Lost in Landers’ Library Labyrinth: Show Us the Records!
by Robert Norse ( rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com )
Saturday Dec 29th, 2012 3:14 PM

After the Library Board magnified the penalties on such “abuses” as having “unattended property” in the library on December 4th, I put in a Public Records Act request to determine what quantity of complaints provoked the change that increases a one month suspension of “library privileges” to six months. After a month, I’ve still received no answer. For those with extra time on their hands, here’s the progress of that journey:

NO SLEEPING BAN BUT INCREASED PENALTIES GENERALLY
While a strong voice from the community defeated one small part of the heightened penalties in the County’s public library system (the “Sleeping Ban” provision), everything else requested by Teresa Landers, Head Librarian, passed. And the Sleeping Ban is likely to be brought up again at a subsequent meeting now that its chief opponent Katherine Beiers is off the City Council (which appoints two members to the Library Board). David Terrazas, the other Council appointee, seems gung-ho to socially cleanse the library of the blight of visible homeless people there (or insist they store their property in non-existent lockers, have a good night’s sleep at a non-existent safe sleeping spot, and shower at hard-to-find shower services before entering the privileged portals).

At the bottom of every e-mail Teresa Landers’ sends is a boilerplate quote: “The libraries’ most powerful asset is the conversation they provide–between books and readers, between children and parents, between individuals and the collective world…Turns out that libraries have nothing at all to do with silence.” Bella Bathurst, “The Secret Life of Libraries,” The Guardian (U.K.), May 1, 2011.

But did this same Landers spearhead the campaign to increase penalties and tighten rules around service dogs, bad-smelling people, sleeping, and unattended backpacks in the library? We don’t know since she’s refused to reveal the history of her e-mails on the subject (as required by the Public Records Act).

The latest set of procedures, which she twice argued for at the November and December library board meetings expands broad disciplinary/exclusion powers of library staff. Apparently the focus is to exclude “troublesome” homeless people “using” the library with their backpacks, odors, and sleep-deprived (city-created) disability.

But what is the real magnitude of the problem. I could get no answers from her at the Library Board meeting in early December (“I don’t have my records with me”). When I tried to get access to records subsequently, well–read on…

Bruce Halloway, a member of the public in the audience at the December meeting, several times addressed the Board. On one occasion he remarked that Landers had refused to provide him with access to the previous meeting’s minutes, instead brushing him off and telling him to write out a Public Records Act request and wait 10 days.

I expressed concern that Landers had not provided an Agenda packet to the audience, so we could tell what the Board was talking about. Nor had the Agenda provide any clarity about which items were open for public comment and which were not—something apparently the Chair decided arbitrarily. See “Update: Small Victory, Larger Defeat” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/11/30/18726836.php?show_comments=1#18727113

SEEKING WISDOM IN OLD RECORDS
To delve deeper into the reasons for the new anti-homeless policy, I sent the following Public Records Act Request on December 4th:

To whom It May Concern:

Please provide access to all  copies of complaints against patrons at all branches of the Public Library system from Jan 1, 2012 through the present as well as any records, e-mails, statements, written, audio, or visual regarding library policies impacting library rules that might result in a warning or suspension of library access.   This would include communications to and from the public, public officials, police, security agencies, and  any other group or person around this issue.

Please also provide access to copies of all agendas and minutes of the Board’s meetings through 2012.

I prefer e-mail access to these records.  In the event this is not possible, I would like to see the records prior to deciding which ones I need to copy.

Please advise  me whether a hard copy of the minutes of the prior meeting and agenda packet was available at each of these  meetings.

Further, please  advise me as to whether action items were listed as such on the agendas.

Finally, please advise me as to whether a public comment was provided for each agenda item (as it was not at the December 3rd meeting, except for the one “staff report” item on the rule changes).

I would suggest you publicly announce all these conditions will be corrected at the next meeting or face a Brown Act complaint.

If you have any questions regarding  this request, feel free to call me.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.
Robert Norse (831-423-4833)

Not having heard from her, on December 12th, I sent this follow-up:

Please acknowledge receipt of the Public Records Act request and advise me of its status. Thanks, R. Norse

RESPONDING TO A NON-RESPONSE
Still not having heard from her, four days beyond the legal deadline she is required to respond by, on December 18th, I sent the following:

Teresa:

You have not responded to my query of December 4th.  That feels rude and unhelpful.  It also throws into question your suggestion to a member of the public prior to the last Library Board meeting that making a Public Records Act request in writing is the proper public mode to secure records you are unwilling to provide informally.  You may recall you refused to provide a copy of the minutes from a previous meeting because of “staff problems” and required him to make a written Public Records Act request.

More important, however, you have also not responded to the Public Records Act request in that e-mail (repeated below for your convenience).  This contravenes state law, requiring a response within 10 days or some explanation of the delay.  For your convenience I have emphasized in bold the specifics requested in the Public Records Act communication of December 4th.

You have also not advised me of the status of the request as requested in the e-mail below of December 12th.  Please do so ASAP.

You also declined to make available the agenda packet of the Board at the last Library Board meeting, nor to assure us that this will be done for all future meetings as a matter of public right under the Brown Act.   Please reassure us on this straightaway.

Moreover the make-up of the agenda seemed to make it unclear which items were actually agenda-ized (and so required the Board to hear public comment) and which weren’t.  Again, I request you clarify that for future meetings this be made obvious to the public, so that the chair is not put in the position of differentially allowing comment on some items, and not on others.

If you decline to provide an answer to the other simple questions put forth in the December 4th e-mail, you require me to  seek further public records which I feel unnecessarily burdens you and your staff, so please avoid this by being direct and concise.

If you are not the appropriate person to address these concerns, please so advise me.  I am also cc-ing the chair of the meeting.  I believe that between the two of you, you share responsibility here.

Thanks, Robert Norse

I included a copy of the original Public Records Act request of December 4th with the first three paragraphs reprinted in bold for emphasis.

TERESA RESPONDS
To this, Teresa responded (on December 18th). She wrote “I provided the information requested that I have available to the City Clerk’s office which processes Public Records Act requests for the Library. That office will be responding to your request if they have not already done so.”

Note she did not answer any of the questions directly whatsoever, information she surely had about providing agendas to the public, etc.

I replied on the same day: Thanks, Teresa. Please send me a copy of your forwarding request–which would include the date forwarded. It’s not clear to me why you didn’t respond directly to me, since you clearly have the information and I’m the one who wants it. Could you clarify?

She declined to send me a copy of her forwarded e-mail to the City Clerk’s office but did right (again on the same day): “The City Clerk’s office has a way to track requests so they handle them for us. Also, some of the information you requested is not in the Library’s possession so the City Clerk;s office handles gathering the information.”

This, of course, ignored any information she might have and sloughed off any personal responsibility which she likely has for creating agendas, making them available, providing her own e-mails on the subject to the Board, etc.

ANGER FROM THE STREETS & THE SLAPDOWN THAT FOLLOWED
Ricardo Lopez, a street musician who can often be found in front of downtown New Leaf on Pacific Avenue, wrote Landers an angry letter about the situation which included some harsh criticism such as

“Come on T.L.. whatta ya thinking? …You’re above the law, because the law is for the people who have so much less wealth than you, right?…you’re… apparently nursing some kind of psychological misanthropy … Quit. Let someone else make the city run right….Just buckle down at Macdonald’s or Taco Bell, or where ever your new job is, and work hard to make Santa Cruz a better place in your own little way, which is much better than your doing now. Right? You can’t or won’t or don’t want to do your job. So it will be easier if you’ll just get out of the way, and let a decent, moral, psychologically stable, and more importantly competent person administer…”

Within a week, Lopez notes, he was accosted in the library by a burly First Alarm security guard under the new “unattended property” (he’d left his backpack at another table while using the library computer, he says). Lopez reports that though he was able to retrieve his backpack, which the guard threatened to “throw outside”, he is now apprehensive about returning to the library.

