Berkeley Levels Restrictions on “Unattended Property”–Copying Santa Cruz Bigotry?

Norse’s Notes:  Is there a contagion of homeless-ophobia?   Are Berkeley gentrification folks watching Santa Cruz and taking their cure from the right-wingers here?   The Berkeley library’s “unattended property” rule change seems suspiciously close in time and content to the Santa Cruz November change banning unattended property.  Other changes included trying to tighten rules on service animals, and increasing penalties drastically for repeated violation by many months.

Those who want to examine the records of complaints and evictions from the Santa Cruz Library should contact the City Council staff at 420-5020 and ascertain whether they are still holding the public records I requested there.


Has it gotten harder to be homeless in Berkeley?

January 2, 2013 2:45 pm by Emilie Raguso

New policies at the Berkeley Library prohibit bringing in items larger than 24 inches. One reader wondered if the change were related to the failure of Measure S to pass. Photo: Emilie Raguso

After the failure of Measure S to pass in November, we heard from one reader who said there seemed to have been harsher enforcement around town of violations related to homelessness. The reader said a homeless friend had been hassled by police when trying to sleep in a regular spot, and also wanted to know about new rules at the library that limit the size and type of items that can be brought inside.

The reader sent us an email in December detailing the changes, and asked Berkeleyside to learn more.

“Since the no-sit measure failed, the city has begun new, more aggressive treatment of the homeless. My homeless neighbor … has been told he could sleep in the doorway of a movie theater but last night, a cop rousted him from his dry, out-of-the-rain perch in the theater’s doorway. The cop said the theater could face stiff fines for giving [my neighbor] permission to sleep in their doorway on a rainy night.”

The reader continued: “Is this really who we want to be as a city?”

According to police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats, the Berkeley Police Department has not altered its general approach to the enforcement of violations associated with homeless residents.

“There has not been any new change in policy regarding our enforcement efforts after the failure of Measure S,” said Coats, via email, in December. “Officers have the discretion to enforce laws if needed.”

(She said she did not have details about the specific incident described above, as no additional information was available from the reader who contacted Berkeleyside about it.)

New rules at the library

The reader also noted a shift in policy at the Berkeley Public Library, with visitors — seemingly suddenly — forbidden from bringing in items larger than 24 inches.

“This new policy, which appeared overnight … is clearly targeted to keep homeless with their stuff out of the library. Um, if you are homeless, you have nowhere to leave your stuff.  I know that, for middle-class patrons, it can feel uncomfortable to be sitting at a library computer next to a guy who appears homeless and has some luggage with him. Geez, have compassion for that human being.”

Douglas Smith, deputy director at the Berkeley Public Library, said in December that the changes had not come out of the blue, and that library staff members were working with patrons to let them know about the changes and help come up with alternatives.

Smith said the library has rules of conduct that are regularly reviewed and updated. At the Nov. 14 meeting of the library board, members voted to approve the new rules. They went into effect Dec. 1. (See the agenda packet related to this item here.)

Smith said changes to the rules included now letting patrons charge phones and computers using library outlets, which previously had been forbidden, as well as the new limitation on the amount and type of items people can bring inside.

The rules now prohibit entering the library with containers or packages that, singly or collectively, exceed 16 inches by 18 inches by 24 inches. They also forbid leaving items unattended, blocking walkways, and entering the library “with items inappropriate to library use, including but not limited to bicycles, shopping carts, large trash bags, bedrolls, and strollers without children.”
Smith said that, since the last revision of the rules, three years back, there had been “an issue in some of our libraries of people coming in with large amounts of stuff in a variety of shapes and sizes. It does have an impact on other people’s ability to use the library comfortably.”

Unattended items can cause a range of problems, he said, adding that library staff had observed an increase in this behavior, especially at the central library in downtown Berkeley.

“It was at least a daily occurrence, usually more,” said Smith.

Some patrons had made a habit of leaving their possessions around, blocking access to collections and computers, and “walking away for the day,” he said. When items were left around the building, it also made it hard for staff to clear the building in a timely manner at the end of the day.

For the greater good

Smith said the library aims to be accessible to everyone, but that involves putting limits on conduct that might interfere with access to the facility.

“Our mission is to say ‘yes’ as much as possible, but we do have to make sure people follow the rules,” he said. “Part of our mission is to help create a space in the community where people want to come, where it can be a place for silent study, meeting with friends, using collections, using computers and getting information from librarians.”

