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Indybay Feature
City Bicycle Distribution Program to be Considered at City Council Jan 14th
by Steve Schnaar
Tuesday Jan 7th, 2014 2:33 PM
The Santa Cruz City Council will consider whether or not to reinstate the long-standing program of distributing unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. From 1996-2012 hundreds of bicycles were distributed to youth through various nonprofits. Two years ago the program was suspended with no notification or explanation, with bikes distributed for a time through a for-profit business, in violation of the municipal code. Some bikes were sold during that period which ordinarily would go to youth, also in violation of code. In August 2013 the City ended distributions entirely and began auctioning bikes off. It's time to put politics aside and start getting these bikes back in the hands of low-income youth.
Next Tuesday, January 14th the Santa Cruz City Council will decide whether or not to reinstate the long-standing program of distributing unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. Please let the Council Members know you think this is a valuable program! You can let them know in person at the meeting, or email them at citycouncil [at] Currently we don't know if this item will be discussed at the 3pm afternoon or 7pm evening session, but we'll post details as they are available.


Every year the City ends up with hundreds of bikes which are not claimed and must be dealt with somehow. Because the bikes are generally of moderate to low quality and many are in disrepair, they offer little cash value to the City through auctioning. Therefore in 1996 the City began distributing them to youth in need, turning these old bikes into a valuable community resource. The distributions were open to any qualified nonprofit or government agency, and got out many hundreds of bikes to youth who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to own a bicycle.

Although a valuable program, participation varied over the years and sometimes the administration felt like a drain to the SCPD, which in 2008 stopped distributions and began sending bikes instead to the landfill. At that point the nonprofit repair shop the Bike Church approached the City, offering to handle most of the administration of the program. For the next four years, the Bike Church held 16 distributions, getting out 415 bikes through a variety of nonprofits, while salvaging tons of usable material from the scraps that no one else was able to make use of.

In early 2012, the City ended this important program without any notification to the Bike Church or other participating groups. Bikes were delivered instead to a for-profit business that sold many bikes which previously would have gone free to youth, and which did not invite the former nonprofit participants to take any of the bicycles. The five groups that had matched up the most bikes to youth prior to this change—Barrios Unidos, Green Ways to School, Project Bike Trip, Watsonville Bike Shack, and Western Service Workers Association—all wrote letters to the City praising the former program and the Bike Church's management of it, and asking that it be reinstated. However no changes were made at that time.

The following summer in August 2013, acknowledging that the municipal code does not allow distributions through a for-profit business, the City suspended distributions entirely. City Manager Bernal stated at that time the intention to invite proposals from nonprofits to partner with the City in renewing the program. However due to behind-the-scenes pressure by some Council Members this plan was never moved forward, with bikes now being auctioned off for as far as we know the first time since 1996.

Fortunately, the City Council will have the opportunity to vote on this matter next week, and we hope they will listen to the overwhelming community support for giving the bikes to youth instead of auctioning them off.

Lastly, we wanted to let you know we have a discussion about this issue on the Civinomics site, which tries to foster constructive dialogues and allows you to vote on things like this:
§Update on the Council Meeting Time
by Steve Schnaar Wednesday Jan 8th, 2014 10:32 AM
After 2 years of delays and malfeasance, the City has delayed the issue yet again, and will not as promised consider the issue on Jan 14th. However we are still calling for supporters to come to the City Council's "oral communications" period around 4:30pm. Oral communications means you can make a comment to the Council about items not on the agenda. It is also helpful to write in letters to council.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Robert Norse
Thursday Jan 9th, 2014 3:37 AM
On Monday, January 6, Steve sent the above story out as an e-mail (without the predictable removal of the item from the agenda). I responded with the following:

Steve: Your position is significantly weakened by omitting any mention of the repeated attempts you and others made to clarify why the SCPD stopped the bike distribution and under pressure from whom. You omit mentioning that your attempts to get clear and transparent response from then-Mayor Hillary Bryant or from Assistant City Manager Tina Shull were dodged, ignored, or dismissed. You seem to be trying (again) to "smooth things over", "avoid antagonizing the SCPD", and "maintaining good relations with the city staff", but hasn't the sweet talk approach showed how ineffective it is? Power senses weakness and has only contempt for it.

The community and Council need to be publicly confronted with the rather bald questions: why were the distributions stopped? why have they been held up for nearly two years? why aren't the responsible people held accountable? And, most obviously, without any phony dicking around, why isn't the original process simply restored? Instead we have MIcah's face-saving (and futile) Request for Proposals nonsense--which, so far, as gone nowhere.

Folks assembled in mass half a year ago already made a plea for return of the bikes. Half a year later--are we any closer? Just another Council meeting. Folks who could have had bikes--those poor folks who are the target of the City Council's ordinance changes last year and their notorious Task Force on Public Safety (or more accurately the Task Farce Transmitting Public Hysteria).

It is my understanding that these bikes are being auctioned off in Sacramento (if they're not dumped into a landfill)--does that confirm your information?