PERSISTING IN THE PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST BUT STILL NO CIGAR…
In response to Landers e-mail, I replied: Thanks again, Teresa. I  don’t see a copy of the e-mail forwarded to the City Clerk. Could you please  forward  that to me, please, as requested since this Public Records Act is now overdue. Also  while I  appreciate your forwarding requests about information you do not have to the City Clerk, it would save time (and frustration) for you to forward information you do have to members of the public directly.  Will you be doing this or will you continue to reroute requests through the City Clerk? Thanks, R

The next day city administrator/clerk Bren Lehr cc-ed me that he was directing Nydia Patino to provide some long-awaited answers. I thanked him.

On the same day one of Lehr’s workers sent me an e-mail advising me that Board packets from 1997-2005 were available for review and that more recent ones were on-line at http://www.santacruzpl.org/aboutscpl/govern/ljpb/. She also included the Manual for “Problem Situations” dated 2007 (without the latest harsher measures passed by the Board three weeks before) and some e-mails between Landers and different groups. However there was no specific record of the supposed complaints that prompted the tightened policies.

There were some interesting exchange between Councilmember and Library Board member Terrazas & Landers suggesting that a “Triple Fine Zone” be established at the library, similar to the one to rein in drunken revelers (and collect a bit of cash for the City bureaucrats) on Halloween, the 4th of July, and New Year’s. I’ve yet to parse those but hope to do so soon with an additional report.

STILL LOOKING FOR THE RECORDS–AND ANOTHER DELAY UNTIL AFTER THE HOLIDAYS
So I replied the next day:

Pursuant to California Gov’t Code 6253(a) I ask you to collect the Library’s completed “incident reports” for year 2012 for all branches, so that I may arrange to inspect them at the Santa Cruz Main Library, and choose to have some or all of them copied for me.

Note that although these incidents reports are declared to be confidential and to not be public records, your agency cannot declare records to be exempt from the California Public Records Act (CPRA) by fiat. They are not investigatory records of a security agency. They are not personnel records. I do not believe they are exempted by any California state law from being made available for my inspection. The privacy of third party individuals may be protected by redacting those portions of these records prior to my inspection.

If these records are available electronically, such as in PDF or DOC formats, then I ask that they be made available to me electronically, preferably by email.

Thank you for ensuring the operations of the Santa Cruz library are open and transparent to the public by fulfilling this request without obstruction or unnecessary delay.

And a day later, Landers replied: “The incident reports you have requested are not maintained by the Library. Once we have reviewed them they are filed with the risk management division of the City. That office is closed until January 7, as is the City Clerk’s office.  The City Clerk’s office will arrange for you to review those documents after January 7. They are not available in electronic form.”

That Landers made no mention or itemization of complaints received over the last year in pressing for a new policy or in formulating one in internal memos, seems to me unlikely. It was also her responsibility to have responded to this request by December 14th—which included forwarding it to the Risk Manager. The point being that unless one continues to apply persistent pressure, answers don’t come.

Those who wish to weigh in on this issue can find e-mails for the Library Board (minus Beiers) at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/11/30/18726836.php .


Comments  (Hide Comments)

by John E. Colby

Saturday Dec 29th, 2012 4:46 PM

It’s a sad day when even the libraries in our city lack openness and transparency. It’s a library FGS. If a library acts like a secret government agency it shows the entire city government has devolved into being completely anti-democratic.

Santa Cruz is a plutocracy, where most of the citizenry are sitting on the outside. Government functionaries feel no responsibility to the citizens. They believe their agencies exist to serve themselves, not the citizenry. They don’t see themselves as being employed by and responsible to the public but acting for themselves at their own whims.

We must take back our government (because they have stolen it away from us).

by Sylvia

Sunday Dec 30th, 2012 8:39 AM

I too am disturbed by seeing blue uniforms patrolling within and without the downtown library, and I appreciate the persistence in trying to get information and ensure transparency. I think Occupy Santa Cruz could make this a project, be available for comfort and a resource to those who don’t fit into the library patron image, have an ongoing presence during all open hours. There’s an opportunity to draw attention to a local problem – no place to shelter or sleep – in a positive way that might shame electeds into acting and reinvigorate Occupy.

by Bruce Holloway

Monday Dec 31st, 2012 8:42 AM

Robert, thanks for the chance to discuss some of this on your show yesterday, approximately between 4:00:00 and 4:30:00 here:

http://radiolibre.org/brb/brb121230.mp3

We never quite got around to the apparent violation of Brown Act subdivision 54957.5(c) in the form of a map which was not provided to the public at that meeting.

I’m going to miss Katherine Beiers. She has more brains and guts than almost anyone twice her size. Maybe she’ll apply to be the next citizen member of the library board.

I’m thinkin someone named Bren is a gal.

I wrote “Bruce Halloway, a member of the public in the audience at the December meeting, several times addressed the Board. On one occasion he remarked that Landers had refused to provide him with access to the previous meeting’s minutes, instead brushing him off and telling him to write out a Public Records Act request and wait 10 days.”

But I learned from Bruce in a later conversation (mentioned above by Bruce) on my radio show that he had actually been searching for earlier minutes–the minutes to recent meetings are on line. Apologies to Teresa and Bruce for this misunderstanding.

Also I was informed last week that a copy of all the complaints made by and to library staff last year in all branches of the library is now available for viewing at the City Council offices at City Hall at 809 Center St. Just tell them you’re looking for the Library Complaints Public Records Act information which Robert Norse requested.

As I understand it, these complaints will only be viewable for another few weeks before they’re returned to the storage archives and will then require another 10 days or more to secure. If anyone takes the time to go through them, please note your thoughts. I’ve only checked over a fraction of them so far.

Right-wing Fresno Moves Ahead of “Liberal” Santa Cruz: Editorial in the Fresno Bee

28 Dec 2012

NOTE FROM NORSE:   Santa Cruz authorities–instead of focusing on the winter emergency for homeless people, the rising death rate, the shelter scarcity, and the increasing vigilante and police abuse of homeless people–are giving credence to “feces, needles, violence, and crime” mythology.  These issues are used by groups like Take Back Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Neighbors, and the Downtown Association to forward their political schemes of criminalizing poor people and driving the visible homeless out of town.
Clearly what we need is a successful lawsuit like the one Fresno activists successfully pressed back in 2007.  Getting attorneys to take such a lawsuit depends on having lots of video and first-hand testimony about authorities destroying homeless gear.   I’m making a public records act request to determine how much property was picked up and actually stored last year.  If you have information, complaints, or want to help, please contact HUFF at 423-4833.



EDITORIAL: Judge allows homeless suit back into federal court

Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 | 10:15 PM
We are ending a joyful holiday season of mercy, charity and compassion this week with Fresno being held accountable for its treatment of the poorest among us: the homeless.
U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill ruled Wednesday that the fundamental issues of a lawsuit filed by people who alleged the city violated their rights will go forward. The city had asked that the case be dismissed.
The judge found that there is reason to bring this case to trial. His decision raises several questions:
Did the city violate a 2008 federal-court settlement over previous cleanup sweeps?
Did the city put the health and safety of the homeless in danger when it destroyed some shelters last winter? Does the timing during harsh weather reveal ulterior motives?
Answers to those and many other points will be considered in court while the evidence is heard.
There is a big problem in this city. Officials paid out $2.3 million in taxpayer funds to address previous violations. If the new rules were not followed, we could pay again.
Progress has been made since 2008. The city’s progressive philosophy of providing housing for the homeless and stabilizing their lives is commendable, but it cannot be the city’s only course of action. The officials also must attempt to solve the difficult problem of where the homeless live before they find housing.
Homelessness is a daunting challenge for major cities across America and Fresno is no exception. Just look anywhere in town — north, south, east or west — and it is clear that despite many worthwhile public and private efforts we see people living on the streets.
Constant vigilance is required. Encampments spring up with 10 people and within weeks, there can be colonies of shanties with dozens of residents. Nevertheless, the city must make every attempt not to put people in harm’s way while clearing homeless camps. In winter, inclement weather affects the health and safety of those without roofs over their heads.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin needs to ensure that all staff members at city hall are aligned in making the health and safety of the homeless a priority.
This is not only a question of mercy, charity and compassion but of law.