Smith said Rules of Conduct policies like those adopted in November are “very common” for libraries in urban settings.

Penalties could range from receiving a copy of the written rules, for the first violation, to suspension of library privileges for up to a year, with the fourth violation. Suspensions would only result from more egregious offenses of the rules, such as fighting, Smith added.

He said, as of the first week of December, there had been “a couple of complaints” about the new rules, “but we’re working with people to try and get them alternatives.”

Smith said staff had tried to let patrons know about the new rules prior to Dec. 1 and was making efforts to be flexible as people learned about the changes.

Smith said he understood that the new rules would be a challenge for some patrons, but that they were necessary for the facility to work as a shared resource.

“A lot of businesses — and non-profits, government offices and other organizations — place these sorts of restrictions on what can happen inside their premises and what can be brought in,” he said. “It goes back to the full range of people we need to serve here, from babies to senior citizens, people from all social classes, and every facet of society.”


I was the anonymous reader. I never gave Berkeleyside permission to publish what I wrote. I wrote in and asked them to look into it. I had not written an opinion piece or a letter to the editor. I sent in a story suggstion and did not give permission. I retain the copyright to everything I write and my permission is required to publish it.
Keep in mind the spinmeister police chief we have who sent a police officer to a reporter’s home in the middle of the night. I do not trust anything any spokesperson from the Berkeley police says: its all spin, smoke and mirrors in a department run by a guy who dedicates lots of resources to his kid’s stolen iPHone and rousts journalists in the middle of the night and prioritizies demonstrations in Oakland over urgent calls in the Berkeley hills. I do not trust the Berkeley police public relations spokespeople and the spin they are ordered to spew.
In my email, I copied an email I got from one homeless friend and I did not give berkeleyside permission to quote me because I had shared my friend’s email without his permission. To the people who are active on the street, such as outreach workers, cops and the Downtown Business Assoc workers with police-like powers who routinely order the homeless around like they are less than the rest of us, few regular homeless/street people are unfamiliar. I had no right to give away my friend’s identify without his permission and neither did Berkeleyside.

My homeless friend actually does have legal representation and his attorneys (Yes, plural, he is a well liked and even loved member of our community, an unfortunate but sweetly loving human being) who are licensed are helping him.

This berkeleyside story, written by Ms. Raguso who was merely an intern quite recently and is now ‘senior reporter’ — whatever happened to cub reporters and periods of training and, um, actual training — Ms. RAguso simply regurgitated PR from the police and library. since when is PR statements reporting the news. I did not, keep in mind, force B-side to publish this story.

Did she go out and try to talk to some homeless folks at the library or around downtown? Most homeless folks in downtown Berkeley are warm and friendly.

It is just an irrational cultural bias to reject someone cause they don’t shave every morning cause they don’t have a sink. and the claims that the homeless smell are grossly overstated. Spend time with some and you will see.

I think people are afraid of the homeless, deep down, because for most of it, ‘there but for the grace of god, it would be us” so we villify ‘them’ to feel safe.

They are us. It is as simple as that.


