar PMB #14B Santa Cruz, CA 95060
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 Sunday May 26th, 2013 9:36 PM
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,

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by RazerRay
Monday May 27th, 2013 10:12 AM
Good luck with that tilt at the windmill:

(State) Bill Aims to Keep Pedestrians, Panhandlers Off Roadway Dividers

Personally, I think panhandling on a traffic divider is stupid and dangerous. Like hitchhiking in the middle of a freeway cloverleaf.
by Robert Norse
Tuesday May 28th, 2013 9:55 AM
The Public Hysteria Citizen Task Farce (more officially known as the Public Safety Citizen Task Force) meets every other Wednesday, starting May 29.2013 through November, from 6:00 pm – 9:00

The draft minutes of the last meeting are at .

More on the Task Farce at .

They meet in the Tony Hill room of the Civic Auditorium.

The group is stacked with right-wingers (a Seaside Company boss and a cop are chair and vice-chair), has no homeless advocates or homeless people. And there is no regular provision for public input, at least no Oral Communications period.

This part of the on-going anti-homeless laws and increasingly brutal crackdown.

A recent report from W. notes that while crossing Union Grove parking lot, he was tackled and assaulted by Officers Warren and Ahlers, sending him to the hospital with 4 stiches in his lower lip. He noted he'd earliler been twice ticketed for performing downtown, and denounced the officers for hounding him in colorful terms at which point they attacked him. I haven't run into Ahlers or Warren to get their side of the story. He goes to court for "interfering with an officer", of course. W. says the assault was viewed by numerous people. I don't know if it was videoed.
by Steve Pleich
Tuesday May 28th, 2013 5:17 PM
I am in the unique position of having stood for election with every one of our current council members. I recall each and every one state unequivocally during a candidate forum or public appearance that “we can’t arrest our way out of our problems”. And yet, here we are doing just that with a proposal for new and more restrictive ordinances. I know this council to be people of intelligence and compassion and yet rather that rising to the challenges facing our community they are settling for the easy fix. So where, I ask them, are the creative solutions and ideas that were so freely offered during their campaigns? Where is the leadership that the people who put them on the council relied upon when they cast their ballots? And where is the civic responsibility to honor their promises to the people of Santa Cruz?

Where indeed!
by G
Tuesday May 28th, 2013 7:20 PM
I was there, watching Steve try to be the 'kinder, gentler' candidate, as the more aggressive (and successful) candidates engaged in veiled homeless hate speech.

Where was such rhetoric THEN, I wonder...
by Robert Norse
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 1:34 AM
The fast-track bigotry of the City Council majority--and in the case of the expanded Misdemeanor 24-hour stay-away-order law, the unanimous bigotry--has a swift silent deadliness to it. Such was my feeling at the Council this afternoon. Bryant didn't say a word about either ordinance (at least while I was listening), but simply voted for them.
Lane and Posner did point out that ordinances that involve people "feeling safe" but that don't address objective situations where there are real threats, treating perception as reality--is not a good way to go.

Heather Rider, Chief Ranger, praised the 24-hour Stay Away Order law, saying it "had worked well" in San Jose, but she had no stats--nor did Deputy-Chief Clark or Chief Vogel--both of whom were in the room. They didn't need them, of course. The "Take Back Santa Cruz" majority was in full command.

Posner had the faulty notion that part of the 24-hour stay-away ordinance was analygous to the Bike church's telling someone to get out "but not involving them in court". But the 24-hour stay-away can't be invoked unless a citation is isssued, meaning fines of $200-300 with the additional penalty of immediate eviction from one of the few spots where homeless people are allowed to linger---during the day only, of course. Plus, of course, there's the ever-friend 3-unattended-infractions-are-a-misdemeanor law and its ugly brother the all-unattended-infactions-after-the-3rd-become-misdemeanors laws passed back in 2009 or thereabouts (with the vote of Lane and no public opposition from Posner--not on the Council at that time).