NOTES FROM FRESNO ACTIVISTS:

Kelly Borkert

I read it as a CYA attempt to distance themselves from the C of F policies they have reported upon so uncritically in the role of stengrapher. Literally.
I wish I could raise my expectations. I’ve seen their editorial and opinion pieces over the last 6 or 8 years. They are in danger of being blamed for whatever the City has led us into.  A little plagiarism and they look so much better, today. Just remember the differences between a mountain king and a coral snake. I wish them the best in their recovery.  and all of you a great new year!
kelly
Nancy Waidtlow

The emphasis on putting the homeless in harm’s way seems new. Different from just destroying their belongings. Sounds like a big step.

 Mike Rhodes
You know I’m a critic of The Fresno Bee’s coverage of homeless issues and most of their editorials.  That is why I was so pleased to read their editorial about the lawsuit in this morning’s paper.  In one form or another, this is what I have been saying for the last several years.  The text of the editorial is below.  Also, the link to the online version is here:

Mike Rhodes  Editor  Community Alliance Newspaper

Santa Cruz’s Hostility-pitality Squads Seem to Be Part of a Nation-wide Anti-Homeless Effort

28 Dec 2012

NOTES FROM NORSE:  Berkeley is plagued with its “Ambassador” program–critiqued below by long time activist and singer Carol Denney.  Santa Cruz has its “Hosts”, “Hospitality”, or “Hostility-pitaility” Program.  Described as “the eyes and ears of the police”, the hosts, most particularly one named Denise Miller, has been accused repeatedly of aggressively hostile behavior towards homeless people, street performers, and other low-income folks trying to socialize on Pacific Avenue here.
Our own Downtown Association [DTA] seems to be similarly implicated in funding this para-police program–sort of a friendly fascism–which attempts to “gently” enforce “quality of life” amendments to the Constitution created by the DTA, the Santa Cruz Neighbors, Take Back Santa Cruz, and other nasty anti-homeless groups.
Recently D. Miller has been accused of repeated harassment of street performer and jewelry (and local Cabrillo student) Brianna Brewer.  Brewer recently won a case in court that overturned Miller & SCPD Sergeant Bush’s unlawful criminalization of emotional support animals on Pacific with police retaliating immeidately against Brewer with a higher level of harassment, ticketing, and charging (misdemeanor “disturbing the peace” for denouncing Miller’s continued harassment).
We need the kind of analysis locally that Denney has done for Berkeley.  We also need a Hostwatch, someone to follow and document the behavior of these yellow-and-black costumed folks and particularly zealous warriors like Miller seems to be.  Please contact HUFF at 831-423-4833 if you’d like to involve yourself in this project.

Ambassadors for Whom? Occupy Your Merchant Association, 12-11-12 (News Analysis)

By Carol Denney
December 18, 2012
A group of local activists (and occasional bystanders) joined in song to sing anti-Downtown Berkeley Association Christmas carols in the BART Plaza in an effort to bring awareness to the privatization of public space on Sunday, December 16th, 2012.

Ted Friedman
A group of local activists (and occasional bystanders) joined in song to sing anti-Downtown Berkeley Association Christmas carols in the BART Plaza in an effort to bring awareness to the privatization of public space on Sunday, December 16th, 2012.

Most people think they’re ridiculous, but harmless. They walk around downtown Berkeley in bright lime green shirts identifying themselves as “ambassadors”, a new version of an older program which hit the wall years ago as a kind of homeless patrol doling out “services” to some and calling the police on others. The merchant association claims the “ambassadors” work on making the downtown more welcoming.

Their green shirts in Berkeley have the logo of the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA), which, along with the Business Improvement District (BID), contracts with Kentucky-based Block by Block to execute the program. Block by Block’s slogan is “Safety, cleaning, hospitality and outreach solutions for downtown improvement districts.” Block by Block currently runs 46 programs in cities from Akron, Ohio, to Yakima, Washington.

What do the “ambassadors” do? They sweep and pick up trash. They clean up graffiti, the definition of which apparently includes anything not officially written by the city or the Downtown Berkeley Association itself, which has the keys to a glass-covered information kiosk by the BART Station for their members’ use alone. If you put up a poster about your missing dog, they’ll tear it down within seconds claiming it’s illegal. They steam wash sidewalks so repeatedly that anyone carrying everything they own is likely to have their few belongings soaked and ruined. But that’s not all they do.

Block by Block “ambassadors” are not unionized. They’re paid considerably less than city maintenance crews and have fewer if any benefits, so one could argue that they save the city money, albeit at the expense of city workers. But their assignment is wider than picking up the occasional fast food wrapper:



“The largest drivers of negative perceptions are frequent low level quality of life crimes. Our ambassadors are a significant part of a proactive safety and security strategy to challenge unwanted activities.”[1]

Years ago, when Berkeley’s Downtown Berkeley Association changed its name from the Downtown Business Association, it lamented that most merchants were unwilling to call the police and sign formal complaints against “problematic street behavior,” behavior which was not specifically criminal but which they felt might discourage shoppers. They even created signs for merchants with a circle with a line through it over an out-stretched hand in an effort to encourage both merchants and customers to call the police on a special phone number if they saw examples of “problematic street behavior” assumed to depress business.

The outrage over the public funding of this effort to target the homeless, who are obligated to exist in public and more often the victims of than the perpetrators of crime, eventually gave birth to Berkeley’s Business Improvement District (BID), a private entity which levies an assessment from the property owners within its geographical confines as well as an assessment from the city itself (and thus the public) from public spaces such as plazas. In this way, what was once a public common space becomes a revenue source for the privately run and utterly undemocratic entity, the BID, which then patrols public space and regulates public behavior.

Business improvement districts began in the 1960’s and are now a worldwide phenomenon. Enabling legislation at the state level sets the stage for the local business improvement districts, according to Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, one of the few groups which has made a specific study of BIDs. Only 51% of the property owners within the district’s confines are required to create a BID, and in some places the threshold is as low as 31%.
Block by Block’s particular genius was in crafting a program model that could then be plugged into any town’s BID.

“They have a plan, and the plan is to gentrify downtown and make it like a shopping mall,” states Boden. “They’re self-perpetuating in that they found a funding stream that is pretty fucking limitless.”

Berkeley’s DBA tried twenty years ago to criminalize panhandling with a law that was first overturned by an outraged public’s referendum, then put on the ballot by a council majority, then passed in the next election by a bare majority of voters, and finally tossed out by the courts as unconstitutional. They probably counted on that same bare majority of voters to pass an anti-sitting law, underestimating both Berkeley voters’ common sense and a small but dedicated group of civil rights defenders.

The “ambassador” program has had previous incarnations. At one time it was a locally based program that, according to at least one former DBA board member, did occasionally connect homeless people with appropriate services. The decision to outsource it to Block by Block was not, according to the former member, a DBA board decision. The current DBA board tends to be populated more by large property owners than local business owners, and decisions once the province of the board tend today to be made by a smaller, less representative group, according to former staff.

The current “ambassadors” in the Block by Block model treat the poor on public streets as a nuisance. One “ambassador” was recently seen sweeping repeatedly around the feet of a woman wrapped in a blanket on a bench who had all her belongings with her. He swept immediately to her right, then right under her under the bench itself, then immediately to her left, then under her under the bench again, continuously sweeping inches from her body. It’s safe to suggest that no well-dressed bench sitter would be similarly treated.