Hilary Bryant: Public safety is our top priority

Posted:   02/16/2013 05:17:29 PM PST

Hilary Bryant
Our Santa Cruz community is reeling. Residents, business owners and students have said “enough” to illegal campsites, needles strewn in our parks and beaches, and the recent spike in crime. Deteriorating conditions in our public spaces, along with the recent downtown homicide and the attempted homicide of a UC Santa Cruz student are completely unacceptable. These tragedies and safety concerns are a sharp reminder that we must actively protect our safe and vibrant community. Enough is enough.
As your mayor, I am fully committed to changing course. I want you to know that my fellow City Council members and the city staff are with me; we are all actively working to make Santa Cruz a safe and flourishing community by applying the following measures:
First, we are working diligently to fully staff our Police Department. The year 2012 marked our Police Department’s busiest on record. Santa Cruz police officers responded to over 104,000 calls for service and made 8,300 arrests (16 percent and 50 percent increases over 2011). Our police officers are doing more with less, as they grapple with filling vacant positions. In the meantime, the City Council will provide the department with all the resources and support it needs to be successful.
Second, we must address the illegally discarded needles, illegal campsites and degraded environmental quality of our public spaces. While the causes are complex, complete solutions to these issues require other community and government partners. For many years, city staff has been working on camp abatements; this past summer, they ramped up their efforts. At our Feb. 26 meeting, the City Council is poised to increase abatement funding and to explore further measures that we can take to improve water quality at our beaches.
Third, city staff members are working closely with Santa Cruz County to develop a model needle exchange program. This program must have county oversight, accountability and effective public reporting systems in place. It should provide a true 1-for-1 exchange in a manner that does not impact our neighborhoods, parks, open spaces and beaches. That also includes developing better mechanisms for safe needle disposal.
Once implemented, these tools should alleviate some of the immediate public safety and environmental concerns. We will measure their impacts and report regularly back to the community on our progress. However, we can neither arrest our way out nor clean our way out of the current state of affairs. Persistent drug addiction and drug-related crime factor heavily into our public safety issues. These complex problems require systemic solutions.
Therefore, the fourth and final part of our plan is to assess these systemic problems closely with our regional partners and a citizen task force to create meaningful and lasting solutions. While the city provides law enforcement, it is Santa Cruz County that has jurisdiction over public health, our justice system, courts and jails, and social programs. I believe strongly that only through enhanced city efforts and focused participation from our county sheriff, district attorney, courts, human services agency, and drug-treatment organizations can we develop solutions that address these long-term safety problems. These issues did not arise overnight in Santa Cruz, nor can we say with a straight face that we will resolve them overnight. However, the entire City is committed to this enhanced course of action.
My thanks go out to the community for raising awareness of these issues, and to our Public Safety Committee (Council members David Terrazas, Pamela Comstock and Cynthia Mathews) for developing the safety action plan.
Hilary Bryant is mayor of the city of Santa Cruz.

Latest Update in the Corrspondence Around the Rights of Street Artists with City Attorney Barisone

NOTE TO ALL:  I’ve just renewed my request to City Attorney John Barisone to clarify what I was told he clarified several years ago when he advised a street artist.  That artist brought him a copy of the White v. City of Sparks decision protecting the right of artists to sell their art on the street without permits, and Barisone reportedly agreed, stopping a potential lawsuit.
However, as mentioned in the earlier e-mail below, police have ramped up their campaign against performers and artists (or those they choose to disfavor), and a clear quick response has become more important.
Please let  me now if you’ve experienced or heard any problems with police/host/security guard harassment downtown for political, cultural, artistic, or musical activity in public spaces.  Give as many specifics as possible (time, date, cops names, conversation involved, citation (if any), place, etc. etc.).


Robert Norse

Subject: RE: City of Sparks v. White
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2013 11:09:29 -0800

John:   I just received word from the street artist who got the bogus panhandling citation that he wasn’t going to fight it, but would do community service.  However, he also intends to put price tags on his work, given the White v. City of Sparks decision.

Please let me know what your thoughts are before he gets another ticket.



Subject: RE: City of Sparks v. White
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2013 08:39:52 -0800

Thanks, John.

Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2013 07:01:01 -0800
Subject: RE: City of Sparks v. White

I haven’t gotten to this yet.


From: Robert Norse []
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 7:51 PM
To: John Barisone
Cc: Robin the rightsfinder; Jonathan (!) Gettleman; David Beauvais;; Ed Frey; J.M. Brown; Alexis of Pier 5; Ricardo Lopez; Joe the strummer; Tom Noddy; Brent Adams; Coral (!!!) Brune; Free; John Malkin
Subject: RE: City of Sparks v. White


John:  Did you receive this e-mail?

If so, can you advise me of whether the SCPD current acknowledges and follows the City of Sparks v. White exemption of artists from permits and their right to display price tags on their work.

It’s been nearly a week.  I’m concerned you may have mislaid my e-mail.



Subject: City of Sparks v. White
Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2013 11:05:27 -0800


You may remember Robin coming in to secure an agreement from you that he could resume displaying his artwork on the sidewalk without a permit and without harassment from the SCPD even though he attached price tags.  This was several years ago in response to the City of Sparks v. White ( decision.  He told me that you and he made such an agreement.

Several artists have told me that “Hosts” and SCPD officers have been telling them they’ll be cited if they do what you apparently oked for Robin.  I know Robin also requested an explicit change in the law and to my knowledge and his you never recommended or created it.

I want to know if you’ve change your position here and now regard art work as not First Amendment-protected (as far as explicit pricing goes).  What is the current policy and direction to the SCPD?