Posner also had his usual lickspittle praise for park employees--ignoring their role in the destruction of homeless property, the harassment of homeless people, and the ongoing elimination of homeless people from public spaces. I've grown real tired of his endless paens of praise to staff for their "good work". These laws are as far from good work as you can get. It's a kind of simpering subservience here that I sense--a desire to be "a part of the gang". In this case, the Gang of 7. The price for that kind of membership is pretty high.

Posner and Lane did date to utter the "h" word at points. Posner tried to organize some kind of write in opposition (and indeed e-mails opposing the law outweighed those supporting it by 10-4 or thereabouts)--but only to the Median ordinance. His endless praise of the staff--who are largely responsible for this wretched laws, lifted wholesale from other cities with no examination of the legal, social, and fiscal consequences there--makes me ill.

Even more nauseating were the remarks of Cynthia Mathews, who tried to defend the initial language of the ordinance which prescribed misdemeanor (up to a year in jail and $1000 fine) for violating Section 13.08.090(b): "Any person who by his or her conduct or by threatening or profane language annoys, willfully molests, or unreasonably interferes with the use of a City park of beach by any other person". Her prudish suggestion that coarse free speech should result in immediate exclusion and ultimate jailing has a Big Nurse oppressive feel to it that's hard to describe.

I believe the words "annoy" and "profane" were removed (a little unsure of this).

But the expanded Section 13.08.100 makes the police officer, in the words of one attorney I spoke with, "Judge, jury, and executioner" as far as the 24-hour stay away order. Any citation or arrest becomes the pretext for excluding someone for a day from not just a park or beach but "any property maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department" which includes City Hall, the Library, Pacific Avenue, the Levee, and many other properties around the City under threat of a year in jail or $1000 fine.


Earlier in the meeting the Mayor moved to cut short speaker Gillian Greensite's critique of cutting back the City's Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women meetings by 50%. I was banned from speaking to the item, after spending my time persuading a Councilmember to allow the public to speak to it as a specific item to be separately voted on. At my urging, Posner pulled the item off the Consent Agenda for an independent staff report and vote, and then went into his usual puff-and-praise of the staff. When I attempted to speak to the item, as is customary when such items are pulled off the agenda, Bryant cut me off saying I had "already spoken" (by trying to persuade them to allow the item be opened to public comment), and Posner not only declined to support me but started gesturing with his thumb that I should leave.

It's been so long since we had a Consent Agenda amenable to standard public comment as is the case in most cities. In those cities, any member of the public can pull an item from the block vote on the Consent Agenda, and demand that it be discussed and voted on separately. (This is also true at the Board of Supervisors) It's chilling to think that the entire Council is so ignorant of this basic process and so complaint with what the Mayor wants to do that they'd not only go along with this censorship but express annoyance that I'd challenge it (which is what Posner did). I've prepared a Brown Act complaint demanding the item be revisited.

I welcome Steve Pleich's comments, of course, but remind people that where Steve has a position of power (as on the ACLU where he is vice-chair), for the last year he's taken no actions to bring up resolutions defending homeless people there. (See "ACLU Chair Closes Monthly Boad of Directors Meeting, Homeless Issues Off the Agenda" at . ). Steve was also conspicuous by his absence at the Council meeting (though it's hard to blame anyone for not wanting to play with a stacked deck). As the Homeless Legal Assistance Project person, you would have thought he would have applied his legal acumen here.

The one encouraging thing about the meeting was the number of people who showed up to oppose the ordinances and who wrote in. Though the fix was clearly in (Comstock, Robinson, Terrazas, and Bryant said virtually nothing), the overwhelming majority of speakers and e-mail was against the ordinances.