Some of the Block by Block staff was formerly on the street themselves, which the DBA suggests helps establish rapport with poor and homeless people. But the mission, according to former DBA staff, has moved away from connecting people in need with services and toward “moving homeless people out of town,” a mission at considerable odds with developing rapport. Boden says this is not unusual. The mission of a BID, he says, is to create the same atmosphere as a shopping mall.

“Take that environment and take that kind of control and plop it down in your downtown. That’s what a BID is for,” says Boden. There are seven or eight BIDs in San Francisco. There are 37 in Manhattan.

If you’re a downtown merchant obligated geographically to pay a fee to the Business Improvement District and you oppose the discriminatory policies aimed at the poor, you can object aloud, of course. You have to be brave enough to weather the potential backlash from the merchant association and participating businesses, some of which might be enthusiastic about relocating the homeless. Business is tough, after all, and the homeless are easier to target than something as nebulous as the economy. The popular narrative that groups of transient youth, panhandlers, and homeless people ruin business is not supported by fact, nationally or locally, but it is the primary narrative you’ll hear from both the DBA and, with the exception of Kriss Worthington, Max Anderson, and Jesse Arreguin, the Berkeley City Council.

“Ambassadors” are not shy about relocating unwanted groups. It’s their job to engage with people whose “unwanted activities” are not necessarily prohibited by law, but are presumed to depress the vitality of a commercial district, according to Block by Block’s guidelines. It may well be difficult to spend several hundred dollars on an evening of dinner and theater without feeling guilty when you have to pass people living as best they can on the street. But the most guilt-ridden downtown shopper should be revolted by the idea that public streets are being cleared for their personal comfort. Clearing the streets of people in need deprives them of their right to exist in public space, and also deprives the larger community, both wealthy shoppers and the rest of us, of the opportunity to see and respond to human need, to realize its scope and take action.

The DBA describes transient youth, panhandlers, and homeless people alike as addicted to drugs and threats to public safety, as the failed anti-sitting law (Measure S) campaign literature made clear. The Measure S language criminalized all sitting by everyone between certain hours, even a kid on a curb with an ice cream cone. Questions about the absurdity of this were met with the assurance that the law would not be used against “those” people, raising additional issues of discrimination. But the point remains that demonizing poor and homeless people helps smooth the way for discriminatory laws, discriminatory practices, and a population deaf to honest human need.

Dr. Davida Coady, director of Options Recovery in Berkeley, defended Measure S’s extreme language without embarrassment on KQED’s Forum show before the fall election, rejecting the idea that anyone sitting on Berkeley’s streets might be just resting for a minute and enjoying the weather.

The city council, even if motivated to do so, would have little control over a BID, which is a private and privately funded entity. But Berkeley’s ambassador program does get some public funding. The BID goes before the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission in January hoping for $195,000 from the general fund. If Block by Block’s strategic plan is working, there will be a rash of complimentary articles published just before the funding meetings which make the “ambassadors” look like compassionate saints and the Block by Block program seem essential to commercial districts’ success. Most newspapers, strapped for local copy, will print the press releases without question.

A May 2011 City of Berkeley report on the “Public Commons for Everyone Initiative” describes the “ambassadors” as having made “a marginal change, if any, in the overall quality of life in the Telegraph and Downtown areas.” This may mean a further reduction in funding for the controversial program, or it could mean an even more determined effort to criminalize some other aspect of homelessness now that Berkeley voters rejected the anti-sitting law.

Those who oppose local efforts to make public spaces the sole territory of well-heeled shoppers need to recognize that as revolting and undemocratic as the local politics of greed-based legislation can be, the local campaigns against the poor are just examples of a national program systematizing those efforts coast to coast. Block by Block may tailor Akron’s program slightly differently than Yakima’s, but the same model is being used nationwide to make sure property owners, often the largest donors to local political campaigns, govern downtown priorities. Berkeley’s Measure S, the most expensive campaign in Berkeley’s history, was funded almost entirely by large property holding companies which play an influential role on the DBA board and whose representatives were, according to a former staff member, inspired by San Francisco’s voters’ passage of Measure L, the San Francisco anti-sitting law.

Measure S may have been defeated in Berkeley, but the political pressures that created it are alive and well. Should business interests play the largest role in creating legislation? What can a community do after watching over $120,000 in Berkeley wasted trying to convince people that simply sitting down should be a crime, noting that around 40% of Berkeley’s voters supported doing just that?

Awakening the public and the media to Block by Block’s and BIDs’ tactics are part of what a concerned community needs to do to combat the juggernaut of systematic efforts to attack the human rights of the poor. The other component is leadership that simply refuses to scapegoat the poor, the real victims in both good times and bad. There is a very tangible human cost to allowing greed to play the largest role in our community and our legislative priorities.

Santa Cruz 11 Benefit

Published on December 27, 2012 in News

Show community support for the Santa Cruz Eleven at a benefit on Sunday, January 6, 2013, at India Joze in downtown Santa Cruz starting at 3:30 p.m.

Enjoy a delicious plate of India Joze food, listen to local musicians and support The Santa Cruz Eleven, seven of whom still face charges arising from their alleged involvement with the occupation of a long-time vacant bank building late last fall, 2011. $10 – $15 suggested donation, No one turned away.

The defendants would also love to see you at their preliminary hearing, scheduled Monday, January 7th, 9:00 a.m. in Department 6 of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse.

 

Defendants are still charged with (1) felony conspiracy to commit vandalism and/or trespass, (2) felony vandalism, (3) misdemeanor trespass by entering and occupying, and (4) misdemeanor trespass by refusing to leave private property.

As economic disparity increases, Santa Cruz County continues spending money to prosecute people who bring these issues to the foreground. Check out the SantaCruzEleven.org website for more information.

India Joze is located at 418 Front Street across from the Metro Center.

Spread the word!

Where Fresno leads, will Santa Cruz follow?

Where Fresno leads, will Santa Cruz follow?
27 Dec 2012

Santa Cruz authorities now claim that they are “storing” seized homeless property.  However, many accounts from homeless people whose property has been seized in the “surge” of anti-homeless “camping” (i.e. survival sleeping) tickets over the last year.  Activists peacefully protesting these activities or trying to find alternatives have themselves been the subject of criminal prosecutions under PC 647e (“lodging”).  Others, like myself, face actual felony charges for reporting on or supporting the 3-day occupation of a vacant Wells Fargo bank building last year.  Local Santa Cruz attorneys and activists need to be aware of this successful Fresno lawsuit–and the earlier one in 2007.  Hard to believe that Fresno is more liberal than Santa Cruz.


From: Mike Rhodes
Subject: [FresnoHomelessAdvocates] Lawsuit by Fresno homeless survives challenge

John Ellis wrote an article about the homeless and the lawsuits that have been filed against the City of Fresno.  The article is on the front page and above the fold.  See below.  If you want to read comments to the article, go to: http://www.fresnobee.com/2012/12/26/3114092/fresno-homeless-suit-survives.html
If anyone has been wondering why I have not been around lately, it is because I’m spending most of my time these days working on this case.

