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Shafting Non-Shoppers: Expanding the Destructive Downtown Ordinances
In a disguised attack on the entire non-commercial street scene, tomorrow's afternoon City Council meeting will rubberstamp restricting still further the very limited public space currently allowed the community downtown. Under the guise of health concerns, reducing congestion, and preventing a "trip-and-fall" hazard (none of which is documented), the reactionary new laws will essentially force street performers, vendors, homeless people, local residents, and tourists to compete with each other for the small amount of "legal" spaces allowed for sitting, vending, performing, sparechanging, or political organizing. The hope is clearly to reduce "congestion" by eliminating what remains of the street counterculture. Another brilliant salvo from the bowels of the City Manager's office. It's another direct attack on the right to publicly assemble or simply use community space without paying a fee to merchants.
UNUSUAL EARLIER TIME AT CITY COUNCIL
This set of new ordinances will come up for a first reading and Public Hearing on Tuesday September 10th at the irregular time of 2 PM rather than the customary 3 PM. The item will appear sometime during ensuing Council meeting. As currently scheduled, it is agenda item 21--immediately after Chris Krohn's appeal of the Christie tree demolition. Probably an hour or more after the start of the meeting--but this is unclear.
THE NEW LAWS
The new law changes include:
+++ Extending the Smoking Ban to the side streets one block in either direction from Pacific Avenue, including all alleys & sidestreets.
+++ Extending the Smoking Ban to all surface parking lots in downtown between Laurel Street and Water St.--it's not clear whether this includes all private parking lots as well.
+++ Requiring street artists, street vendors, panhandlers, and political activists to provide “freestanding” display devices such as tables and chairs.
+++ Banning tarps, blankets, and other “non”-free standing devices, now commonly used to display jewelry, artwork, political flyers.
+++ Banning panhandlers cups and caps also currently described as “display devices”.
+++ Arguably banning street performers' open guitar cases and other “containers, structures, or objects used or capable of being used for holding or displaying tangible things” (the definition of “display devices” in the ordinance) unless placed on a table.
+++ Reducing the space allowed for a display device to sixteen square feet (there is currently only a limit on the size of the display device (6' X 3' X 3').
+++ Further reducing the total space allowed by specifying that the sixteen square feet includes not merely the display device itself but also the space where the individual is sitting and any personal property she or he has with them.
+++ Further constricting available space by requiring a 12' space between all “display devices” where this term applies to everyone sitting on the street with any kind of container--and a backpack or a sleeping bag is "capable of being used for holding...tangible things" hence--its possible use against homeless people.
+++ Essentially allowing only 47 people (given the 47 allowable spaces) or less than 5 people per block to sit on the sidewalk with any possessions
STAT-FREE STAFF REPORT
The staff report argues that there will be 42 “opportunity” (i.e. non-banned) spaces available on Pacific Avenue between Water and Laurel Streets. The severe set-backs required from buildings, intersections, directory signs, benches (the few that remain), kiosks, telephones, and “public artwork” (10' for display devices, 14' for panhandling and sitting)—remove 95% of the sidewalk from natural and traditional use from the get-go. The full staff report can be found at: http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/a3zexe45uoitixjpnnjq2qeg/379112609092013091024142.PDF
There are, of course, no stats specifying the “complaints” referred to—whether from the police or merchants. So we're left to “trust” the City Staff, which is fine if you agree with their objectives, in which case you don't care about their facts.
Nor is there any indication of a “crime wave” suggesting the need for these ordinances nor any instances of "trip and fall". Looks like the SCPD in its expanding downtown police state powers, just wants more “move along” tools.
When added to the frequent merchant expansion of their displays onto the sidewalk in front of their shops this exclusion of non-commercial activity will be nearly all-embracing. This, of course, suits those whose objective is to drive away the once-vibrant street scene in Santa Cruz.
CREATING CONGESTION WILL SET PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER OR SIMPLY DRIVE THEM AWAY
The result will be to severely crowd not just those using display devices, but others trying to sit down in the few remaining spots available whether these be elderly residents, homeless locals, visiting travellers, UCSC students, or naïve tourists (who will, of course be selectively ignored or courteously directed to pay-cafes). And either drive such people away or produce a hostile response.