This clarification is particularly important because some police officers are not merely banning explicit pricing, but also claiming that showing artwork without a business license is “panhandling” even if it’s done for donation in accord with the explicit exemption of MC 9.10.010(a)  which states “A person is not soliciting for purposes of this chapter when he or she passively displays a sign or places a collection container on the sidewalk pursuant to which he or she receives monetary offerings in appreciation for his or her original artwork or for entertainment or a street performance he or she provides.”

Please let me know what the status of the White decision is regarding city policy as well as assurance that MC 9.10.010(a) is still active law.

Hope you are well.


City Council Inflicts Take Back Santa Cruz Agenda on the Town

The Sentinel’s police-puffing, sensationalist, and slanted coverage of Tuesday’s Santa Cruz  City Council meeting’s discussion of its “Public Safety” Committee report is at . The coverage outrageously shoehorns the recent Monday Westside robbery/shooting into the Martinez’s sweet-sounding but deceptive talk about drug use. If he were serious about his bogus “treatment solution”, his talk about “their medicine”, etc., he’d be calling for the money to go to addiction prevention, but no–he wants more cops. The police department has also played a complicit role in the shutdown of needle exchange at Barson by not speaking out on the issue.

Similarly, Posner and Lane did not publicly oppose it and have not called for immediate restoration of the long-used site This is a clear public health crisis waiting to happen when dumping bad needles is now likely increasing big-time. These are the gutless liberals elected and reelected in November.

SC Patch has its equally police-palsy coverage at (with no clarification on the specifics on the Council’s action).

What is made clear is that Robinson and Comstock are gunning for Needle Exchange even on the outskirts of the City. They made pointed attacks on the Emeline St. increased distribution “not being authorized” by the County. (It’s being done 3 times a week now rather than once.) This misguided attack savages an inadequate but obviously necessary attempt by the County to make up for the behind-closed-doors shut-down of Needle Exchange at Barson St. That closure was the only real action that City Council has taken–all behind closed doors, without public comment, and in line with the Take Back Santa Cruz agenda. The rest is blather, attempts to manage the situation through meaningless resolutions delayed into the future.

That absurd and politically-motivated move will probably at least double the number of discarded used needles. Beefing up the police force (instead of redirecting their priorities) is another bonehead psuedo-public safety move. It is, of course, again in line with TBSC’s “bigotry first” approach, holding homeless camps, homeless services, and “drug tolerance” responsible for crime and drug use. This J. Edgar Hoover approach is the 21st Century equivalent of Reefer Madness and deadly dangerous as well as being wildly irresponsible.

Some ideas for action: Going back to civil disobedient needle distribution (which originally established it as a legal option). Marches to the offices of Robinson and Comstock protesting their crazy attacks on needle exchange—which have “kill those addicted and infect the community” consequences. Mobile public pickets in front of businesses or at tourist locations advising tourists that not only are they visiting a homeless-hating town, but they’re also more likely to find needles in their soup.

One of the interesting things to notice about Deputy Vice-Chief Clark’s comments in recent Sentinel articles are his attempts to reassure people that Santa Cruz is a “safe” community, indicating the nervousness of the DTA and SCPD regarding the recent right-wing hysteria around the needle issue. They’d like to use it to buff up their force, increase police power–but not really address the real (and often valid) issues that the Needlemaniacs are raising–trash, bad police priorities (with crime in the neighborhoods), & inadequate needle disposal.

The toxic link here is of course with homeless people–who are being blamed (with no stats supporting the claim).


The Latest from Looneyland: S.C. City Council Goes Medieval

by Robert Norse

Tuesday Feb 12th, 2013 9:44 PM

I had to leave the meeting because I wasn’t feeling well, but I did stay until the end of the Public Comment period on Item #15, The Public Bigotry Committee report. I’m hoping to review the video of the rest of the meeting on the City’s website when it gets posted.

From what I heard and saw, in spite of a few good questions from Lane and Posner, there was no challenging of the abusive behind-closed-doors decision to shut down 1/2 of needle exchange (the half on Barson St.). There were no stats justifying the shutdown presented (though the property owner gave one anecdotal incident where he said he found some clean needles near a point of break-in). No stats for the number of people actually injured by needles. No comparative stats of harm created by restricting needle exchange in terms of the spread of disease.

Just more cops, more drug war, and more stalling by City Council–in terms of any public discussion. It also seems that the Council majority without a vote is acting unilaterally through Terrazas in its planned selection of a Task Force–to be chosen by the Mayor and then operate without public hearings. Terrazas gave a long-winded evasive response to Lane and Posner’s questions, but he finally got the clear answer–it’ll meet in secret, probably selected by the Mayor.