Mike Rhodes
Editor
Community Alliance Newspaper
PO Box 5077
Fresno Ca 93755
(559) 978-4502 (cell)
(559) 226-3962 (fax)
editor@fresnoalliance.com
www.fresnoalliance.com


Lawsuit by Fresno homeless survives challenge

By John Ellis – The Fresno Bee

Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 | 11:19 PM

A lawsuit filed by several homeless Fresno residents claiming the city violated terms of a 2008 federal-court settlement over cleanup sweeps has withstood a significant legal challenge.
In a 53-page ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill struck down some of the lawsuit. He also dismissed other parts but gave the plaintiffs the right to refile those claims.
The heart of the lawsuit, however, survives.
The city had asked O’Neill to throw out the entire lawsuit.
Instead, the judge allowed some arguments to continue — including whether the city put homeless in danger when it destroyed some shelters just as the winter of 2011-12 was beginning.
“I think it was a very thoughtful decision,” said Paul Alexander, the Palo Alto-based attorney who is leading the effort on behalf of the homeless. “We view all of the claims that have been upheld as very important. Judge O’Neill’s decision has also added clarity to the case, which is also important and which we appreciate.”
Francine Kanne, Fresno’s interim city attorney, said Wednesday that she hasn’t had a chance to analyze the ruling. But she noted that the court did “pare down a portion of the complaint and simplified some of the claims.”
She said the city should have a better idea where it stands after seeing if the plaintiffs address issues O’Neill threw out, but where he allowed amended claims to be filed.
O’Neill didn’t rule on the merits of the claims — only which claims can proceed.
The legal arguments moving forward could be similar to those of a 2006 lawsuit filed against the city by several homeless residents. In that lawsuit, the two sides reached a $2.3 million settlement over allegations that the city’s cleanup sweeps violated homeless residents’ Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable searches and seizures, and their 14th Amendment rights to due process.
That initial suit arose after the city immediately destroyed possessions of homeless who weren’t present during the sweeps.
In this latest ruling — in which the city sought a dismissal — O’Neill acknowledges the ties to the earlier suit, saying this new lawsuit “cannot be understood in a vacuum, as the city of Fresno and its homeless population have a history of conflict and litigation.”
As part of that earlier settlement, the city agreed that for five years, it would adhere to an order that laid out in detail how and when the city could clean up homeless encampments. Part of the order said the city could not destroy “materials of apparent value which appear to be the property of any individual.”
The latest lawsuit alleges that homeless residents suffered financial, physical and emotional damage from the destruction of their tents and personal items, and that the city didn’t properly store property of the homeless.
It also says city officials didn’t properly notify the homeless for some cleanups.
In its motion for summary judgment, the city sought to kill the lawsuit, or to at least chip away at its foundation. Besides the city, Mayor Ashley Swearengin, City Manager Mark Scott, police Chief Jerry Dyer and others are named.
But Alexander said the important parts are still in play. Those include not only claims that the city seized and unlawfully destroyed homeless residents’ property, but also a due process claim that the city’s actions threatened “the safety and ability to survive of the homeless people whose shelters were destroyed just as the winter of 2011-12 began.”
In permitting that due process claim to stand, O’Neill’s ruling cites “danger creation” liability.
The ruling cites a case in which a state trooper determined that the driver of an automobile was intoxicated. The trooper arrested the driver and impounded the car. A woman passenger was left stranded at the scene late at night in a known high-crime area. She accepted a ride from a passing car and was raped.
Since that case, the ruling notes, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has held state officials liable “in a variety of circumstances for their roles in creating or exposing individuals to danger they otherwise would not have faced.”
The case O’Neill ruled on is one of 33 similar cases filed by 38 homeless people in Fresno’s federal court. The cases have been consolidated as they make their way through the court system.
What is still unknown is whether any of the homeless plaintiffs have any evidence to back up their legal claims. Fresno sought to have the case dismissed on legal grounds before any evidence has been presented.

HUFF braves the rain and the post-Xmas slump at Sub Rosa 703 Pacific 10 AM 12-26

Tue, 25 Dec 2012

Meeting as usual:  Up for discussion and prep–the SC-11 Benefit on 1-6 and the Preliminary Hearing on 1-7 with 7 attorneys (or perhaps 6, if Angel’s Jesse Rubin drops out)…Library Crackdown and Response…Creating a Short Real guide of Resources That Actually Exist…DIY Parade…and more!   Coffee, munchies, and palaver.  Come on down!

What is 75 River Street worth to Wells Fargo?

by Becky Johnson
December 23, 2012
FOUND ONLINE HERE

Santa Cruz, Ca. –  On November 30th 2011, 100 to 200 people entered an empty bank building leased to Wells Fargo and turned it into a community center.  After 3 days, they cleaned up the building and silently departed, having made their point: Empty Building ARE the crime!  Especially in a City where over 1000 homeless people shiver in the cold each night, and hundreds of people would welcome having a space such as 75 River Street in which to open a business, a non-profit, or some City service which serves the public. Instead, we get nothing. No jobs. No services. Very little in the way of taxes. A deadspot right downtown, so central to Santa Cruz it shares a boundary with the main Santa Cruz Post Office building.

A forlorn-looking “For Lease” sign has been hanging on the north-west corner for years now. Records show that last time the building had an occupant was in 2008 when Wells Fargo “merged” with the locally-owned Coast Commercial Bank. As of this date, its been empty for four years and counting.

Here is why we shouldn’t expect this building to have a tenant anytime soon, especially not at the $28,790/mo. asking rent. You see, the ACTUAL rent Wells Fargo is paying to property owner, Barry Swenson Properties, is $37, 714.90/month. Rentals of commercial properties in downtown Santa Cruz are extremely costly, but even so, no one has rented this space at only 76% of its actual cost.

To understand why Wells Fargo continues this practice, one must understand how banks work. This isn’t the easiest of tasks as bank practices are shrouded in mystery, with all disputes settled in mediation and not subject to criminal prosecution or public record. However, back in the early ’90′s, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago published a helpful pamphlet called “Modern Money Mechanics.” While currently out of print, some enterprising person photo-copied it and helpfully posted it online here.

Here is undoubtedly what Wells Fargo is doing with the property at 75 River Street.

Taking the higher amount (the ACTUAL rental cost) of $37, 714.90/mo. we multiply this by 12 so we can determine the yearly value/cost of the lease = $452,578.80/yr

This value is added to Wells Fargo‘s portfolio as an asset with a dollar value, whether it is rented out or not. According to the rules of the Federal Reserve fractional banking system, WF must keep 1/10th on hand and can lend out 9/10ths of the value to its customers in the form of home, car, and business loans. Therefore, the $452,578.80 becomes the 1/10th and WF legally places 9/10ths of that amount into its general accounts, manufacturing that amount completely out of thin air.

Wells Fargo now has $4,073,209.20 to lend out to you and to me. EVERY YEAR!

Cumulative expansion in deposits on initial deposit of $10,000 over several stages resulting in over $95,000 after 20 stages under Federal Reserve fractional banking system. –From Modern Money Mechanics

They get to keep all of the interest made too.

Out of  this inflated amount they pay Barry Swenson Properties $452,578.80 a year rent. He pays the property taxes of $40,000/yr. netting a profit of $412,578.80 per year on the vacant building.

Wells Fargo is now $3,620,630.20 to the good for just one year. This exceeds the asking rental amount of $345,480.00/yr rental income they would get if they actually rented it out to a tenant. Since the property is NOT rented, WF is probably deducting either the lower amount or the higher amount of $452,578.80/yr as a LOSS to offset profits elsewhere in their portfolio.

Now if Wells Fargo has any kind of relationship with any other bank, let’s just say Bank of America, since they have a legal relationship with any bank registered with the Central Banking system of the United States, including BofA. They can “lend” the lease to B of A as a “Stage 2″ deposit (minus the 10% WF keeps in its reserves).  So  B of A then takes the $4,073, 209.20 WF has available to loan.

Since they too are a bank, they can keep 10% as reserves so that THEY can now lend out $36,658,881 keeping the $4,073,209.20 “in reserve”. B of A can now “lend” this amount to another Central Bank, say Chase as a “Stage 3″ deposit and they can inflate the amount by nine-fold as well. And this is how money is created.

Why do bankers get to manufacture all this money out of thin air? Because of the Federal Reserve System which was established in 1913.  Why do we allow bankers to profit so immensely while leaving “dead spots” in our community? I guess because no one can believe what the enormity of their crimes.

Currently I am facing 4 charges leveled by Wells Fargo against 11 local activists, Occupy Santa Cruz members, and alternative media journalists. I am accused of felony conspiracy to trespass and felony conspiracy to vandalize the empty building at 75 River Street, as well as 2 misdemeanor counts of trespass and vandalism.  You see, as a homeless activist, I believe these buildings should be used for housing, businesses, non-profits, or community services. With homeless people dying on our streets, Empty Building ARE the Crime! While I am innocent of these charges, I considered the 3-day occupation of the building to be a righteous act drawing attention to an injustice occurring right in our community.

