Fight Back on Selective Enforcement and Merchant Privilege on Pacific Avenue

NORSE’S NOTES: A recent story on Santa Cruz indymedia (“Selective Enforcement documented on Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz, CA” at ) highlights the well-known SCPD and Ranger harassment of vendors, performers, and other tablers on Pacific Avenue will giving merchants with their display devices and unpermitted signs a free pass.

Anti-performer and anti-activist laws (also known as the Downtown Ordinances) were originally designed in 1994 to go after homeless folks and peaceful sparechangers (as well as to give police broader powers to go after youth, minorities, and anyone who didn’t “feel right” to businesses and police). Some of them are itemized at

In order to pass constitutional muster, the “h” word couldn’t be used or it would violate the 5th and 14th Amendments (equality under the law).

As the noose was drawn tighter with expanded forbidden-to-sit zones and a 1 hour “move along” law in 2002/3 and further expansions in 2009, merchants continued to violate the law.

According to the city clerk’s office some years ago, it was never legal, for instance, for stores to put up free standing signs on the sidewalk advertising their stores. There was not even a permit process for doing so.  Yet merchants regularly have done so.  Police and city enforcement officials have turned a blind eyes.

The “performance pens” set up by City Council in 2014 (and then severely restricted unilaterally and behind closed doors by city staff) are routinely ignored by merchants when they display their wares, preempting more of the little public space left to the rest of us.

It’s striking to me to read the July 16 letter from Martinez and Khoury [below].  I will be making a Public Records Act demanding copies of all citations issued since the letter was written.

An obvious thing to do is to begin calling the police on various merchants to cite merchants for violating the law and arrogantly expropriating the public space.  Then document what police do or don’t do.   And publicize it.

HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) previously considered advising merchants that we’d like them to join in a coalition to support giving individuals the same right to set up their tables as merchants have.   Otherwise, for every citation given a street performer, vendor, activist, or homeless panhandler, there would be a specific documented complaint made out against a store owner with a display device sitting out on the sidewalk.

I’d be happy to support folks doing this.

In fact, I’ll be bringing it up as an action item at the next HUFF meeting (Wednesday January 11th 11 AM at the Sub Rosa).

Here are some selections from The Jones/Skelton Report on indybay at that exposes this practices.

For more photos, video, and to make comments, go to:


                              A little over six months ago park Rangers began patrolling downtown Santa Cruz, CA in part to enforce new ordinances which modify and restrict activity for anyone placing anything on the public sidewalks and open spaces of downtown Santa Cruz. These ordinances have had major implications for musicians, street performers, artists, political advocates, and anyone else wishing to use the public spaces for many forms of constitutionally protected activity (see SCMC Chapter 5.81, below).
                             They are required to be located within a “zone” or “box” 4×6 feet in size, leave after one hour, and follow additional restrictions. These spaces have been reduced in number progressively by more than half over the last couple of years, with few viable spaces remaining. Businesses have also long used public spaces and sidewalks to display merchandise and signage. They received a letter dated July 21, 2016 (see photo, below) outlining the need for their compliance with the new laws. Rangers and Santa Cruz police issued citations for violations of these codes, and many performers, artisans, and other individuals who weren’t allowed under the new code, or weren’t “in a zone,” or were there longer than one hour, were cited. As the months wore on and the business signage and racks of merchandise began to reappear along the avenue, there has been no apparent concern by law enforcement at their daily presence (almost never “in a zone,” and often displaying “banned items”).
                               Many individual citizens and visiting performers to Santa Cruz continue to be cited for various related “offenses,” however. Tickets we have seen have all been in excess of $300.00.

See below for additional photo documentation, the letter from law enforcement, and Santa Cruz municipal code Chapter 5.81:

Continue reading

Freedom Sleeper Get Together 8 PM Tuesday June 14 at City Hall? Council Preview

Hi Everyone:

Zav believes it would be good for Freedom Sleepers to firm up any plans for the July 5 Memorial Demo and clarifying what needs to be done and who can do it.  He suggests we meet at 8 PM in front of City Hall at the Freedom Sleeper site on Tuesday night.