Please provide straight talk and straight questions to the community and Council. You may find such candor, if followed up by other direct actions may embarrass the SCPD stonewallers into relenting and actually forestall such abuses in the future.

Robert Norse

Steve responded:

> Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2014 14:36:48 -0800
> From: steve [at]
> To: rnorse3 [at]
> Subject: RE: City Bicycle Distribution Issue to be Decided Next Tuesday, Jan 14
> Robert,
> This is not my campaign alone to decide the tone or strategy for. But
> also it is not true this is "just another council meeting". First time
> it was not on the agenda, but even so we did pressure them to cancel
> the distros and pledge to issue a request for proposals. Later some
> council members pressed behind the scenes to stop it, but now they are
> having to vote directly on it in public. (No one has confirmed with me
> which 2 council members they were.)
> Also about bikes in Sacramento, I have no info about that. I asked
> police for info about auctions but got no response, then put in a
> records request and no info back yet.
> See you,
> Steve

And I replied in part:

From: rnorse3 [at]
To: steve [at]
Subject: RE: City Bicycle Distribution Issue to be Decided Next Tuesday, Jan 14
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2014 22:06:53 -0800

Thanks, Steve.

Whether the specific proposal to restore the bike distribution to The Bike Church is on the agenda or not--the real point is the bullshit we've all been put through for the last two years and whether the community is going to be able to hear the truth about the issue. And address real issues rather than pretend that things are being dealt with in a reasonable and sensible manner. Creating such an illusion by ignoring the simple but hard questions serves only to embolden and empower those who have abused this process in the first place. Which I think you are aware of, but prefer not to speak out on.



It seems likely those pulling the strings are continuing to conceal and sustain the reactionary attack on the Bike Church bike distribution to non-profits. This seems to be part of the Robinson strategy disempowering poor and homeless people and those who serve them. Even playing along with the mythology isn't enough for gang now running the City.

Steve advised me in an interview yesterday (which I'll hope to play on Free Radio tonight--health permitting) that Tina Shull and Scott Collins--City Manager minions--assured him in September that the "call for proposals" would go forward shortly. This "call for proposals" was supposedly needed to reinstitute the bike distribution. Actually it seems more likely a face-saving maneuver for those who illegitimately stopped the distribution in the first place. In November, Steve was further told that some (unnamed) Council members had urged staff to continue the stall, and so they instead had decided to put the matter on the agenda--further delayed until January.

And now we learn that Mayor Robinson (who makes up the agenda) has removed it entirely from the agenda.

So, it seems that the Council majority, Collins, and Shull are not content with smoothing over and stalling on this issue. They intend to continue denying non-profits and poor people bicycles, as they have for the last two years.

This whole charade that there somehow needs to be a "reconsideration" before simply admitting they fucked up and return the bikes to the Bike Church is a cover story that couldn't hold water if Lane and Posner spoke out forcefully and honestly on this issue. Or if The Bike Church, People Power, and other advocates stopped fluffing the authorities in hopes of teasing out a smile on their faces.

As with the broadening and deepening attacks on homeless people, the phony "public safety" crisis, & the extermination of Needle Exchange in the city, this is a political and partisan attack on a progressive group that serves the reactionary agenda of groups like Take Back Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Neighbors, the Downtown Association, and certain segments of the SCPD and City Staff. At issue here is the overt destruction of the sane caring and compassionate (if generally disempowered) core of Santa Cruz in favor of a growing money class exemplified by the Coonerty Clan and Supervisor (former SCPD Minister of Propaganda) Friend.

If advocates want to break the bike blockade, don't we need to bring this issue to the community clearly?

The attempt to paper over these abuses has only encouraged their perpetuation.

By all means, go to City Council and speak in the isolated "doghouse" 5 PM Oral Communications period (intentionally removed from its original place at the beginning of the evening and then the afternoon sessions).

But then start holding press conferences and demonstrations at the SCPD, City Manager's Office, and in front of the Council offices demanding real action.
by Dan Waterhouse, Newslink
Thursday Jan 9th, 2014 9:42 AM
With your campaign.

However, the fact still remains these aren't your bikes, the Bike Church's bikes, or the Bike Dojo's bikes. They belong to the City of SC. And the City can do any damn thing they want with them. Here in Fresno, our city government no longer sells bikes using auctions; they ended this practice two decades ago. They're sold to recyclers.
by cars are a plague of locusts
Thursday Jan 9th, 2014 11:11 AM
2 years later and still delayed. how hard is it to give a bike to a child? really.

why should city staff (police) pay any attention what so ever to the city council?
the only things city council can do to get any respect from staff,
are cutting staff budgets or firing the city manager.
and there is no courage for that kind of discipline among our timid council members.

just look at the progress on TBSC Comestock's and People Power Posner's levee porta-a-potty
promised last September and still nothing.

expect more of the same treatment from staff on bikes for kids.

if you want social progress in SC, forget city council and try focusing on the City Manager for a change.