Authorities clearly hope that this merchant gobble of public space will be as tamely accepted in 2013 as it was in 2002 and again in 2009 (when the “artwork” set-backs were passed). Perhaps, but this remains to be seen.
No Councilmember has come up opposing this abusive privatization of Pacific Avenue which panders to the current homeless-hostile bigotry of the Take Back Santa Cruz mentality and steals a significant portion of what remains of public space downtown. It also encourages use of police, security guards, and host snitches to pursue these new “crimes”--which in turn overburden the courts, but helpfully provide more “evidence” of the City Council-created “crime wave” in town.
SENTINEL DOES ITS USUAL COUNCIL-STROKING JOB IGNORING THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS
The Sentinel misleadingly headlines this story today as being about smokering with very brief mention of street artists but its impact is far broader and far more sinister. http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_24046155/santa-cruz-consider-extending-downtown-smoking-ban
REVENGE ON THE STREET ARTISTS
The street artist aspect also comes in the wake of the City of Sparks v. White decision, which years ago, required police to stop harassing street artists who display price tags on their wares and stop demanding they “get a license or get a fine” as they've been recently doing to some. (See http://seattletrademarklawyer.com/storage/White%20v.%20City%20of%20Sparks%20-%209th%20Cir.%20Opinion.pdf ). Barisone has repeatedly ignored my e-mails requesting that police be instructed to follow the Constitution as interpreted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2009, however he has stonewalled. Hopefully I'll be posting that correspondence later.
MAKE NOTE OF THE SUPPORTERS
Note too that New Leaf owner Scott Roseman is one of the few written pieces of correspondence supporting this nasty effort to run off non-shoppers. Folks who buy there (including me) should consider this before paying their inflated prices again. You might consider tipping the new security guard hired to eyeball customers if you support this kind of atmosphere downtown.
So instead of following the law, the City is creating more ordinances that will reduce the number of people down there whose rights they need to respect. The new laws will—in a backhanded manner--give the SCPD “needed support” in its unconstitutional threats to street artists, and fluff merchant paranoia and bigotry which holds street artists and scruffily dressed youth and homeless folks responsible for the Obama/Bush recession.
I'll be writing more about this later, but wanted to give the community a heads up.
RANTING FURTHER ON THE BACKGROUND OF THESE CHANGES
A series of co-ordinated attacks on all non-commercial use of Pacific Avenue and the adjoining streets will hit the early 2 PM afternoon session of the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday September 10th.
In the last year expanding police sweeps of homeless camps in the levee and the Pogonip and abusive property seizures have escalated. Crackdowns around City Hall the library, the beaches, and the parks have become regular with security thugs towering over the disfavored. Titled bigots like superior Court Judge Ariadne Symons and City-Attorney-for-Life John Barisone have abandoned any pretentions of neutrality.
Their testimony and that of others before the so-called Public Safety Citizen's Task Force,serves to rationalize the transformation of Santa Cruz into a “less welcoming” town for the poor. Its bi-weekly showing before the town's very own no-public-comment-please Star Chamber has served as a glistening toxic showcase of fashionable bigotry masquerading as public safety. It will step up the pressure to weekly sessions in October—the group handpicked by “No Bikes for the Bike Church” Mayor Hillary Bryant.
The new measures continue the relentless crackdown designed to drive homeless, poor, and counter-culture people out of the downtown, out of sight, and out of town to the benefit of the new big-spending gentry.
FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE MONEY-FICATION OF SANTA CRUZ
+++ E-mail City Council at citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com .and demand these ordinances be given adequate committee/commission review and public comment.
+++ Since the ordinances don't become final until a second reading in two weeks, write to local papers denouncing this attack on traditional Santa Cruz.
+++ Join with others to seek legal and direct action response to this latest gentrification gambit.
+++ Post your own accounts of discrimination downtown (the Coffee Roasting Company along with Starbucks has recently banned those carrying large backpacks; CruzioWorks continues to discriminate against homeless customers like Dan Madison)
+++ Post video of abusive and costly use of police and security guards to enforce the Downtown Ordinances (which are already absurdly restrictive).