In addition, Wells Fargo has cooked up enormously overblown charges of $26,000 in “damages” for which they have submitted billing sheets. Of the 9 contractors WF used, not a single one was from Santa Cruz County, including rekeying the entire building using a locksmith in Foster City and getting broken furniture removed and taken to the dump by a contractor in San Leandro, California. In fact, these invoices for “damages” mirror the trumped-up documents Wells Fargo uses as assets to charge you and me REAL money.

But until the fractional banking reserve system is reformed, we will see no changes. Empty buildings surround every bank we see. And indeed, in Santa Cruz, they are everywhere.

Venice Jury’s Message: “Clean Up Your Act or the Homeless Community Will Do It For You” Resist the Bigotry and the Bigots Scatter !

Sun, 23 Dec 2012

PEOPLE vs BUSCH: Home-Made Porta-Potty On Third Ave Not A Crime

Posted: December 20, 2012

———————
Twelve jurors, on Wednesday, Dec 19, after about 1 hour of deliberation –found David Busch’s home-made Porta-Potty for the homeless, which was torn down and destroyed by the LAPD last April –had been a lawful benefit to the Venice community.
PORTA-POTTY-2

Early this year, after pushing hundreds of homeless people and youth travelers off of Venice Beach’s Boardwalk from midnight until 5 am in the morning –and with no toilets available until nearly 8 am, Busch had been arrested by LAPD and charged with “creating and maintaining a public nuisance” (P.C. 372); for erecting a homemade Porta-Potty on Third Ave, near Rose; where up to 120 people, with no toilets, had begun attempting to find a safe shelter.


Starting with a tent for privacy, and after the City’s, own, unlawful, beach closure –Busch began collecting donations of soap, cleaning supplies and toiletries –and himself emptying and re-cleaning daily a bucket and a toilet seat lid for the Porta-Potty. The setup was in line with procedures outlined in Red Cross emergency manuals.


Maintaining the Porta-Potty necessitated hauling tightly sealed 5 gallons buckets –nearly four large city blocks to the nearest public toilets –and often two or three times a day.


In proving his innocence, Mr. Busch had to demonstrate that the utility of his conduct outweighed any offense to the larger community.


Additionally, Busch also was charged with violating LAMC 56.11: “Leaving property on a public sidewalk or street:”


For having, also, thereafter on Third Ave., a shopping-cart sized wheeled box –which he called his “Love Box.”
After an six additional hours of deliberation, and after three requests to the Judge, for the court to clarify the law and testimony –regarding the vague charge, which were all denied, the jury, in response, returned it’s verdict:


“Guilty.”
For violating LAMC 56.11.


LAMC 56.11 has been for several years constrained by a Federal Injunction –to prevent seizure of homeless people’s property that is merely left on the sidewalk, and not abandoned. In this case, the Judge did not allow a proposed jury instruction, that would have stated the charge must be balanced by all people’s 4th Amendment Right to Property.


During sentencing, for his un-abandoned Love Box on the sidewalk, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office demanded that Busch be entirely banished from Venice –for three years.


The Judge, instead, sentenced Busch to no probation, one day in jail, and time served.


Stated Busch at the end of the trial. “Today, after three days, and hours and hours of absurd testimony, presented by LAPD officers and City Hazardous Waste employees: absurd testimony from Officers that they never saw urination or defecation in Venice’s streets, or gutters, or alley’s; testimony that feces –contained in a bucket and later dumped down the toilet, was a greater threat to the watershed than the more than 60 lbs of feces and urine deposited in the streets, sidewalks and alleys –And all of which, supposedly, was meant to pick apart my own effort to keep the area clean –Venice’s Police Officers were given new, common-sense orders by their highest authority, the people:


12 jurors have instructed LAPD to open up their eyes –and recognize that even a homemade porta-potty by a homeless person is better than urination and defecation everywhere in Venice’s streets.

David Busch was represented by Defense Attorney John Raphling; who provided his services Pro-Bono, and is a member of the National Lawyers’ Guild.

December 21, 2012
City Responds to Busch Verdict

Sandy Cooney, communications director for Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, gave the following statement regarding the verdict in the People vs. David Busch trial:
“That Mr. Busch was not found guilty of the public nuisance charge does not give him the right to violate the law. The result on this count is no guarantee of a similar outcome should there be a second offense, which we certainly hope will not occur.”


NOTE FROM NORSE:  And in the meantime, the message from the housed bureaucrats in Santa Cruz and Venice seems to be “hold your water and learn bowel control”.



Santa Cruz has no 24-hour bathrooms this side of hiway 1.  And only one on the distant side–in the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center.  The Clean Team activist Danilo T.J. Magallanes has called for public bathrooms, as it engaged in its dramatic and community-supported clean-up’s earlier this month.  They brought needles to City Council but also had available lots of fecal and waste material collected because of inadequate city clean-up and facilities.



12 years ago the City’s own Homeless Issues Task Force called for 24-hour bathrooms.  The city has done nothing–not even replaced the five portapotties that were in place for a few years around 2000 in response to activist demands.


Sign our petition – “Access To Toilets Is a Human Right” -  make toilets available to homeless people – http://www.change.org/petitions/access-to-toilets-is-a-human-right

Venice’s Own ‘Skid Rose’ Homeless Camp at 3rd Slowly Being Flushed by City Officials

By Simone Wilson Thu., May 3 2012 at 1:30 PM
noname-3.jpeg
Triangle Update
The LAPD busted well-known Venice homeless guy David Busch for setting up a toilet in his tent.

Ever since the LAPD started enforcing a strict curfew along the Venice boardwalk, the homeless hangout on 3rd street (located a few blocks inland) has blossomed into a bona fied bum party. The stretch of 3rd where they sleep, between Sunset and Rose, is mostly populated by businesses and warehouses. But as the camp has grown, the sleeping bags and shopping carts have begun creeping out onto residential sidewalks…
… and freaking out the gentry who live in the expensive, highly coveted homes along iconic Rose Avenue.
Thus earning this transplant boardwalk the name “Skid Rose.”
And for the moment, there’s nothing anybody can do about it, announced L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl on his blog yesterday (after the LA Weekly repeatedly asked for an interview on the subject for about a week).
“Due to two court cases … the City’s ability to enforce its laws has been significantly restricted,” writes Rosendahl. The gist: Until 1,250 housing units are built for homeless folks in L.A., they’re allowed to sleep on the sidewalk. The L.A. Housing Department informs Rosendahl that the city is still “several hundred” units short.
But cops and politicians are apparently circumventing those legal ramifications by nabbing the homeless at 3rd and Rose for other crimes.
Namely, resting or storing their possessions on the sidewalk between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., which is still illegal, says LAPD Lieutenant Paola Kreeft. Other drifters have been busted for drugs, violence, breaking into cars, etc.
Rosendahl begs residents to have a little compassion:

“The question should not be: should we allow people to sleep on the streets? The question must be: how do we provide people housing, services, and shelter so no one has cause to sleep on the street?”

But a big problem with the Venice “homeless” population is that many are free spirits by choice, and would never choose a shelter over the sea breeze. Homeless man and activist David Busch, pictured above with his in-tent toilet, told us recently that he felt the city was unfairly “lumping street vendors, hippies and beach travelers” into the same category as Venice’s long-standing homeless population. Perhaps, he speculated, so that cops can uniformly kick them all out — and the neighborhood can complete its transition to gentrified tourist trap.
Mark Ryavec, the fierce anti-homeless advocate who runs the Venice Stakeholders Association (and who recently posted his adversaries’ home addresses online, causing a community flamewar), says that a brigade of city officials descended upon the encampment last Friday.
The team included LAPD cops on horses, bio-hazard guys from the Department of Public Works and representatives from L.A. City Hall — including Public Works commissioner Andrea Alarcon, royal offspring of City Councilman Richard Alarcon. Also present was the mayor’s Westside deputy, Joseph Hari.
And Venice resident Reta Moser has the photos to prove it:

noname.jpeg
Triangle Update
“Howard Wong of Bureau of Sanitation (center) and his helper test and remove buckets as Andrea Alarcon films and watches.”
noname-2.jpeg
Triangle Update
“Officer Gil discusses situation with [homeless advocate] Peggy Lee Kennedy as officer and Joseph Hari look on.”

