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Sentinel presents Sympathetic Story on Van Dweller Harassment, Ducks Police Accountability

by Jessica York, Robert Norse (jyork [at]
Sentinel writer Jessica York's story unusually sympathetic to RV van dwellers but absent any critical analysis of the SCPD is reprinted below for those unable to access it on line or pay $1.50 for a paper. I include my lengthy comments as well.
Here's the story, written yesterday and published in today's Sentinel at . Go there to see photos, read comments, and make your own.

Norse's Notes commentary follows. Those who'd like to get regular updates from HUFF can get in touch with me at rnorse3 [at] or listen to regular Free Radio Santa Cruz broadcasts at
6 PM Thursday and 9:30 AM Sundays.

Santa Cruz RV-dwellers question police attention

Alicia Kuhl lives in an RV with her family, spending the night on a Westside street away from neighborhoods frequented by other RVs .

By Jessica A. York | jyork [at] | Santa Cruz Sentinel
PUBLISHED: January 18, 2019 at 5:23 pm | UPDATED: January 18, 2019 at 5:23 pm

SANTA CRUZ — In the four months since Alicia Kuhl, her partner and three children, ages 1, 3 and 5, moved into a 23-foot recreational vehicle, she has seen her life flip over.

“With an RV, they notice the second you roll in,” Kuhl said Friday, seated on a bench outside her vehicle and home. “I would think it would be a more nonchalant thing in this town, instead of automatically associated with homelessness.”

Alicia Kuhl lives in an RV with her family — including 6-week-old terrier Bolt –and spending the night on a Westside street away from neighborhoods frequented by other RVs. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

A month ago, Kuhl, who parks away from other RVs but not directly in front of homes, found a note left on her windshield citing city municipal code prohibiting overnight camping or sleeping in vehicles and telling her she was not welcome in the Westside neighborhood. Earlier, while parked on a city cul-de-sac, she and her family were woken late one night to loud banging and what Kuhl described as drunken shouts from one of the street’s housed residents, telling her to leave. Police officers regularly approach her, once accusing her of being a drug dealer, she said.

Kuhl and several other people living locally in their vehicles joined activist groups Conscious In Action and Homeless United for Friendship and Peace to confront Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills with concerns of perceived police harassment. During about an hour-long meeting Jan. 10 billed as a press conference in front of the police department, Mills heard and responded to speakers’ concerns.

Kuhl and several of the activists gathered questioned Mills on honoring the city’s 72-hour parking policy that allows vehicles to remain in an otherwise unrestricted parking space legally. Along a similar track, Mills has directed his officers not to enforce the city’s overnight camping ban on public land, in light of the 9th District Court of Appeals decision, Martin vs. Boise decision. However, he said, officers responding to complaint calls have the responsibility to look at all vehicle violations, such as expired registration, cracked windshields and bald tires.

Activist Robert Norse asked Mills to direct his officers to limit their RV tickets to “real violations,” be “much more cautious, given the housing crisis” and to “treat with skepticism complaints by people in the the neighborhoods who are housed.”

“If you see sewage, if you see heroin, if you’re witnessing domestic violence, absolutely call the police,” said Kuhl, 40. “If you see somebody just parking there, minding their own business, they might be making dinner for their kids — there’s no reason to call the police.”

“I have a really strong feeling that I’ve been talked to far more than have been complained about me, which would show a homeless targeted harassment,” Kuhl said to Mills about her interactions with his officers.
Life is good for Alicia Kuhl, who lives in an RV with her family, making sure they spend the night on a Westside street away from neighborhoods frequented by other RVs. (Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The day before, the department posted an announcement on social media about its December officer of the month award, presented to vehicle abatement officer Joe Haebe, for his work in 2018 tagging more than 2,000 vehicles for abatement and having 291 of them towed.

“Joe is our go-to guy that continuously responds to illegal parking and/or storage of oversized vehicles in residential and commercial areas throughout the city,” the post read, in part, urging people to call 831-420-5185 to report “nuisance vehicles and parking violators.”

Mills told the group of about 20 people this month that he sympathized with their plights, saying that his job involves social order and finding a middle ground between the needs of people who are less fortunate and, for example, a group of 100 residents “screaming mad” about RVs that have dumped raw sewage and needles onto their residential streets. He suggested alternatives to parking on residential streets, such as working out one-on-one deals with private property owners and businesses to rent a space, or rent parking at the Kampgrounds of America in Watsonville.