The question now is whether folks can find a way to resist or challenge the ordinances, and more important to defend more basic survival rights of homeless people as the darkness deepens.
by Dan
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 8:01 AM
give some names of cities in California that allow a member to pull an item off the consent calendar. Here in the Valley, only a city council member can do that. If a member of the public wants an item pulled, he must ask a council member to do it.
by Sylvia
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 8:50 AM
Dan, about consent agendas, are counties governed differently from cities? I had assumed our Board of Supervisors procedure was standard, Supervisors can pull, public can pull. If it's local practice that governs this, then can we rally for a procedure that always the public to also pull off the city agendas? What's governing here?

This could be a away to restore some balance of power.
by Dan
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 9:08 AM
apparently. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors also does not allow a member of the public to pull a consent item for individual discussion and vote; only a board member can do it. Obviously the SC board is more open to public participation. Most cities and counties allow public comment on the consent calendar but the public can't pull items.
by Robert Norse
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 11:13 AM
...for one. As the Santa Cruz City Council used to do, the Monterey Mayor asked the audience Tuesday before last if they wanted any items pulled off for discussion. I was there in successful opposition to the sit-lie law there (hard to believe Monterey is more liberal and activist than Santa Cruz). See . I'm including as a separate comment below, the blurb I sent out on the HUFF e-mail list re: the Monterey City Council discussion and massive public input.

I think this issue was discussed some years ago on indybay. If you check back to when Coonerty first imposed this abortion, you may find some of the cities. If you e-mail me at rnorse3 [at], I'll try and look tomorrow (short attention span here and too many projects).

Or perhaps, Dan, you have more information. Can you provide your source or list of counties/cities that ban members of the public from addressing Consent Agenda items individually without "permission" from those they put in office?
by Robert Norse
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 11:16 AM
Indybay writer and videojournalist Alex Darocy and I were at the Monterey City Council meeting last night. The agenda seemed designed to drive away by exhaustion homeless people and advocates who packed the chamber.

The homeless issue was split in half between proposed noxious anti-homeless ordinances "to be studied" and solutions "to be discussed" with other candytreats-for-the-hotel-owners agenda items shoved in front of the two homeless topics. As a result Alex and I only stayed until 11 PM when discussion of the first item had finally concluded. The people won one out of three--with any "study" of the Sit/Lie Ban thrown out, but likely "no smoking downtown and on the wharf" and "no parking overnight" laws to come out of new studies--passed by the Council.

Mayor Della Sala seemed markedly more tolerant than past Santa Cruz panjandrums, which may have been due to the size and restiveness of the audience. He warned people not to clap, which resulted in sustained clapping in response to his warning. I made the occasional off-hand "First Amendment!" shout (but no "don't act like a Nazi" salutes). Santa Cruz mayors have similarly tried to "quiet the public", claiming it's "disrespectful" and "takes up too much time." No doubt in Santa Cruz soon we'll hear it's a 'Public Safety hazard" or as former Mayor Fitzmaurice warned, "it frightens away the public" for folks to be too demonstrative.

Unlike Santa Cruz, Monterey City Council rules "allow" community members to require a separate voice and discussion on Consent Agenda matters which prolonged the meeting, but provided a shadow of real democracy, long absent from Santa Cruz City Council meetings. Councilmember Alan Haffa, a professor and sometime Occupy Monterey Peninsula member was often outspoken in opposition to anti-homeless measures. He also, however, had a usual Liberal Control Freak aspect to him, where he was impatient of other views, desirous of combining items to cut short testimony (though with an understandable objective of getting testimony before people collapsed from exhaustion), difficult to access individually).

Police were in the chamber, but their response to a rather annoying if sincerely motivated homeless interrupter was to talk with him, escort him outside at one point, allow him back in, and generally show far more respect than has traditionally been shown to discordant voices in Santa Cruz.

To view the public and City Council discussion of the homeless items in question (Items #10 and 16), go to .

Check out the Afternoon and Evening Sessions of the May 22nd meeting as well as the April 24th Homelessness Study Session. Some of the testimony is moving, some annoying, but there is not a single mention of "needles" at least on the 22nd. Looks like Take Back Santa Cruz hasn't established a Take Back Monterey chapter yet.