Zav has also asked HUFF members (and anyone interested) to be particularly aware of the Budget approval that follows the Consent Agenda (Item #22) probably at 2:45 or 3 PM, which concerns money for public bathrooms (if any).   HUFF is encouraging the City to open the City Hall bathrooms 24-hours a day (the “Give a Shit” campaign).  Unfortunately the documents giving budget specifics and when items are coming up are not on line at the moment.

Also up for possible discussion at the 8 PM meeting (if that’s what we decide) is support for the June 17 Motions Hearing on my two “in the park after 10 PM” citations (10 AM Dept. 1).  The issue here is to get the police video and audio released prior to trial.  And use the occasion to publicize the City’s continuing harassment of Freedom Sleepers (and, of course, the unhoused community).

There is a chance that the well-documented City staff’s movement of agendas to the sidewalk in December may nullify my tickets (and perhaps those of all other Freedom Sleepers) and show that the arrests were false.   My court (not jury) trial before Judge Marigonda is currently slated for June 24 at 10 AM but may be postponed–if the Discovery Motion is granted.

I’d also add that on the June 14 Consent Agenda at 2:30 PM earlier that day are item #5, expanding triple fine zones for the holidays from the downtown area to include the entire city for July 4, Halloween, and New Year’s.  Plus expanding the time affected to 48 hours before and 48 hours after the holiday itself.  Pretty serious expansion of police power for harassment (and fund-raising) for minor offenses.

Item #6 kicks down $100,000 for graffiti abatement; item #8 $50,000 for a trash container up at the golf course; item #10 authorizes the City’s whole financial packet without any examination of investments in war profiteering or companies boycotted by the BDS movement (to boycott Israel unless it leaves the Occupied territories); item #11 $36,000 for new police helmets at $350+ a helmet. 

If anyone wants to talk on these Consent Agenda items, I encourage you to send an e-mail to a Council member (,,, etc.) asking them  to pull the item from the agenda for separate discussion and vote.   Or call them at 420-5020 and leave them a message.

The Resolution specifying the number and location of the blue cages, or “exempt zones” (as the blue bracketed areas on Pacific Avenue are called) is NOT on the agenda as anticipated.  However the law banning jewelry and other “Commercial” sales and uses, tightening the “move every hour” law, and enacting further restrictions on using the blue cages goes into effect on June 23 or 24th.

HUFF weaves and wanders again Sub Rosa 5-6-15 11 AM

After a heavily surveilled and cramped protest today, HUFF veterans will return from the wars to report their latest on the fight to save Parking spaces on Coral, Fern, and Limekiln streets.  Some tabling may be in the offing at the Farmer’s Market.  We’re still hoping to hear from the Obamaphone Seeker.  And there was a May Day Sit protest in Monterey, rumor has it. Other concerns: Tightening up at the Red Church, Performer reports from Pacific Avenue, and more prospects as I work through the nite….  There will be coffee!

Upcoming Events and Last HUFF Meeting Minutes

HUFFsters:  If you’ve looked over the e-mails of the last week, let me know what you think.  I’m wondering what we should focus on as an action this week.    HUFF will, of course, be huddling Wednesday 2-4 at 11 AM at the Sub Rosa Cafe at 703 Pacific.  Coffee and caffeinated tongues will flow freely!

Recent proposals for action have included a HOMELESS CLEANUP (to buff up the homeless image against anti-homeless propaganda), a PERFORMANCE PEN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE PROTEST (outside the bracketed color zones),

I favor prep for an action around STAY-AWAY’S (perhaps a protest to the staff or Terrazas’s Public Safety Committee), a follow-up on DISABLED  DISPENSATIONS on Pacific Ave. and elsewhere, and/or  SMALL CLAIMS COURT publicizing around the Sleeping Ban.

Other prospects are a STRIKE 4 AT THE SCPD (demanding the release of Azua’s citations, so we can check racial categories),  FINAL HOUSING FOR VETS (Becky’s proposal to unite anti-war, pro-vet, and pro-dignity-for-homeless sentiment by demanding a more local vet cemetary), SIMPLE HOUSING (some follow-up on Elisse/Raven’s proposal of last fall), VIDEO DEFENSE FOR THE HOMELESS (against violence and police harassment), VOLUNTEER OUTREACH (Major focus on getting more volunteers)… MAPPING THE MOSQUITOS I could go on and on.
If someone wants to volunteer to spearhead this (Pat has been sick), we could add Cafe HUFF to any of these.