Ryavec of the Stakeholder’s Association says the mayor’s apparent new interest in clearing Skid Rose may have to do with a little run-in they had recently at a swanky restaurant on Melrose. A few highlights from the ensuing conversation, via Ryavec’s blog:

“When I told him that I wanted to talk with him about the problems we are having with transient encampments in Venice, he interrupted me and said the real problem was that the council district ‘has no leadership.’ Then he made another derogatory remark about Bill Rosendahl.”

“Then he said, ‘But if you want me involved, I will get involved. You may not like my solution, but you will get a solution. Did you hear me today [referring to his successes with transportation improvements]? I get things done.’”

“I’ll leave you with the Mayor’s parting comments at Mozza: ‘You know, when I leave office, I’m going to move to either Venice or the Pacific Palisades, so I have a personal interest in helping you with this.’”

Ryavec tells the Weekly that since last Friday, when the encampment at 3rd was scrubbed of its dirt and its drifters, “a few of them have come back.” However, he says city officials have promised to “come back this Friday and the week after that, until [homeless people] get the message that this is not a campground.”
Rosendahl confirms: “Further clean-ups will happen, and on a regular basis.”
Meanwhile, the real Skid Row, where the mayor certainly never intends to live out his golden years, is clogging up with more transients and trash bags than ever before, the LAPD tells Blogdowntown. Looks like one grimy stretch of downtown L.A. might be the official dumping ground for riff-raff scraped off the city’s finer sidewalks.

about that Venice Beach encampment, or “Skid Row West”…

Posted on May 6, 2012 by Katherine
City workers cleaning around the Venice encampments—where are these guys in Skid Row—the ORIGINAL Skid Row that is?

 

Venice Beach has been getting a lot of cross-press with Skid Row recently with a homeless encampment that has sprung up along 3rd and Rose Streets. I have been following this story in the press, click here for some info in this. In recent weeks, dozens of homeless people have been sleeping in this area after the city began enforcing an overnight curfew on the Venice Boardwalk.

This area is now being called, “Skid Row West”, or “Skid Rose”, (because of the Rose Street location). Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles has yet to find real solutions or build enough housing for the homeless population of this fine City, so people continue to be just pushed around from one place to the next. Some say the people on the streets are merely “housing resistant”, others acknowledge that the majority on the streets now are either mentally ill or serious substance abusers or both (which is my opinion). Whichever the case may be- Los Angeles has no real solutions for the thousands of people on her streets nightly- unlike other large metropolises across America which have made great strides in getting vulnerable people off the streets. Click here to read a  great article by Steve Clare who is executive director of the Venice Community Housing Corporation, a nonprofit housing and community development organization serving the Westside of Los Angeles about real workable solutions for the homeless of LA.

In reading about this situation in Venice here, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring disparity in the way the City is cleaning up around the encampments over there on the Westside- as opposed to over here in the real Skid Row. According to the LA Weekly article linked to above called, Venice’s Own ‘Skid Rose’ Homeless Camp at 3rd Slowly Being Flushed by City Officials, by Simone Wilson Thus., May 3 2012


…The team included LAPD cops on horses, bio-hazard guys from the Department of Public Works and representatives from L.A. City Hall — including Public Works commissioner Andrea Alarcon, royal offspring of City Councilman Richard Alarcon. Also present was the mayor’s Westside deputy, Joseph Hari.


…Rosendahl confirms: “Further clean-ups will happen, and on a regular basis.”

Where are the bio-hazard guys for the REAL Skid Row? We have a serious, entrenched and consistent need for out streets to be power-washed of human waste in the form of urine, feces and vomit that NEVER get cleaned. I will be looking into getting over here whatever they get over there- we are ALL City of LA. I have never heard of the LA Department of Public Works doing any clean-up for Skid Row.

Great strides have been made recently with Operation Face-Lift/Skid Row 2012, which began in 2008 by actual community residents of Skid Row (watch video here), click here for more information about the 2012 re-energized movement. We have gotten the attention of the City, so that now Street Services- click here for the update- and the Bureau of Sanitation, click here for the 411 on this- have gotten on board with help for our garbage laden streets. But the need is still great, as is our lack of trash receptacles. I’m not sure what is going on over in Venice- but to be clear- Operation Face-Lift is interested primarily in connecting with the people on the streets and getting their involvement and participation in the community-at-large- NOT pushing them away to some other place out of sight, out of mind.

Curious about what all the fuss is over on the Westside- I took a drive over to “Skid Rose” on Friday at about 6pm. What I saw was…not much at all. A few, maybe 3 or 4 bags of what looked like people’s personal belongings, one loveseat, one tent and a couple of gentlemen with shopping carts. I saw no garbage on the streets, no piles of trash anywhere. Frankly, I am confused and slightly angry at all the attention given to this so-called encampment when the needs in our downtown streets far outweigh anything over in Venice- at least from what I personally witnessed on this day. Maybe someone can explain the difference in services that  the Westside gets as compared to my neighborhood, the REAL Skid Row.

Venice Homeless File Damage Claims Against L.A.

A March street cleanup in Venice in which homeless people had their belongings trashed prompted a Santa Monica civil rights attorney to file damage claims against the city of Los Angeles.

A civil rights attorney has filed damage claims against Los Angeles for the March 7 cleanup on 3rd Avenue in which city trash collectors hauled off personal belongings.

Santa Monica-based civil rights attorney Carol Sobel said Friday that she filed the damage claims, which is often a precursor to a lawsuit.

The trash haul March 7 took place on 3rd Avenue between Rose and Sunset avenues and was done by the Los Angeles City Bureau of Sanitation, which is part of the city’s Department of Public Works. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl at the time said the cleanup occurred following many complaints about public urination, defecation, blocked sideways and trash in the street.

A handful of homeless people were allowed to rummage through heaps of garbage the day after the cleanup to search for their personal belongings in a city sanitation yard. David Busch, a homeless activist, pulled his laptop from the trash heap as well as several art pieces. A homeless couple found food, money and clothes among the mounds of trash.
Many of the homeless who lost belongings couldn’t make it to the sanitation yard and had lost money, medication and legal papers, Busch said.

Rosendahl said afterward that he would make it a policy going forward to give the homeless a courtesy notice before cleanups. He later told the Venice Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon that 3rd Avenue would be cleaned up on a weekly basis.

Busch, who sleeps on 3rd Avenue, said a cleanup Thursday morning was met by homeless people who stayed next to their property to prevent it from being thrown away. They were joined by Occupy Venice, Sobel and members of the National Lawyers Guild, who helped tag and guard belongings.
The garbage trucks left after Rosendahl intervened, Busch said.

The homeless in Venice recently have been impacted by a series of developments, including: the recent ban on overnight camping along the Venice Beach boardwalk, limitations on overnight parking for large vehicles and a program to transition vehicle dwellers into housing.

COMMENTS FROM VENICE:

Solecurious

12:07 pm on Thursday, April 5, 2012

This is the dilemma the city struggles with as the homeless population grows unabated. We are not the 1% but we own a home. We, the middle-income, are in a lose-lose-lose situation. While we continue to pay property tax in an eroding housing market, our garage at the back of our home became a public toilet and garbage dump to the homeless.
Guess who has to clean up? We installed a sensor light and the frequency reduced, especially treating our place like a toilet. Every now and then, I still have to remove empty food cartons, old clothing (yes, even underwear) and belonging. Who wants their home to smell like a toilet or look like a dump?
I understand the activists came from a compassionate ground. But they are too close to the forest to see the trees. The money that went into legal suits would be better served for the entire community if it went to solutions to solve the homeless situation and assist homeowners with the cleaning costs. Enough fighting. Start looking for solutions instead!