There is also less phony-balony "Public Safety" cover.

I regularly provide commentary like this to stories I post on the HUFF e-mail list. For those who want it, drop me an e-mail at rnorse3 [at]
by Dan
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 11:55 AM
in the Central Valley south of Modesto allows a member of the public to pull a consent item for separate discussion and vote. Public comment is allowed on consent items. Typical rules for commenting on consent calendar items is any comments must be on topic and limited to three minutes per speaker.

If a member(s) of the public want an item pulled from the consent calendar, they must ask a council (or board) member to do so. It's preferred that arrangements be made prior to the start of the meeting, so pulling an item can be done quickly. Traditionally, at least in Fresno, it isn't difficult to ask a council member to pull something from consent. But it's at the council member's option-there's no law that mandates an item be pulled at the public's request.

Hopefully this answers your question.
by deep cover
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 3:05 PM
I know SC has the reputation of being "progressive" and compared to some places, it is.

But the fundamentally targeted dog whistles to class warfare and suspicion of "the other" is obviously quite alive and well in Surf City North.

"Educating" people via leaflets and picketing should only be a small portion of reaction to what's going on. But I'm suspicious that is going to do too much. The fear machine (probably astroturfed and coordinated) has been running on full for 3 years now and really no one wants to hear facts. People are simply ANGRY and reactive.

What seems to be going on is really a war against the poor. Because as soon as the homeless are run out, I'm going to imagine lots of "others" will end up on city council hit lists. The goal it seems is being run by the large real estate and tourism interests that run and own the town. SC City council seems pretty much owned by them right now. The problem according to the people who own and run this city is that Santa Cruz will never be carmel or pebble beach as long as there are working class and poor enclaves in the city.

Student ghettos are fine because property management companies in SC make tons of money off them. But Broadway, Beach flats, parts of Westside, River, and sections of Eastside are prime to be cleared out and the areas gentrified and turned into more upscale rental farms, tourism zones and vacation rentals.

The homeless are just the first cog in the wheel and they are they best because no one really gives a crap about them because after all, like some cops say, no humans involved.
Perhaps those in for the biggest surprise are the Eastsiders, once 41st gentrification rolls over the shock troops, all the way to the Boardwalk...
by John E. Colby
(karma [at] Wednesday May 29th, 2013 6:58 PM
Deep cover: can you email me? Your analysis was penetrating — it was spot on. You're highly intelligent. I would like to coordinate with you on strategies.
by deep cover
Friday May 31st, 2013 9:08 PM
Uh. I already emailed you. Three times. You said your computer was down for maintenance and that you couldn't read your email. Please let me know when you can, and I'll be happy to touch base and avail myself of your assistance, if you're serious.

And please let me know about the indictment I've already sent you.
by Coral Reef
(coralreef887 [at] Sunday Jun 2nd, 2013 7:19 AM
Deeply, I would love to have your deep cover anonymous views on the show , Tues. June 4 highlighted with another who will be featured who is overt and has endured through concerted efforts from "authorities".

You may either email me, or/and call in the show 6-7 pm Tues. 831-427-3772 or 831-469-3119. 101.3 fm .

Lets keep live talk radio local and real while its still a viable resource.

Coral Reef
Free Radio Santa Cruz
by Coral Reef
Sunday Jun 2nd, 2013 7:43 AM
Deep Cover, if you'd like to hear the radio show sample, the guest starts at approximately 15 minutes in from the beginning of show.

Would love to have you call in Tues. between 6-7 pm. 101.3

Also go to and look under Tangerine Dream Team (programs)
by deep cover
Tuesday Jun 4th, 2013 12:42 AM
The guy who said he was deep cover and emailed someone 3 times is a fake.

I'm the person someone who someone said my post was spot on and I'm not going to be emailing people I have no idea who they are via online.

so if anyone emails any of you claiming to be deep cover, its a troll or worse.
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