Stay-Away From Human Rights ! An Activist Examines the Escalating Stay-Away Orders Law

by Raven Davis (posted by Norse)
Saturday Oct 25th, 2014 8:51 PM

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) activists Raven Davis and Maya Iverson spent many hours culling through citations and stay-away orders from the Parks and Recreation Department for the last year and a half. Their results show a pattern of homeless harassment and suggest very few of the citations or stay aways are for real crimes that threaten anyone. Mostly infractions used to discourage and drive away homeless folks. The proposed escalation of penalties, Davis predicts, will be even more abusive.


Presented are some selections from Raven Davis’s letter. The complete letter, the raw date, a spread sheet made of the data, and a follow-up letter are included below.Santa Cruz City Council
809 Center Street, Room 10
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Dear Members of the City Council,

I’m writing to urge you against adopting the proposed amendment to section 13.08.100 of the Municipal Code Pertaining to Orders to Vacate Park Property. Data collected from the 2013-2014 Parks & Recreation citations shows that the adoption of this amendment will disproportionally affect homeless people. Furthermore, it also shows that claims of disruptive behavior interfering with proper usage of city parks and beaches presently have no grounds for substantiation. In light of this information, and the threats of civil suits that others are already planning (should this amendment be adopted), I implore you to look at the data yourselves.

…[A] small percentage (<1%) of the citations written by Park Rangers include charges for behavior that interferes with either Ranger duties or use of a city beach or park as described in ordinance 13.08.090 Disorderly Conduct on Park Property. In fact, nearly 100% of the citations written were for non-violent, non-disruptive infractions. The most cited infraction was 6.36.011 [Camping Prohibited] (c) – Setting-up Campsite – Anytime, at 23% of the total charges written. Combined with infractions for 6.36.010 [Camping Prohibited] (a) – Sleeping – 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 6.36.010 [Camping Prohibited] (b) – Setting-up Bedding – 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m., charges for illegally camping on public property account for more than one third (38%) of all charges written by Park Rangers since January 2013. Following camping are infractions for 13.04.010 Limitations on Access and use of Public Property. This seems to be the result of homeless people taking refuge in off limits areas of public properties. The third most cited infraction was 9.50.050 Smoking on Public Property on Public Property. While secondhand smoke is certainly a health hazard and a deterrent for most people, smoking is generally not a disruptive or highly threatening activity.

As it turns out, 50% of these 1,166 citations were addressed to 115 Coral St., the Homeless Services Center. Another 19% were addressed to P.O. Boxes, marked for General Delivery, or labeled “Transient.” Given that these designations are often signifiers of homelessness, we can reasonable say that homeless people account for 69% of the citations written by Park Rangers between 2013 and the present. On top of being more likely to receive a citation at all, since the enactment of ordinance 13.08.100 of the Municipal Code Pertaining to Orders to Vacate Park Property homeless people (shelter residents, transient people, people with no residential address) are more likely to receive an order to vacate than an offender with a local address (within Santa Cruz County) or offenders with non-local addresses.

Citation Charges

6.36.010 [Camping Prohibited] (a) – Sleeping – 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. 163 14%
6.36.010 [Camping Prohibited] (b) – Setting-up Bedding – 11 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. 20 2%
6.36.011 [Camping Prohibited] (c) – Setting-up Campsite – Anytime 273 23%

9.50.050 Smoking on Public Property on Public Property 199 17%
9.12.020 Consumption of Intoxicating Liquors in Public Places 58 5%
9.12.030 Display of Open Containers 113 9%
9.12.050 Possession of Intoxicating Liquor in San Lorenzo Park. 8 1%

13.04.010 Limitations on Access and use of Public Property 257 21%

9.50.030 Abuse or Mutilation of Trees, Plants and Lawn 16 1%
8.14.320 Leash Required for Dogs Off Premises 22 2%
8.14.200 Dogs in Public Places – Prohibited Location 27 2%
9.50.016 Public Urination and Defecation Prohibited 20 2%
13.08.050 Fires Prohibited 6 0%
6.12.080 Solid Waste on Streets Prohibited [Littering] 9 1%
9.50.010 Obstruction of Movement in Public Ways 7 1%
13.08.090 Disorderly Conduct on Park Property (*Misdemeanor*) 2 0%
13.08.100 Order to Vacate – Violation (*Misdemeanor*) 0%
Bikes – Prohibited Location 1 0%

Total Entries 1202

Number of Citations with 2 or More Charges 37 3%
All 6.36.010 – Camping Prohibited Charges 456 38%
All Alcohol Related Charges 179 15%

The SCPD has sent a total of 879 citations to be waived by the city attorney from 2012 – present. 178 of those citations were sent because the armory was full (Winter 2012 and Winter 2013). The other 701 were sent because the recipients of the citations were on the waiting list for shelter service on the date of the citation.