Food Not Bombs continues to need volunteers–at its Saturday and Sunday meals 4-6 PM near the Main Post Office.  HUFF fliers are there–and we need activists to sign up people for SMALL CLAIMS COURT there.  As well as at the Monday Red  Church meal 6-7 PM at Cedar and Lincoln.  Sin Barras (the anti-prison group):  Check their facebook page at or .

On the more “appeal to the conventional” side….A City Council meeting is coming up Tuesday 2-9.  Phil Posner has a “Camp of Last Resort” forum 7 PM at Louden Nelson on Wednesday 2-4.   The BEARCAT public forum (not at City Council but at Louden Nellson) is coming up 2-10 7 PM–I think.  On 2-5, Brent Adams’ Warming Center Project is holding a beer benefit Thursday at 402 Ingalis St. 11:30 AM – 10 PM;

I’m also including HUFF notes from the last meeting below.  These are fragmentary and rough.
11:20 a.m.  Sherry, Gail, Jacks, Cal, Kip,  Kevin…(Janice, Becky, David, Gail, James-in-the Rain and Elisse joined later—not everyone was there all the time)…   Kip has a few ideas:KIP’S IDEAS ON THE AGENDA:  PERFORMANCE PENS (at top of  the Agenda)…HOMELESS CLEAN SWEEP…to  counter what  they’ll counter… Kevin–they let him  sleep i the park, and a park  worker said this good morning…Harvey West Park…he  was alone…VAN CAMPING…Sherry got notice from Rainbow Gathering Hawaii–kitchen person arrested and given 24 hours…because they do’t have a permit and gathering…annual state…    Cal wanted to know gender pronouns:    U.S. Foresty 800-832-1355.. Say you disagree with forestry service,  under constitution right to publicly assemble.  Sunday night about 8 outside Grafix on Pacificc Ave…boy and a girll and non-lifethreatening inuries, both shot…hand and shoulder–bartender at Poet  and Patriot…Brent and Tampico heard pop pop…

Kip  notes he sees vans and paddywagon mornings…   Jacks seems them on Westcliffe now where not seen …harassing street performers waiting for their hour to be up…security guards and cops, Kip notes.  Trying to get people to  understand…. Cal notes Peaceful Warrriors Seminar in Berkelley on the 7th…for Direct Action….  Cal  did a march fromFruitville to Oakland—MLK’s speech protesting violence–Oscar Grant… FNB, HNJ, Housekeys not Handcuffs…all peace…Chris arrives.

Cal  remembers police arassment:  friend hanging out on a beach–druk friend arrested for prowling—2 weeks ago…

PERFORMANCE PENS:  How to properly demonstrate against the ordinance…need numbers–timing is important…shows on the 8th and the 15th who will be showing up to town….Wants to see the community too come out and exercise their right to ask for things…any request for anything…a Hug is considered aggressive panhandling–statement…sign cannot have a question regarding a request.

David Silva has arrived. with Tickets book….on particular days collectively outside the box–play music, requesting things that are technically illegal  to request, the more ludicrous these requests the better…  If  with more than one person unless you’re playing music….fliers would be good…police likely to leave it alone and enforce after the crowd hasdied down..  Not sure oof how to engage with the commuity…   Instruments being confiscated…need the media…

Elisse shows up…  with goodies…Spang Outside the Box  Protest…  FNB 4  PM on Saturday meeting…

Homeless Clean Sweep…Kip notes something to counter anti-homeless:  document that nothing is changed by Stay-Away orders…mess is there,  and cleaning it up…  Hard to present information so that it’s very clear to the public…  Follow-up to City Council…

Becky arrives..  Follow someone around with a camera….Brent said bathroom was totally clean…  Getting together with environmenalists..

Elisse: 70%  of the homeless born here or grown up here–removed from their homes by economic pressures.   1000 people: simple housing….for  folks with debt–funded by …  Becky says HUFF position is anyone moved around be given a motel voucher..

