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Indybay Feature
Return of the Sleeping Ban and a Letter to Mayor Meyers
by Robert Norse (rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com)
Friday Mar 5th, 2021 5:16 PM
On February 23, City Council ignored dozens of speakers, silenced another two dozen, and passed the TOLO (Temporary Living Outside Ordinance) well after midnight. I filed a Brown Act complaint, noting the failure to provide adequate Agenda notice, requiring them to redo the item. I'm not holding my breath.
6.36_dying_outside_ordinance.pdf_600_.jpg
The letter to Mayor Meyers is fairly self-explanatory. I have made a few minor corrections and clarifications. So far, I have received no response from Meyers, suggesting she is unwilling to correct the Brown Act violation and redo the item with adequate public notice..

Following the letter are links to the current Camping Ban and the Meyers-Brunner Council's proposed replacement. The current ordinance is not usually enforced because of its explicit use of the word "sleeping" in violation of the 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments (as starters). Instead, cops and rangers use "public nuisance", "closed area", "illegal lodging", "block the sidewalk" and other convenient ploys to work around the Martin v. Boise federal court decision given Santa Cruz's on-going shelter deficiency. More frequently police simply use threats and bullying as their traditional fallback.

They are likely to continue to use these laws rather than the TODO, even after the new law goes into effect in 30 days. They lack the real resources claimed but not real in the law, including safe sleeping places, toilet facilities, storage, outreach workers, and so forth. They will also face the likelihood of an Injunction if they attempt to use it, given the success at San Lorenzo Park and Dumphy Park in Sausalito.. But the real issue for those concerned with human rights for those outside is how can the community effectively enjoin police harassment using other laws.

The specific changes voted by City Council, which they're likely to rubberstamp at the 2nd reading next Tuesday, are listed below. They can also be found on the City's website.

Mass resistance, media publicity, neighborhood marches, and direction action--all of this does make a difference.

Upcoming protests include
++a Sunday 1 PM Tabling (and possible Tentraising) Against TOLO Terrorism---go to Soquel and Pacific to join up on 3-7.
++ a Tuesday 4;30 PM Gathering at City Hall at 809 Center as the law is being given it's Rubberstampng 2nd Reading on 3-9
++ a Sunday 3-14 2:30 PM SC Mutual Aid Council of Relentless Mischief 2:30 PM. described as a A Street Theater Drag Festivity--a parade to end at City Hall).

The new law is long and tedious--its text I give in full, taken directly from the City's website in this imbedded PDF for those who want to dissect it in more detail.


REVISED LETTER TO THE MAYOR

Ms. Donna Meyers, Mayor
Santa Cruz City Council
809 Center St.
Santa Cruz, CA

Dear Mayor,

The February 23 evening agenda session, included as its main evening item, a lengthy proposed revision of MC 6.36. According to Councilmember Justin Cummings, neither the General Public nor the City Council itself as a whole received the red-lined version of what several select Council members and community members devised and what was presented at the meeting as the working draft.

This violates the agenda requirements of the Brown Act Govt., Code 54950, particularly important when such a serious matter as a revision of a law that impacts hundreds of people is being considered. The text of these previously prepared changes is a substantial requirement of the Agenda Packet which was not included.

You also refused to provide a full Public Comment period allowing everyone to speak. According to Justin Cummings, you cut off at least 26 speakers. You shortened time for those who were allowed to speak, both for groups and for individuals.

You apparently didn’t even bother to count the number of speakers silenced by your time constraints. You failed to recognize Councilmember Brown with what she later said was a motion to extend the Public Comment period.

You insisted on dragging out the meeting until long after midnight in what seemed to be a determination to reach a predetermined result. All of this suggests bias on your part.

To address the Brown Act violations, I demand that any actions taken on this item be considered null and void, If you insist on pressing forward with this item, It must be placed on a future agenda allowing for an informed discussion with the community.

Both Council and community must be given adequate notice of its content. Given the Sausalito court ruling (below), it makes far more sense to send this measure back to the Public Safety Committee, the Social Services Committee, the Public Works Committee, and the City Attorney for extensive revision.

It might also be helpful to hold public hearings allowing the public, homeless service providers, the unhoused community itself, and the CACH committee in a full public discussion and debate.

The recent Federal Court decision regarding the Sausalito Anchor-Outs struck down a nearly identical restrictive "no day camping" police policy Sausalito/Marin County Chapter of the Homeless Union et. al. v. City of Sausalito et. al. at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jvJG7lh77jnxMQs4VZVwGRE2JK6rk28g/view .