by Ed Natol
(ednatol [at] Thursday Jan 9th, 2014 2:36 PM
Was there a contract between the Bike Church and the city or was it a same kind of backroom handshake the has people pissed off now?
by Dan Waterhouse
Friday Jan 10th, 2014 4:12 PM
Like it was a handshake deal. If there had been a formal agreement or contract between the City and whoever (Bike Church, Bike Dojo or ???), there'd be a paper trail. I'd imagine the city council would've had to approve it if it was formal most likely.
by Ed NAtol
(ednatol [at] Sunday Jan 12th, 2014 9:55 AM
At least it sounds like there's going to be a formal RFP this time.
by Robert Norse
Sunday Jan 12th, 2014 9:47 PM
...It doesn't sound like anything but more delay and obfuscation. The issue isn't even on the agenda.

Those concerned with resolving this issue have got to go beyond hat-in-hand requests at City Council for 3 minutes during the "doghouse" Oral Communications period where no one's in the room but the Council and those speaking.
by Robert Norse
Sunday Jan 12th, 2014 10:41 PM
This has been tried before by me and Steve Schnaar last year or the year before to get Hillary Bryant's e-mail communications regarding the SCPD's "bikenapping" as I call it. And I understand Steve has filed another Public Records Act request.

Here is mine:

From: rnorse3 [at]
To: lrobinson [at]
CC: npatino [at]; steve [at]; citycouncil [at]; jbrown [at]; gperry [at]; colby [at]; e-davidson [at]; jsmalkin [at]; magicboxradioshow [at]; deetler [at]
Subject: Public Records Act Demand Re: Bicycles
Date: Sun, 12 Jan 2014 21:59:45 -0800

Lynn, Nydia:

Please provide access to any and all correspondence, memos, and other documents--written, audio, video, or electronic--which mention in anyway "bikes" to and from any City Council member or staff member.

The issue is a pressing one with the SCPD denying non-profits access to bikes and through them young and poor people.

Since Lynn has apparently decided to further shield this issue from public discussion and disclosure by not placing it on the January 14th agenda in spite of assurances from the City Manager staff that this would be done, please begin with any and all correspondence Lynn has had with members of the public, internal staff, other council members, or any other agency or organization regarding the distribution of bikes by either The Bike Church, the Police Department, the Bike Dojo, or any other group from January 1, 2011 through the present.

This should include ALL such correspondence, whether it is addressed to Lynn at her City Council address or not, provided it concerns city business. Likewise with other Council members.

In order to save the staff time and energy, providing a descriptive list of the documents might save the expense of making copies available unless that becomes necessary later.


Robert Norse

I suggest those interested contact City Council members at 420-5020 and demand a full accounting of (a) why the bike distribution was stopped, (b) who ordered it, (c) where the bikes have gone, (d) why the bike distribution hasn't been resumed, and (e) why there has been no accountability for turning bikes over to a for-profit company (The Bike Dojo) for a year and then continuing to withhold the bikes from those who need them.

Naturally, there should also be a demand that the bike distribution be restored.

And for those who are looking more deeply-- that those who cooked up this plan behind closed doors be disciplined or fired (if not criminally prosecuted). Unless you want to continue to leave the wolves in charge of the henhouse.
by Ed Natol
(ednatol [at] Tuesday Jan 21st, 2014 11:58 AM
What does the city actually owe the Bike Church? Is there some provision in the 2008 agreement that was violated?
by John Cohen
(karma [at] Thursday Jan 23rd, 2014 10:28 PM
Ed Natol:

The Bike church had a verbal contract with the SCPD. Verbal contracts are enforceable in court. The Bike Church could sue the City of Santa Cruz and the SCPD (if they were inclined to).
Who made that deal for the Nike Church? Who did it for the city? Is there a way out or is it your opinion that the city is stuck giving bikes forever? IANAL and I don't think you are either. I just want to know what is actualy happening here.
...which sums up for me what needs to be demanded of the City around the blockaded bike distribution. Was it in the original contract? Was there an original contract? No idea. Perhaps Ed could make a Public Records Act request or obtain the info voluntarily from the staff. I would encourage him to do so. City staff has not been forthcoming in public records requests by me and Steve. Additionally I think that if the SCPD's actions were without the bounds of an explicit legal agreement, they would have long since released the agreement and the documents clarifying the reasons for their change in policy in response to records requests.

The issues are are (1) Did the SCPD stop bike distributio to the Bike Church for political reasons? (2) Has it, city staff, and the council been honest about this process? (3) What action has the city taken to hold legally accountable what may have been illegal behavior by the Bike Dojo (and those in the SCPD and staff that funneled the bikes to them and (4) why the hell aren't the bikes being released to the Bike Church for distribution?

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But the SCPD did that. And no one--in the City Council, the media, the advocacy groups is directly and persistently challenging this behavior. Ignoring this kind of abuse of power and lawlessness in the hopes that it will all go away sets us up for more of the same.

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