I move we do the Small Claims Court..   Becky notes show the dollar and cents stuff to compare the cost…  David and Becky stopping by FNB after 5 PM…can do a 15  minute at 5:15  p.m.    Janice    Resolution to support Small Claims Court stuff passes…

Ellisse asked why River St. Shelter people did gates etc.–so many drugs sold on the property–they couldn’t do anything about that… Janice notes they never tried to sell drugs to her…  Janice–got to stop making people its permanent clients.  I propose tabling and polling out there.   Cal might be interested;  Elisse  will think about it.    Cal  has no  car.

12:40 p.m.  Van Camping:  Kip  friend sleeps in her car fed up with it….  Becky says insist on a voucher if harassed… Janice: why not a public parking lot where you don’t have to move around…designated…have it in Paso Robles–public parking lots…in Los Angeles County…

Becky:  HUfF position is calling for a nighttime carpark and  campground.

Janice’s Concern:  JD Miini Storage and 41st Ave….with them quite a few years…Loitering banned, only allowed there for 20 minutes, no-smoking areas (she lit incense), pets in vehicle,  hallway and unit doors must be open at all times…Janice harassed   Only she got that letter… was there  in a golf cart…she was looking at her fluids, considered “working on her van…”  new management…Becky: they can’t put in new conditions……got letter last Saturday…..Becky and Janice may get together if Janice looks over lease with specifics.

MHCAN Concerns–Sherry: positive people need ot be there so that outside problems in the neighborhood don’t happen…1051 Cayuga.  across the street from the Fire Station on    New restrictive proposals: …They’ll  cut one of her days off and close off where they  …people who give her occasional use permit–  they were going to have a Board meeting on Monday  but woman was sick….   Janice back 3 months and is still on the waiting list.  Elisse wants to collect data on how  many beds .

Janice 61-year old woman having problems with mechanics..

Elisse will meet with Micah on Friday–wants to start to do some organizing heself–get  his opinion…wants to build a group for homeless and poor–working to organize themselves and start dialogues with people whoa re housed and willing… Continue reading

Santa Cruz Street Performers Crushed In Under New Ordinances

by Robert Norse

Wednesday Sep 11th, 2013 9:46 AM

Street performers will be severely impacted.

Their allowable performance area will be reduced from the current standard–having an 18 sq ft table and being able to have other items outside that area–to 16 sq ft and having to have all their personal possessions (including musical instrument cases) inside that area.

They will be required to provide stand-up tables or boxes on which to perch their stuff (actually creating more of a trip-and-fall hazard–one of the laughable undocumented excuses used to sugarcoat this attack on the street scene). In effect they’ll be required to store their personal goods inside these devices

How many poor people can actually afford to purchase such devices? How many homeless people can store them at night?.

They will be required to be 12′ away from each other—limiting still further the total available space (under the second phony pretext—also asserted without proof or documentation–that there were “conflicts”).

But most important, the 10′ “forbidden zones” have been increased to 14′–something specifically rejected by extensive hearings in 2002 and 2003 when several committees and the City Council itself in repeated sessions debated the issue. Street performers then vocally and accurately pointed out that the expanded zones (which were at that time designed to corral and deter homeless and poor people panhandling and sitting) would severely impact the performers. The Downtown Commission as well as a Joint Council-Commission Task Force recommended and got the Council to limit the damage to 10′.

This new expansion “no man’s land” (the forbidden zones bans on tabling, sitting, sparechanging, vending, etc. essentially only consumer access to stores) cuts available performance space down to about 1/5th of what it was.

How so? Rough estimates in 2002 were that the sitting and panhandling ban (which were increased from 6′ to 14′) eliminated 95% of the sidewalk for “legal behavior”. The 10′ forbidden zones finally settled on after extensive research and public debate eliminated 75% of the sidewalk for “display devices”. Street performers will now be in the same position as sitters and sparechangers have been for the last decade—legal on only 5% of the street (as distinguished from the previous 25% (and that was a generous assessment).

Since then, additional forbidden zone creators like “public art”, directory signs, trash compactors, and other items have been added to the landscape. Additional bike racks have been put in creating less space for traditional Santa Cruz street activity.

The new ordinance now proclaims that any street musician who performs with a cup or open guitar case (a “display device”, to quote the ordinance, “anything capable of holding tangible things”) will be illegal within 14′ of a forbidden zone indicator.

The forbidden zones extend within 14′ of:
street corners,
drinking fountains,
public telephones,
public benches,
public trash compactors,
information/directory signs,
sculptures or artwork,
ATM-style machines,
outside street cafes,
vending carts,
and fences.
(See under MC 5.43.020).