“We still have to deal with the amount of people parking in front of people’s homes that becomes problematic,” Mill said. “The solution is just not parking wherever we want, the solution is us … in a government, not just the government, but everyone in a society, institutions including the churches — there’s all kinds of people involved in this, including nonprofit organizations like this. Help find the locations.”

Mills said his department tries to strike a balance between “towing people’s homes,” putting another person on the street and a “responsibility to my community” sending him hundreds of emails and complaints and calls. He said city and county leaders are seeking solutions for those struggling without housing, and that an effort to establish a local safe-parking program was “submarined.”

On Friday, Kuhl, who will seek appointment from the Santa Cruz City Council to a seat on the city of Santa Cruz’s Parks and Recreation Commission on Tuesday, said she believes what the city really needs is a new standing homeless commission. The body, comprised of nonproperty owners such as renters and homeless people, could make city policy recommendations on spending recommendations, long-term programs, safe parking options and more, she said.

N O R S E - N O T E S

Jessica York apparently had a sitdown with Alicia Kuhl earlier this week as well as finally making use of the notes she took at the January 10th meet-up that Conscience and Action and HUFF organized at the police station. For the audio and video of that conference, go to "The Van dwellers Meet the Police Chief: Relearning Sad Facts" at

Unfortunately, York missed the predictable outcome of that meeting. Chief Mills heard numerous complaints about targeted and premature "enforcement" by his enforcement officers including the notorious Joe Haebe. He praised Haebe for his high record of vehicle ticketing and tows. He ducked responsibility, sending Kuhl to City Council.

And, most importantly, he declined to reassure her that he would enforce the law and respect basic RV rights that she and others claimed were being regularly violated at the whim of NIMBY neighbors. That basic right: to park for 72-hours on a public street without being harassed, stickered, or ticketed.

Mills declined to reassure Kuhl and others there that he'd direct officers to advise beachfront bigots that a false complaint is a misdemeanor and that police will follow what appears to be law and is hopefully SCPD procedure.

He acknowledged he would make NO policy changes: Such as advising his officers to sticker, ticket, or chalk a vehicle only after 72 hours has elapsed. Directing his officers to remind complaining NIMBY's that a false police report is a misdemeanor. Or making a record of neighbor complaints accessible to the public to document that his department is not simply serving as an RV Elimination Squad.

All these issues were raised at the press conference. Mills did spend more than half an hour responding to often angry demands from RV dwellers with sympathetic excuses. One of his most ironic comments was something to the effect of "my officers are just following the law". The complaint of RVsters present, of course, was that they were repeatedly violating the law with warnings, chalk-paint on tires, stickers, and general harassment short of the 72-hour grace period, which seemed specifically designed to frighten and target RV residents.

To view the hubbub of hatred roused by York's relatively mild article uncritical of the SCPD, go to

Those in RV's facing harassment should document it with audio and video if they can, and contact SC Tenants Association at 222-0359 where the reports will be compiled for future action. Folks can also contact HUFF at 423-HUFF (4833).

Activists will be showing up at the Civic Auditorium at the conclusion of the Martin Luther King Day on Monday January 21st and at the Tuesday City Council meeting during 7 PM Oral Communications on January 22nd. HUFF meets at the Sub Rosa on at 11 AM on January 23rd to discuss further action.
§Public Records Act Demand Still Stalled
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at]

Please make available for viewing in hard copy or directly as an e-mail attachment the following:

(1) Copies of all warning notices and citations issued by enforcement officer Joe Haebe of the SCPD from 10-1-18 to 2-20-19.

(2) Any documents referencing the criteria which Haebe uses to leave a written notice, give a ticket, or mark tires.

(3) Copies of all records referencing complaints made to the SCPD for abandoned or improperly parked vehicles from 10-1-18 to 2-20-19.

This Public Records Act request seeking the specifics on Officer Joe Haebe has still prompted no information from the SCPD.

The SCPD is supposed to respond within 10 days. As of 3-21-19, the Department has twice given itself a postponement or expansion of time.

Haebe has been accused of reportedly harassing van dwellers during nighttime hours with premature "get going or get ticketed" type notices and tire-markings as part of an apparent "homeless cleansing" program.
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