Given these facts, it is clear that if adopted the proposed amendment to 13.08.100 of the Municipal Code Pertaining to Orders to Vacate Park Property would be ineffectual at best and discriminatory at worst. I fully believe Parks & Recreation Director Shoemaker when she says that Park Rangers don’t have the time to perform the fun, educational parts of their jobs, because they have to spend their time writing citations. We have several laws that criminalize the necessary to life acts of homeless people and we have a large number of unsheltered homeless people trying to live in parks. Further criminalizing these citizens for their “behaviors” isn’t going to solve this problem. If anything, we need a moratorium on such ordinances; that way, neither Park Rangers nor homeless people will have to worry about all of these citations. It’s time to address the homelessness crisis in Santa Cruz full on and work toward some bigger, long-term solutions.

Personally, I believe we need a Homelessness Task Force, a team of homeless, formerly homeless, city staff, county staff, homeless service providers, faith community members, and housed-citizens to research solutions and propose initiatives to the City Council for funding.

I think it’s remarkably ludicrous that such a group is not currently in place. Councilmembers Terrazas, Comstock, Bryant, and Mathews, if any of you actually care about the people of Santa Cruz, all of them, rich or poor, then you will change your vote and prevent the adoption of this amendment. And if you can get your heart back from whatever person or corporation bought it from you, you will team up with Vice Mayor Lane and Councilmember Posner to design a social service program, such as a Homelessness Task Force.

It is not okay that we have so many homeless people in Santa Cruz. I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You should see it on the streets and you should feel it in your bones; it should shake your core and disturb your soul simply because it is unfair, unjust, and unnecessary in a city, a county, a state, a country like ours. We can do better. We can take care of each other. Yet, for some reason, people like you don’t want to acknowledge the issue or put in the effort to fix it.

Did that offend you? I hope so, because I want you to make me look like a fool and prove me wrong in front of the entire city. Go ahead. Show me who you really are and stand up for something meaningful and urgent. Show me that the members of HUFF didn’t waste over 50 man-hours (32 from me alone) over the five days putting together this data and analysis, only for you to be too stupid or too shallow or too heartless to see the truth.

If you’ve managed to make it this far through the letter, thank you. Thank you for at least taking the time to read this. If you don’t despise me and have any questions, please let me know; I will answer them to the best of my ability. I do intend on making a statement at the hearing of this issue and will be prepared to answer questions at that time as well.

Sincerely, Raven Davis



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ACLU Finally Squeaks Up Against the Stay-Away Orders

HUFFsters:  Councilmember Posner got this S.C. ACLU Resolution opposing the expansion of MC 13.08.100.  Most of it is taken up citing another case, the Cyr case, to persuade the City Council that the Stay-Away expansion would run afoul of the Constitution as recently interpreted by the courts.   It’s rare and positive to have the ACLU issue such a statement, though I understand it is not soliciting legal help locally to challenge the ordinance.  Vice-Chair Steve Pleich has told me that his Homeless Persons Legal Assistance project (which is primarily his solo venture) will take it on if he can find five plaintiffs (See “Time to Step Up and Fight City Hall on “Stay Away” Ordinance” at  ).
The ordinance also not only gives a stay-away at the whim of the cop once she or he issues an infraction citation, but also includes all prior areas where 13.08.100 stay-away’s were given in the prohibition.  So for instance if you get a ticket for smoking in a distant area of San Lorenzo Park for the first time, you get a one-day stay away (if it’s your first stay-away).  If you then get a ticket for camping in the Pogonip some days later, you get a week stay away, but also a week stay-away from San Lorenzo Park.
The ordinance is also retroactive to the hundreds of one-day stay away’s already given in the prior year.  HUFF activists have been tracking these orders and there are hundreds of them.  Given almost entirely to homeless people and for such “crimes” as smoking, camping, and being in a park after dark.
The iron hand of the Parks and Recreation Department not only extends to a few parks but also to the following areas (according to MC 13.04.0111, “without limitation all city parks, greenbelts, all city park trails and roads, all city park facilities and buildings, including Lighthouse Field State Beach, DeLaveaga Golf Course, Main Beach, Cowell’s Beach, Steamer Lane, Harvey West Pool, the Beach Flats Community Center, the Louden Nelson Community Center, the Teen Center, the Civic Auditorium, City Hall Courtyard, Mission Plaza, the Town Clock, the Natural History Museum, the Surfing Museum, Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, Pacific Avenue, West Cliff Drive (Pelton Street to Swanton Boulevard), the San Lorenzo River Levee and bike path, the San Lorenzo Benchlands, the inner banks of the San Lorenzo River within the City limits, the Branciforte and Cabonera Creeks within the city limits, Jessie Street Marsh, plus any other facilities or areas assigned to the parks and recreation department by the city manager.”
In spite of hundreds of unconstitutional Stay-Away orders from the park (1 day stay-away orders) given out over the last year, the ACLU has said nothing & offered no help (even in the form of public statements opposing the sweeps and targeted harassment of homeless people).  Now ACLU Chair Peter Geldblum opens hiss dusty lawbooks to suddenly discover it’s been unconstitutional for the last 15 months.  Pardon my bile, but the prior collusion continues to smell very bad.  Geldblum is the same smiling chairperson who voted against the homeless right to sleep at night, ordered homeless guests out of the ACLU meeting before the agenda item was over, and successfully muzzled the ACLU on the issue during the prior year  (See “Homeless Take ACLU Sleeping Ban Suspension Resolution to City Council”

at ).