Another issue that was left hanging was whether the Task Force would assume that needle exchange would not be in the downtown or residential area before it started. At this writing the Sentinel (useless sensationalist smearsheet that it’s been on this issue) hasn’t come out with a story.

The S.C. Weekly reporter, however, was so pissed at the steady pattern of prejudice and fearmongering that he got up and made a statement supporting accessible needle exchange himself.

“More conservative” liberals like Mike Rotkin and Steve Pleich declined to endorse needle distribution or “1 plus” needles exchange where more needles were given out than returned, one of the big demands of Analicia Cube, her rep Pamela Comstock on City Council, and Take Back Santa Cruz.

No one made any serious proposals for a shift in the Drug War mentality, though there was lots of meaningless talk about compassion, and drug treatment–but the money, of course, would go for more cops to jail more users to fill up more jails to be released again with no housing to pick up their drug activity, etc.

A number of people denounced the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center as a demonic drug den that had to be shut down. There were angry claims that “most needles and debris” were found within 1/4 mile (or a mile–pick your source) of the HLOSC. I think it was the last speaker, a woman claiming to be a social worker demanded that homeless services be available only to those who registered and were local. I guess tatooing folks on the wrist with ID numbers would be optional.

Not sure what a Strategy for Sanity looks like, but I’ll be pondering it.

And as for whether some drug abusers and needle droppers are homeless–sure. But to let that be the excuse to criminalize homeless survival camps generally is the kind of is a form of badly misguided hatecrime.

The recommendations naturally had nothing specific about putting in bathrooms, requiring pharmacies to have safe needle disposal facilities, or (shudder) establishing safe campgrounds. There was some talk (and that’s what it’ll remain–talk) about how without real housing options, there’s no real drug treatment programs.

And in spite of all the Lane-Martinez buzz about 180/180, this program will impact only a small number of folks.

Looks like homeless people will have to look to themselves and other allies for protection. If Ammiano’s homeless Bill of Rights isn’t too badly weakened (which I fear it may be), that may be a new avenue.

HUFF meets tomorrow 10 AM Sub Rosa Cafe 703 Pacific. Free needles…er…coffee.


Drug War Paranoids Move To Cut Back Needle Exchange [3 Attachments]

Attachments from Robert Norse!
Santa Cruz City Council meets tomorrow (3 PM City Council Chambers 3 PM, agenda item #15) and is likely to rubberstamp recommendations made by its right-wing “Public Safety Committee” which met three weeks ago and in its turn rubberstamped the recommendations of a conservative staff report.  See “New Attack on Homeless Slated in City Counci’s ‘Public Safety’ Committee Meeting”


The recommendations can be found on-line at   as well as the original staff report at .  If these aren’t accessible there, go to and look under agenda item #15.

Most of these recommendations are a defensive response to an onslaught by right-wing pro-Drug Prohibition War, anti-homeless activist groups like Take Back Santa Cruz.  Homeless people and their “illegal” (i.e. survival) camps are being blamed for needles, break-in’s, endangering children, and all kinds of other bogus accusations completely unsupported by objective stats.  Cuts are being proposed in the paltry homeless services being provided.  Expansion of an anti-homeless SCPD is proposed.  And an absurd and misguided contraction of Needle Exchange is being used as the prime scapegoat.

I include the attached petition, which, while inadequate in not including opposition to the counter-productive 1-for-1 exchange, does push back  slightly against the paranoid mind set which is active locally.  I’m also including a guest editorial in the Sunday Sentinel that presents what sounds like a good case for opposing the 1-for-1 (no needles given out unless dirty needles returned) proposal.

There’s likely to be quite a crowd of misguided Drug War heavies down at City Council tomorrow, but it would be productive to show up anyway.  The city’s failure to provide public restrooms, adequate disposal facilities, refund and expand needle exchange, & establish safe and legal campgrounds is, of course, largely being ignored by city bureaucrats and politicians (though even some right-wing critics are calling for some of these services).

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has been ramping up the hysteria with various front-page “needle” stories with its main editorial on Sunday leading the charge.  Read it and heave: .

Real solutions like Injection and Inhalation Centers (  …  ) aren’t being proposed, though Santa Cruz pioneered (along with San Francisco) medical marijuana tolerance and distribution back in the early 90’s.   Time to take the lead again.