The Council’s claim that it wants to “avoid confusion” and “make things consistent” disguises the fact that this kind of consistency punitively sucks up the public space. Comments by City Council members (Robinson, Comstock, Mathews, Terrazas) seemed to indicate “aesthetics” (i.e. Get rid of the indications of visible poverty) and merchant sensibilities (more space for us and our customers) were the major indicators.

No concrete evidence of “trip and fall”, congestion, ongoing conflict problem, or any other real public safety concern was presented.

But, of course, this ties in nicely with the City’s redefinition of “Public Safety” as “Homeless Removal”.

Real public safety concerns might be aesthetically and economically “desirable” alcohol abusers lured by the city’s nightlife, but hey–they pay good money for their raucous behaviors and “contribute to the economy of the city”.

The real issue is how to restore and reclaim the public spaces that the Downtown Association and Take Back Santa Cruz–operating through the City Council–have stolen…again. Perhaps a kazoo brigade? Perhaps chairs distributed to homeless people to sit (sitting in a chair anywhere on Pacific Ave sidewalks is legal if you’re not blocking the sidewalk)? Perhaps link-ups with Palo Alto attorneys who have already committed themselves to challenging anti-homeless laws there?

The law comes up for a second reading on September 24th.

I’ll be hoping to write more about this infuriating situation if I can find the steam.

Thoughts on Escalating Police Violence in Santa Cruz


> Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2013 06:02:51 -0700
> Subject: The Artificial Creation of Crime and For What?
> From:
> To:
> The Artificial Creation of Crime and For What?
> April 25, 2013
> The Artificial Creation of Crime and For What?
> Yesterday I watched the Youtube video of a drunk homeless man being
> accosted by law enforcement I couldn’t help wonder what other options
> could have been employed by the persons responsible for public safety
> (homeless persons are included under the definition of the “public”).
> Let’s explore the options: the police could have walked by, smiled and
> kept moving. This would be my favorite. They could have questioned the
> duo, and then moved on, realizing they were drunk and minding their
> own business and harmless – number two on my list. They could have
> arrested them and when they got belligerent, “tasered” them, saving
> the one guy from a potential brain damaging blow to the head from a
> cement collision and resolving the situation – not the best option
> but better than a hospital stay. Apparently this dangerous situation
> called for backup and a physical confrontation.
> According the Santa Cruz police department there were 3 homicides, 33
> rapes, 83 robberies, 313 aggravated assaults, 527 burglaries, 2792
> acts of larceny, 264 auto thefts and 21 acts of arson. That makes 11
> of these types of crime per day. So I am just wondering if police time
> could be better spent on these types of crimes. Sitting on a bench
> drunk didn’t make the list for 2012 but there will be at least one
> offence for 2013. The good news is the Santa Cruz police department
> has launched Twitter and Facebook Pages and has a Mobile App for
> iPhone and Droid!
> Back to the dynamic duo. So let me get this straight, there are two
> guys on a bench, drunk, but doing a whole lot of nothing, and not
> really in any condition to walk, let alone able to creating mayhem. So
> pretty much the sum total of their transgression is akin to speeding
> or jay walking – it appears to me these two guys were totally
> harmless…so, here’s the result, the police initiate a confrontation,
> then the situation escalates, the two become belligerent (they weren’t
> belligerent before the cops arrived, begging the question what’s the
> catalyst?). This results in a booking, hospital visit, jail time for
> one, costing the tax payers tens of thousands of dollars, issuing
> nuisance citations that will never be paid, generating arrest warrants
> (again costing more money), the officers will get paid 1.5 their pay
> for overtime and retire at 45 with a healthcare benefits and a
> generous pension…and the City of Santa Cruz gets sued into oblivion
> (again) by a smart young attorney …not to mention the guy got his
> face bashed in and potential brain damage and pain…and for what? Who
> wins here? The man was belligerent. Who gives a shit? My kids are
> belligerent and so are my employees. So what? Adults handle these
> situations with common sense. The new buzz issue these days is
> bullying, but this is worse than bullying, it’s brutality. The
> standard justification for acts like this is how hard the job of the
> police is – as if this justifies assault? Being a doctor is a hard
> job. Working in the fields is a hard job. Having a hard job doesn’t
> justify being an ass hole. This is crime creation, not law
> enforcement. And they could have just walked by.
> Posted by D. B. Loisel.NORSE’S NOTES:

Nicely put, Doug.

