In spite of the lack of specific documentation justifying her action, Louden Nelson Supervisor Iseth Rae closed and locked the Louden Nelson bathrooms in March 2018, reserving their use to “those in programs”. Tony Elliot of the City’s Parks and Recreation oversees Iseth Rae’s management.
When the San Lorenzo Winter Campground was shut down without providing adequate alternate sleeping facilities for unhoused residents, those without shelter began to sleep in Laurel Park, adjacent to the Louden Nelson Center. Use of the bathrooms increased.
Though masking the discriminatory policy as being concerned with “illegal” behavior (such as sleeping near the Center, using the washrooms to shave and wash, and “drug use”), the wholesale exclusion was clearly intended at unhoused people.
It also significantly impacts the entire community. The nearest bathrooms are blocks away (with the exception of the police department, which is usually not available, according to a beat officer).
At the same time, Rae and the P & R created a “Security Patrol” at Laurel Park, as well as a locked fence. Rae upped the ante in March 2018 by locking the public bathrooms and requiring users to get a code. That code was only given out to authorized individuals, that is, those “participating in programs” at the Louden Nelson Center. Using the park, visiting the Center, and simply needing to use the bathroom were not enough. Even if you were disabled, ill, a minor, a senior, or afflicted with a medical condition.
SCANT DOCUMENTATION FOR THE LOCK-OUT
When asked to present evidence for the need of this policy, Rae responded by describing several incidents in 2016 and 2017, but had no documentation showing unusual amounts of vandalism or lawbreaking or behavior that “threatened” children.
Close analysis of the public records involving staff memos, bills for repair, etc. revealed no regular or extensive damage at the bathrooms. At the P & R Commission meeting this summer, Rae presented no written evidence justifying her exclusionary policy.
COMMUNITY PROTEST AND COMMISSION REFUSAL
She did note that some conservative neighbors and a few neighborhood groups had complained about the “inappropriate behavior”. By contrast, the ACLU and at least one musical performer (David Rovics) reacted with outrage and moved their meetings elsewhere in response to the anti-homeless policies.
When one member of the P & R Commission noted state law seemed to require that public bathrooms in public buildings be open to the entire public, not simply those chosen by the managers, the Commission voted to continue banning bathroom use even to regular Laurel Park users until such time as the City Attorney advised otherwise.
Louden Nelson Center was originally named after London Nelson, a former slave, who donated the property to the school district in the mid-1800s. London’s first name was erroneously changed to “Louden” in documents after the 1930s, but almost no documents before that time show his name as anything other than “London.” according to local historian Phil Reader. I use the altered name “Louden” accustomed to this usage.
Bathrooms at City Hall have been closed since 2015 in spite of repeated protests–the apparent purpose to shut down the “Freedom Sleeper” protests of 2015-2017. The City has spent thousands of dollars tearing up the grass and replacing it with rocky ground, hiring First Alarm “security” patrols, and making it a crime to circulate a petition on City Hall grounds after dark.
E-MAIL THE BATHROOM BLOCKADERS
The swing vote on this issue is, as usual, Vice Mayor Justin Cummings, who has declined so far to meet with HUFF on this or any other issue.
E-Mail him at jcummings [at] cityofsantacruz.com or phone him at 420-5020 to demand a restoration of decency and fair treatment there. The entire City Council can be reached at citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com .
DIRECT ACTION MAY FLUSH AWAY THE BLOCKAGE
Repeated protests on this issue and meetings with P & R higher-up Carol Scurich, City Manager Martin Bernal, and current P & R boss Tony Elliot have led nowhere. A Direct Action protest held some weeks ago did open up the women’s bathroom for an hour.
Another protest is planned for 1:30 PM at Louden Nelson Center Tuesday September 3rd in the event that City Council continues its “no homeless” policies.
NEGOTIATIONS PROVE FUTILE
“Access and Hours of Parks and Recreation Facilities” –the only item on the evening agenda at
Tony Elliot’s justification for locking down the bathrooms can be found under Memorandum on Louden Nelson Communty Center Restrooms. No dates and costs are mentioned. Nor is any comparison made with upkeep costs for other bathrooms. After two hour-long meetings, Elliot has still not responded with any specifics to the concerns raised by Conscience and Action and HUFF.
PREVIOUS STORIES AND FLYERS
“Direct Action–Liberate the Locked Louden Nelson Bathrooms ” at https://www.indybay.org/
“Time to Get Off the Pot: Louden Nelson–Reopen Your Bathrooms to All the Public ” at https://www.indybay.org/
“Parks and Rec Set to Sabotage Glover “Open the Bathrooms” Proposal ” at https://www.indybay.org/
“Liberate Locked Lavatories ” at https://www.indybay.org/
“Bathrooms, Winter Survival, and Community Caring — A Rally — Join Us! ” at https://www.indybay.org/
“Pee & Poo Protest: Reopen Essential Bathrooms for the Public and the Poor ” at https://www.indybay.org/