Homeless people are perhaps the most vulnerable population for the diseases likely to result from this latest Cold War-style attack on harm reduction measures.

R. Norse

Fresno Homeless Evictions Loom…on Valentine’s Day

Fresno has no Heart – Will Evict the Homeless on Valentines Day
by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] )
Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

The photo below shows the north end of the Monterey and E street homeless encampment.

An eviction of a significant number of homeless people at a downtown encampment will probably take place on Thursday, February 14. According to residents of the homeless encampment, located near Monterey and E street, they were told by the owner of the property they are living on that they have until Thursday to “move on.” The owner was accompanied by several officers from the Fresno Police Department and a truck & crew from the Fire Department.

One homeless man told me this afternoon (Monday, February 11) that the owner of the property said he would be bulldozing the vacant lot on Thursday and everything would be destroyed. “He told me to get the fuck out of here,” he shared with me as he sorted through recycled items sitting in several shopping carts on the property. When I asked if he was sure it was the owner, he said “well, he had the police with him, so it looked pretty convincing to me.”

Unlike other evictions by the City of Fresno, there are no signs posted to notify the residents of the demolition that is to come. Julie (not her real name), said someone had posted an eviction notice about a month ago, but those were torn down within an hour or two. The owner told her that he did not have to post notices because it is his property.

There was an eviction that took place in the spring of 2012 at another homeless encampment, behind the grain silos near Palm and H street, that was similar. This was private property, the owner made numerous attempts to force the homeless to move, and eventually put a fence around the property to force the eviction. Many of the homeless people from that encampment moved about 200 feet south and occupied a different vacant lot. They have not been threatened with eviction again, as far as I know.

Most of the residents at the Monterey and E street homeless encampment who are being threatened with eviction said they were planning on moving, but I was told that not everyone would pack up and move. I was told that it is only the north end of the encampment that has been threatened with eviction. The dividing line is Monterey street. Everything north of Monterey street will likely be destroyed on Thursday. Everything south of Monterey street is said to be safe from the demolition.

Can the owner of a vacant lot take and immediately destroy homeless peoples property? Did the City of Fresno threaten the owner with legal action if he did not move against the homeless? Will FPD officers participate in the demolition or arrest anyone if they resist? Observers are needed starting early Thursday morning. If you can help, meet at the encampment starting at 7 a.m. on Thursday. Bring your video or still camera to document what takes place. If you can’t come until later, let me know so we can coordinate having someone there all day.

Demolitions of homeless encampments in October and November of 2011 resulted in over 30 lawsuits against the City of Fresno claiming that the city violated homeless peoples legal rights by taking and immediately destroying their property. Those cases are working their way through the court. Without this litigation it is likely that the city would have been more aggressive in their attacks on the homeless. A new strategy of forcing property owners to evict the homeless may be emerging as City Hall seeks to avoid additional lawsuits.


Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. He can be reached by email at editor [at] .