I wouldn’t suggest tasering,  which can also be lethal and tends to be misused as curbside punishment for less-than-swift-compliance.   But rather calling for a few more cops to help  move the guy into the squad car.

The new strategy seems to be to use fear and punishment if people don’t fully cooperate,  seems like.

I’m normally not a fan of megacopping on Pacific Avenue–I’ve seen half a dozen instances of it in two weeks around things like “leaning against the railing of the fence near the New Leaf Market”  (an incident involving Brent Adams and Officer Ahlers), 4 squad cars blocking traffic on the street while a fifth parks across the street (near community TV) to handle one drunk on the sidewalk who’s already handcuffed (and may have also been slammed down–I got their late and his face was bleeding).   Actually both these and a third happened on the same day–I witnessed the first, got a first hand account of the second, and a more distant account of the third–I think it was Friday April 5th.

Maybe there’s a “message” police are trying to send out to drunks similar to the message their vigilante cousins are sending out to homeless people:  “get out of town or get hurt”.   Just wonderin’.

Finally, the cops also often use this “drunk in public” charge to haul people in, seize their property, and sequester it for days–notably homeless people and their backpacks and blankets, when folks simply have an open container or are mildly buzzed and “have the wrong attitude”.  They are then held in a cell for a few hours and released in the cold wee hours without charges.

It looked like Richard Hardy–the name of the man assaulted by Officer Vasquez–was perhaps too drunk to take care of himself–the actual definition of drunk in public, rather than the police misusage above.  So perhaps he had justification, but what really tells is the subsequent behavior of the cops (“Are you all right, Richard?”) where they attempt to whitewash their brutality for the watching videocamera and the cover-up of the matter by the SCPD (not aware that Vasquez has been relieved of duty pending investigation).  Also with the Copley decision of a decade ago, there’s no public revelation of any disciplinary consequences unless someone leaks it.

Hardy, by the way, was reportedly released from Dominican yesterday, but I’m not sure if that’s because they’re cheap, or because he’s truly recovered.

The aggravated anti-homeless climate in Santa Cruz (I got another report yesterday of 4 guys jumping a man named Gabriel as he headed for Cabrillo College–which you  may have heard on the radio–report to be posted soon) is ramping up and solidifying this long-time police corruption.

I’m hoping to begin creating a video on-line library of such local incidents and turn them into a well-edited video that demonstrates both police brutality locally and the abusive anti-homeless laws to pass on the public in another of my (often seemingly ineffectual) Calls to Conscience.

Thanks for your analysis.


Subject: RE: [huffsantacruz] Thoughts on Escalating Police Violence & in Santa Cruz
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2013 21:05:28 -0700

Unless we’re talking some new laws, jaywalking doesn’t mean not crossing at a crosswalk, but crossing in a block between two stop lights or obstructing traffic.  Were you doing either?   What’s the ordinance they cited?

Subject: RE: [huffsantacruz] Thoughts on Escalating Police Violence & in Santa Cruz
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2013 10:33:21 -0700

11pm officers winston and “coffy”?.. in front of new leaf as they were scaring off drunken street performers.

I crossed a vacant well lit street to pass by them.  He recognized me from afar and said, “SIR!!  COME HERE NOW!!”
….. and asked me to produce my ID.   it was because i had crossed the street outside of the cross walk.

they both indicated that they knew about the police violence video.

Subject: RE: [huffsantacruz] Thoughts on Escalating Police Violence & in Santa Cruz
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2013 10:23:35 -0700

Thanks, Brent.  When and were did this happen–if you remember?  Any video or further commentary?  Number of officers involved, for instance.  Time of day, etc.  As well as the ultimate consequences (did the ticket show up in court?).

Subject: RE: [huffsantacruz] Thoughts on Escalating Police Violence & in Santa Cruz
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2013 10:21:05 -0700

i was given a ticket for Jay walking and officer Coffy tried to give me a ticket for an unregistered bike untilWinston told him that they don’t do that anymore because its illegal.

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.