This Injunction, as well as the San Lorenzo Park decision suggests this “hide the homeless” measure will cost the city in legal battles and be found unconstitutional. The local ACLU has already weighed in against it.

However, if the City wishes to proceed with this medically-unwise proposal in the midst of a pandemic, in the face of this decision as well as the San Lorenzo Park case locally, you must still follow the requirements of the Brown Act.

There are further concerns, showing a violation of the spirit as well as the letter of the Brown Act. Your summary of the final wording of the First Reading of the ordinance at the February 23 meeting was not available on line until March 2nd, though it appeared on March 3rd dated “March 1st”.

The meeting was not held in a large accessible venue as has repeatedly been requested. The Civic Auditorium would have been a traditional venue with safe distancing and adequate sound amplification.

Those most impacted by the Ordinance--the Unhoused community was given no access to the proposed ordinance. The unworkable constraints it lays upon those trying to survive outside would be clearly exposed if those who have to suffer its impact were give a real public hearing. It appears to have been largely sprung on the Council for rubberstamping with lots of wordy afflatus but no specifics about such basic issues as specific safe spaces.

Vague references to County cooperation as familiar as Lee Butler’s empty reassurances disturbingly reminiscent of the repeated and false promises raised by well-paid Council fluffers like Susie O’Hara.

The lack of real available shelter or housing is of particular concern to the homeless. The lack of respect for the Shelter-in-Place guidelines of the CDC and County shows disregard for the health of the community.

No specific sleeping places, storage areas, wash station and toilet facilities, and/or trash pick-up locations are included; simply broad authority for the City Manager and his staff to do that in the future at a time and place of his choosing. It seems so patently unworkable, that one wonders if this law is simply some kind of concession to Chief Mills and to those who’d like to believe that poor people outside can be bullied into submission.

Neither the budgets nor the jails have room to hold the number of people who will fall afoul of the demeaning and unreasonable “stay out of sight” demands of this law.

Ironically, this failure to be specific also disfavors housed residents. Many of them, confronted by O’Hara’s past fumbles, have objected angrily and in force to locations chosen by the Council and/or City Manager (i.e. Depot Parking Lot, Delaware St., and San Lorenzo Park Benchlands).

Are you trying to assure buy-in by these groups, by passing what amounts to a restored “jail for sleep” law intentionally avoiding naming actual places, which would have to be specified for the ordinance to mean anything?

In creating an ordinance that has no such particulars, is this simply a greenlight to modern-day Troll busters that there will be a heavy police response? And when that doesn’t happen, vigilante action will intensify (as is already happening with the collusion of the SCPD in the manner vehicular dwellers are treated by Deborah Elston and her crew of ticketeers?

Chief Mills gave no specifics when asked by Councilmember Golder if he had the resources for enforcement, nor statistics about the kinds of laws being currently used, the cost to the City, and the cost to those so victimized.

Is the point then to secure passage of a law first by being intentionally vague about locations? Will this be followed by "sleeping zones" laid down from on high by the City Manager through an opaque and unaccountable administrative process?

While it is within your purview to pass a repressive ordinance, to do so without providing adequate notice to the Community as to the content to be discussed violates Section 54954.2a of the Brown Act. You were required to provide a 72-hour notice; but you provided no notice of the red-lined version.

In any event, I demand you redo the entire agenda item at a subsequent City Council meeting, respecting the requirements of the Brown Act.

Thanks,

Robert Norse
Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom
831-423-4833


THE CURRENT CAMPING BAN (MC 6.36) at https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/SantaCruz/#!/SantaCruz06/SantaCruz0636.html#6.36


PROPOSED CHANGES AS VOTED ON FEBRUARY 23rd are also available under agenda item #26 on the City's website at https://ecm.cityofsantacruz.com/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Meetings/ViewMeeting?id=1640&doctype=1

Note Mayor "Mum's the Word!" Meyers has shortened public comment to 1 minute per person, shuts it off at 9 PM, and allows for no extended group comment. She announces this public muzzling --even though there has been no public discussion on the proposed law as written up last Council session.

You can also read Ordinance Amending Chapter 6.36 of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code Related to Regulations for Temporary Outdoor Living. (or the Temporary Outdoor Dying Ordinance, as some of us call it) here.




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