§Another view of the norht end of the encampment

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

§This shows the entire area impacted by the evictions

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

§Typical Shelter in the Area

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

§This is the center of the homeless encampment looking north

by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

Venice program gives the homeless a place to keep belongings


By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times

February 10, 2013, 8:25 p.m.
Bone-chilling fog swirled along Venice Beach one recent afternoon when Robert and Nani Valencia and Ana Maria Reyes stopped by the long, metal storage container beside the sand.
After they showed IDs and claim checks, a volunteer wheeled out two blue recycling bins in which the three recent arrivals from Texas had stashed their suitcases. They pulled out toiletries, sweaters and blankets and stuffed them into reusable grocery bags.
“It makes us feel a lot better to store our things here,” said Nani Valencia, 37. “When you have all your [suitcases] with you, people treat you like you have rabies.”
With bags in hand, she, her husband and his 64-year-old mother joined dozens of others waiting for a bus to take them to a shelter. The three would rest, eat dinner and have a shower that night at the West Los Angeles National Guard Armory on Federal Avenue; most of their meager possessions would remain locked up at the beach.
In the wake of court rulings that bar cities from randomly seizing and destroying homeless people’s property, communities such as Venice are seeking long-term storage options to keep their streets and alleys clean.
“We’re not going to let [homeless people] keep items on the beach anymore,” said Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice. “We’re going to bag and tag [them]. We want to make it inconvenient but within the law.”
Contributing to the problem was a rule governing use of the city’s Westside winter shelter.
Homeless individuals who choose to sleep at the shelter are allowed to take with them only the items they can carry on their laps. And some were reluctant to leave their possessions for fear they would be stolen or seized. That meant many of the shelter’s 160 beds went unused.
Rosendahl and a local social services agency — Venice Community Housing Corp. — launched a pilot program late last month called Check-in Storage. The initiative allows individuals to store personal belongings in the container for a week at a time and retrieve them between 3 and 5 p.m. daily. (The program is slated to end March 1, when the shelter closes.)
To publicize the service, volunteers and social service agencies distributed bright orange fliers: “If your stuff will fit into a big trash can,” they read, “bring it to our storage container.” The flier noted that the program would not accept medicine, identification, weapons or “anything illegal.”
The storage option, said Steve Clare, executive director of Venice Community Housing, is modeled on successful programs in downtown L.A.’s skid row and cities including San Francisco, San Diego and Costa Mesa.
In September, a federal appeals court ruled in a lawsuit filed against the city of Los Angeles that seizing and destroying property left temporarily unattended on public sidewalks was unconstitutional. Personal possessions may be removed only if the items pose an immediate threat to public safety or health or constitute criminal evidence, a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found.
Even then, the city must notify owners where they can pick up their property.
On the afternoon the Valencias and Reyes retrieved some items, about half of the 25 bins were in use. Also there for safekeeping was a Schwinn bicycle. Its owner, Love Sha Un of Nigeria, came by to check on his $215 purchase and thank the volunteers. Without the storage option, he said, “it might have gone missing.”
Not everyone is pleased with the program.
Mark Ryavec, a Venice resident who lobbied against overnight parking by RV dwellers, said the city should have sought a permit from the California Coastal Commission before plopping a storage container at the beach. Marc Saltzberg, vice president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, said the program was implemented without a public process that would have enabled residents and other interested parties to weigh in.
Rosendahl said he hoped to notify street denizens of a new location by the end of February and have a new program up and running by March. He said he was working with the Los Angeles city attorney’s office to ensure that any seizures of items would be done legally.

Destruction of Local Homeless Survival Camps in Felton: Another Disgraceful Episode

Norse’s Notes:  Instead of ordering that the campsites be cleaned up, the real motivation of the vigilantes and sheriffs seems to be to drive away any and all homeless survival campers.
Too bad no one documented the three truckloads of “trash” with video.  When that was done in Fresno, the City lost a two million dollar lawsuit, and actually had to start at least giving token acknowledgment of state law regarding seized property.
More to the point would be establishing emergency campgrounds for folks who need to be outdoors (95% of whom have no legal shelter).  Even more addressing the underlying conditions that create this crisis.
If folks were serious about clean-up’s, the county would provide portapotties, dumpsters, trashbags, and legalization of clean camps.  If they were serious about ending unsafe needle disposal, they’d take local initiatives to end the insane Drug Prohibition war and at the very least expand (rather than contract) harm-reduction programs like needle exchange.
While it’s always encouraging to see community members getting together to clean-up areas that the city and county decline to address, that must not involve scapegoating a whole class of people.  T.J. Magallanes, who created The Clean Team website, has said and written this repeatedly.  But “Take Back Santa Cruz” type hardliners prefer to use the homeless as a political football here and blame them as a means of attacking a power structure (that deserves to be attacked, incidentally).
Screaming about “tolerance for drugs” and “illegal” homeless camps (when virtually all survival camping is illegal) is just blind bigotry and the kind of desperation that ensues when folks fail to identify the real enemies who run the show.
The KSBW news brief on this suggests the sweeps are “controversial” only in that they “aren’t effective” and folks seem to keep coming back.  Sort of reminds me of the homeless = vermin approach, used to describe insurgents, terrorists, 1930’s Jews, etc.  Dehumanizing people is a nice way of covering your fascist ass.
It’s also a pity that the “service providers” in the area didn’t speak out against this destruction of homeless survival camps.  Maintaining the illusion that there are shelter alternatives when there are not.  The sheriffs don’t even pretend there are.  And won’t be even if the pretty-pretty 180-180 program gets fully funded.
There are thousands of homeless in the county.  Is the plan to drive them all out into the rain and make them internal refugees?
I wrote more in the comments that follow this article, which is primarily window-dressing for the sheriffs and demonization of the campers, though as of yet those comments haven’t appeared (other than one brief sentence).  See for more comments and to make your own.  Or comment on this article on the HUFF blog at .

