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2013: A Nasty Year Heavy With New Anti-Homeless Laws

by Robert Norse
Some years back, I collected and condensed a bunch of the Santa Cruz conduct ordinances which especially impacted homeless people, street people, performers, and political activists. The last version can be found at under the heading "Deadly Downtown Ordinances - Updated". That version got some updating in the comments that follow this older posting, but some enterprising person has to make suitable modifications & additions given the recent amendments. In the hope that someone (perhaps me at a later time) will take on that task, here is an update, which, when combined with the "Deadly Downtown Ordinances" and the comments that follow there, contain most of the harassment laws used by the SCPD and Rangers downtown.
VENDOR LICENSING LAW MC 5.04.080 & MC 5.04.090 (This ordinance is not new but its imposition is)
CSO Barnett has taken the lead in reanimating the "Business License" requirement for occasional crafts vending downtown under MC 5.04.090. You have to buy a business license if you vend more than 6 times in a fiscal year so I'm told.

As I understand it, this does not apply to art or writing--where you are displaying or selling your own creations--even with a price tag. City Attorney Barisone has refused to confirm my request that he reaffirm what he told Robin, an artist selling downtown who cited the civil rights requirements of City of Sparks v. White, which established this right throughout the 9th Federal District. Councilmember Micah Posner has refused to request a clear public ruling on the issue from Barisone.

The new iteration of the law regulating protests, impacts homeless protests, and requires permits for groups of more than 50, and extensive costs for parades that "spill" into or "take" the street, as such parades usually do. The law has not been enforced and is supposed to be modified more liberally at a "study session", but that has not happened.

An earlier version of the law was last used--most notoriously--against Wes Modes--for "walking" in the DIY New Year's Parade in 2009 or 2010 "without a permit". City attorney spent taxpayer money to take him to court with Mayor Rotkin backing him up. Modes was found guilty (while hundreds of others who walked--including this writer--were not charged).

Most famous recently for driving The Great Morgani off the streets, the law reduces the total area anyone with an open guitar case, table, cup, or other "display device" to 12 square feet (i.e. three of the squares on the sidewalk).

It bans spreading out a blanket as a display device. An all other flat floppy "lay-down" items that aren't "free-standing" display devices.

It increases forbidden zones in which you can't set up devices to 14' from buildings, street corners, intersections, kiosks, drinking fountains, public telephones, public benches, public trash containers, directory signs, sculptures or artwork, ATM-style machines, outside street cafes, vending carts, and fences. This is an increase from the previous 10' forbidden zones. Additionally, "trash containers" have been added as "protected" objects forbidden to set up a table or sit near.

Along with the Move-Along-every-hour-at-least-100'-and-don't-come-back-for-24-hours, the law has denuded the sidewalks of legal performers (though newbies and some old-timers continue to play illegally at times when police and hosts aren't around).

This prohibits lingering on the medians or roundabouts anywhere in Santa Cruz--specifically impacting the median on Mission/Water St. next to the Town Clock and the medians dividing Pacific Avenue beyond Cathcart. It's already illegal to sit or stand "on the grass". But this would prohibit you from standing on the edges.
It particularly impacts activists holding up signs or distributing flyers on medians. It was pushed as a "panhandler removal" measure.

"(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 profane language annoys, willfully molests or unreasonably interferes with the use of a City park or beach by any other person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

These are rare ordinances creating a misdemeanor penalty for the first offense--something unusual if not unique in the city code. I can't think of any other Downtown Ordinance under which an initial citation can be pushed with up to $1000 fine and a year in jail.

"Any person who receives a citation or is arrested on 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."

This is the first ordinance in Santa Cruz to my knowledge that allows police and parapolice agencies to "ban" people from areas without a court order prior to any charge being filed, hearing held, trial completed, or sentence imposed.

This ordinance becomes all the more powerful when you consider the property "maintained" by P&R. According to MC 13.04.011, this includes "all city parks and greenbelts, all city park trails and roads, all city park facilities and buildings, including Lighthouse Field State Beach, DeLaveaga Golf Course, Main Beach, Cowell’s Beach, Steamer Lane, Harvey West Pool, the Beach Flats Community Center, the Louden Nelson Community Center, the Teen Center, the Civic Auditorium, City Hall Courtyard, Mission Plaza, the Town Clock, the Natural History Museum, the Surfing Museum, Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, Pacific Avenue, West Cliff Drive (Pelton Street to Swanton Boulevard), the San Lorenzo River Levee and bike path, the San Lorenzo Benchlands, the inner banks of the San Lorenzo River within the City limits, the Branciforte and Cabonera Creeks within the city limits, Jessie Street Marsh, plus any other facilities or areas assigned to the parks and recreation department by the city manager."

The unilateral designation of areas "closed to the public" either at night or entirely is done entirely at the discretion of Dannettee Shoemaker, the P & R Empress, who is supposed to advise the P&R Commission what she's doing. But didn't in the case of closing off the politically important City Hall grounds and library at night in illegitimate response to peaceful homeless protest by the Peace Camp 2010 protesters 3 1/2 years ago.

I would encourage some ambitious archivist or activist to add these sections as well as a few other updates (such as the "dogs on pacific ave. okay during the day as long as you're not panhandling" and the "no smoking on Pacific Ave. or sidestreets" modifications mentioned in the Comments section here to the "Deadly Downtown Ordinance" flyer that can be found at .
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