Deborah Lashever (in response)

8:34 pm on Friday, June 15, 2012

Yes! Solutions are easy! Public restrooms, trash cans would be a good start! The residents complain about trash but the city will supply no trash cans. Residents complain about pooping and peeing but yet the city supplies no porta potties. Who is at fault here? The people who, must pee and put their trash away but have no where to do so or the city for not providing facilities for the entire public?
Please do not blame people who have no resources for oversights the city makes! Complain to the city that it needs to serve all of it’s community members better rather than disrespect the unHoused for having no options. Thank you.

jockiemc

4:05 pm on Friday, April 6, 2012

I agree, we own a business at the end of 3rd street and clients employees are afraid to come and go from the office late at night because of how tricky things look out on 3rd. Overall the problem has to be solved in some way but people living on the street taking drugs and drinking themselves into oblivion is not great for us or more importantly for them! There is no real answer we the people who are running businesses or owning homes have to make as much noise as possible otherwise this issue will become bigger and bigger. i encourage everyone with an interest to call your local councilor and make some noise!

Deborah Lashever
(in response)

8:42 pm on Friday, June 15, 2012

Rather than “making noise” why don’t you demand services that will keep your community cleaner? Demand more porta potties! Demand more trash cans! Demand the Check=in Center for all their belongings! Demand services in Venice! Don’t just hate and bitch….help we who have solutions that are trying to implement them by telling your reps they need to listen to people with real solutions (not strong arm tactics) and implement them! We are all in this together, like it or not. We ALL make up our community!
If you just “make noise” people get abused and the situation stays the same….
Peace.

Another WorldView

1:11 pm on Saturday, June 16, 2012

Can I ask which business you own?
And while some people may have a fear of the UnHoused, some people also fear “blacks” and “mexicans”. Should we as a society, indulge their irrational fears, too? Which Constitutional rights are we ALL willing to sacrifice to assuage the unfounded fears of small number of people.
I have walked and biked down on 3rd street at all hours of the day and night – and have never had any problems, for the most part these folks seem like they just want to be left alone (as we Housed folks have the freedom to be, whenever we like).
And it should be noted, that while there MAY be some increase in the numbers on 3rd, since the police declared the OFW to be a “park” – all of a sudden, there have always been people down there sleeping at night.
Now there are two new (gigantic) HID lamps (I suppose we’re lucky on the “drug” front that no one is exercising their state right to grow ‘medicine’ under those, BTW) new LED street lights, and a 24/7 camera. If anything, that may be the safest street in “the ‘hood”, where you’ve decided to place your business.

(Very Interesting Follow-Up Discussion at http://venice.patch.com/articles/venice-homeless-file-damage-claims-against-los-angeles )

NOTE FROM NORSE:  If Venice can expose the bigotry and bullshit, with some energetic media response (even on the comment sections) and some street theater (long live David Busch and Peggy Lee Kennedy!) and some attorney muscle (lawsuits for destruction of homeless property are an obvious need), why can’t we do that here?

Flash Dance and Feed Tonight 12-20 9 PM in front of New Leaf Market, Downtown Santa Cruz

20 Dec 2012

Repeating last week’s  “Dance the Frost Away” boogie in front of New Leaf Market,  HUFF merrymakers and others will be gathering against the cold for joyful dance-ish calesthenics along with some hot tasty soup from JumboGumbo Joe Schultz at 9 PM tonight.   Come one, come all.  Dress warmly.  Bring cameras and other documentary equipment to  celebrate and keep a clear record of any official transgressions!

No jail time for Santa Cruz County woman convicted of unlawfully lodging during Peace Camp 2010 demonstration

By Jessica M. Pasko

Santa Cruz Sentinel:   12/06/2012


SANTA CRUZ — An advocate for the homeless convicted last month of illegal lodging won’t serve jail time, a Santa Cruz County judge ruled Thursday.

Linda Lemaster could have faced up to six months in County Jail for her conviction of one count of unlawful lodging, a misdemeanor. Judge Rebecca Connolly chose to sentence her to six months on a conditional sentence and ordered her to pay $590 in fines and fees, which she said could be paid through community service hours instead. A conditional sentence is essentially like probation except through the court rather than the county’s probation department.
Jurors found Lemaster had violated the law by staying outside the county courthouse on Aug. 10, 2010 along with people participating in the Peace Camp demonstration, which was aimed at protesting the city’s anti-camping ban. At trial, Lemaster testified that she hadn’t been sleeping outside that night and that she had no intention of doing so.
She and her attorneys maintained that she stayed at the courthouse that night to look after a demonstrator who was ill. Because of her chronic back problems, she said, she was at least partially lying down when deputies arrived and someone had placed a blanket over her.
Prosecutor Alex Byers on Thursday acknowledged Lemaster’s work on behalf of the homeless, but said “we’re not here today because of homeless problems.”
“It’s sad, anyone with a heart considers that,” Byers said, but added, “It’s about the law. Santa Cruz is a very tolerant place but that tolerance has limits.”
The tolerance doesn’t extend to situations where the right to demonstrate infringes upon the rights of others, he said, explaining that the three-month long demonstration brought health risks, property damage and limited access to the county offices for the public. It also cost taxpayers for cleanup and security costs, he said.
“You don’t get to break the law because you don’t agree with it,” the prosecutor said.
Under state law, a person “who lodges in any building, structure, vehicle or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it,” can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.
Byers did not ask for jail time, instead proposing Connolly sentence Lemaster to 40 hours of community service and a three-year conditional sentence.
Lemaster told the court she thought her trial had focused too much on the entire Peace Camp 2010 demonstration rather than on her individual actions. She said that while she accepts the consequences of her actions, she believes the ultimate responsibility lies with the government, which has failed to take care of its people and presented the need for such demonstrations.
Lemaster’s supporters filled the courtroom for the Thursday afternoon sentencing hearing.
“The principles on which this case stood are clearly very important to the community,” defense attorney Jonathan Gettleman said.
Gettleman said the idea of community service as a sentence for Lemaster was “ironic” given that his client’s life revolves around providing services to the community and working for society’s most vulnerable.
Connolly acknowledged the real issues involved with homelessness, but said that Lemaster’s act of civil disobedience was her choice and it carries consequences.
“I do appreciate the efforts made … it served as a vehicle to challenge the consitutionality of the law,” she said.
Gettleman said he plans to appeal the conviction




COMMENTS:  .

Robert Norse · Top Commenter · 65 years old

      Wild exaggerations about PC2010′s “damaging” activities were irrelevant and prejudicial, but apparently welcomed by Judge Connolly whose many biased decisions allowing prosecution material in after deadline, refusing to allow the defense to add the full context of Linda’s blog, and other errors will be addressed on appeal.
      Meanwhile it was clear that the smear job the prosecution put on had nothing to do with Linda’s presence there but attempted to confuse the jury with the longer protest (which itself received no littering or vandalism citations, much less prosecutions).
      The Sentinel writer might have noted that Linda testified under oath that she tried unsuccessfully to get clarity from the deputy who told her to leave whether she could still be there as a protester without “occupying” as presumably is guaranteed by the Constitution (and was allowed for others).
      This trial was an ex post facto rubberstamping of deputy behavior in getting rid of a political protest without using a legitimate process or finding any real crime. Kind of familiar these days.

womanofsteel222 (signed in using yahoo)

       Showing how capricious and arbitrary the District Attorney’s office has become, in May 2011, a different judge sentenced 2 men convicted of the same “lodging” charge with 400 hours community service. When they refused, the Judge threw them both into jail for 6 months on the spot.