Three truckloads of trash hauled from Felton campsites

By Stephen Baxter

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   02/07/2013 07:05:45 PM PST


FELTON — Three deputies and four Santa Cruz County Jail inmates hauled out three truckloads of trash from illegal campsites near Zayante Creek and the San Lorenzo River on Thursday.

Responding to some residents’ complaints and a pile of garbage and human waste at the Graham Hill Road Bridge over the San Lorenzo River, deputies posted notices to vacate the campsites in January.
Since then, much of the debris was removed or swept down the river with last month’s rain, sheriff’s Sgt. John Habermehl said.
Thursday, they hauled out dirty clothing, alcohol bottles, bicycle parts and a broken kayak, among other items.
“It’s not so much that somebody decided to pitch a tent,” Habermehl said. “We try to address the criminal behavior — the illegal dumping, the drug and alcohol issues, and the waste in our rivers.”
He added that the cleanups are a matter of maintenance rather than a long-term solution: “If we don’t do something about what’s out there, it’s just going to get worse.”
The action follows similar Sheriff’s Office sweeps near Highway 9 in September and by Santa Cruz police during the fall and summer of 2012.
No one was cited and no syringes or other drug paraphernalia were found on Thursday, deputies said. The inmates who participated volunteered from the Rountree Detention Center, a medium-security facility.

At a second cleanup site under the Conference Drive Bridge at Zayante Creek, deputies were

surprised to find a relatively clean area with several trash bags left by campers.

Light rain fell on the crew as it loaded food wrappers and dirty clothing into a Santa Cruz County flatbed pickup and a truck loaned by the Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center.

Don Cox, a homeless 53-year-old Air Force veteran, watched the crew work in the rain. He said he camped in the Felton area for years and noticed new people who came from Santa Cruz because of recent cleanups in that city.

“A bunch of them who’ve come down here are drug addicts and thieves,” Cox said.

Having been a mechanic and tow truck driver, he said he is trying to attend job-training classes at Cabrillo College and find a place to live with his veteran benefits.

“It’s not like I’ve chosen to be out here and be a bum,” he said. “I’m too old to be on the streets.”

“They’re really kind of picking on us,” he said of Thursday’s cleanup.

Another woman, Amanda Livingston, 22, saw the deputies and inmates work under the Graham Hill Bridge.

She said one of the men went to Santa Cruz to collect a check Thursday morning, so she scrambled to round up his gear and a bag of prescription drugs before it was removed.

“I’ve been telling him that they’re going to clear the camp,” she said. “He didn’t believe me.”

Originally from Michigan, Livingston said the bridge offered her some shelter during the rain storms earlier in the winter. She and others cooked, drank and tried to stay dry, she said.

Above the bridge, some employees at nearby businesses said they appreciated the cleanup.

“I think it’s definitely necessary but it’s pretty lame that it has to be done in the first place,” said 21-year-old Adam Pomianowski, who works at Budget Truck Rental at 6440 Graham Hill Road. “This is a river running through our little town. I’m glad someone’s paying attention.”


Armed Bigots on the March in Felton

Norse Note:   What drugs?  What “illegal behavior”?  What provision for alternative shelter is being made?  Isn’t what’s really going on here destruction of people’s survival campsites without warrant or specific justification?     Why bother to ask–when you can just scowl “drug-infested” and “clear” people and their possessions like so much garbage?

Drug-Infested Camps to Be Cleared Thursday

Illegal campsites filled with criminal activity will be eliminated in Felton from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Thursday.
Photos (2)
A series of illegal campsites, known to be full of drugs and other criminal behavior, will be disposed of Thursday morning and early afternoon, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office announced.

The Felton camps, along the Mt. Hermon Road and Gram Hill Road corridor, were identified by community members and are hotbeds of “ongoing criminal activity in the area,” Sergeant John Habermehl said in a press release.

From 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., the camps, which are located under county bridges and touch private property, will be cleaned up with assistance of minimum security community corrections inames under the supervision of sheriff’s deputies.

Over the past few weeks, the sheriff’s office has posted signs at each camp asking people to vacate.

“The goal of the Sheriff’s Office will be to remove the refuse and eliminate criminal activities caused by these campsites,” Habermehl said. “Roaring Camp has graciously donated the use of their dumpsters for disposal of debris removed from the targeted areas.”