Monterey City Council to look at homeless problem
Amid increased public outcry about the city’s homeless population, the Monterey City Council will hold an evening study session Wednesday on the subject.
A 13-page council report prepared for the session says a 2011 census counted 440 homeless people in Monterey. It cautions that homelessness, unlawful behavior and activities affecting health and safety “are not one in the same and cannot be addressed with the same tools and strategies.”
The council session comes in advance of a first-time, Peninsula-wide “Hungry and Homeless in Paradise” conference to be held May 18 at Monterey Peninsula College.
The council report breaks down different groups of homeless people, looks at different ways of addressing the complex issue, notes what the city already is doing, and says public complaints about transients are on the rise.
“Most causes of homelessness are outside the the control of government agencies,” the report says. “There are no easy answers or solutions, only good intentions, inadequate resources and growing frustrations.”
The homeless population comprises the “truly homeless” who have suffered severe economic setbacks, persons with substance-abuse, mental-health or other traumatic problems, and growing numbers of young “travelers” living nomadic lifestyles, the report says.
The city itself — with its moderate climate, seasonal visitors with disposable income and beaches, parks and greenbelts — are “reasons for the area’s attractiveness
for people experiencing homelessness.”
City officials receive complaints “on a daily basis” from residents, tourists and the business community about the growing numbers of homeless, the report says.
“They report seeing homeless persons sprawled on the sidewalks, urinating in public and acting intimidating,” the report says. Areas particularly impacted are downtown, Roberts Lake and the Garden Road, the report says.
In response, the city has created a temporary three-member police team to maintain a presence in the areas most affected. But city officials also have received complaints from the public about “criminalizing poverty” and targeting the homeless, the report says.
The city has ordinances against aggressive panhandling, loitering, littering, consuming alcohol in public, trespassing and other “health and safety” issues, the report says.
But other measures — overnight parking prohibitions in certain areas, expanded no-smoking laws and making it a crime to sit or lie on sidewalks or other public spaces — likely will be brought to the council, the report says.
This year, the city allocated $123,060 in community development grant money to 13 agencies serving the homeless. That’s 50percent below last year’s funding level because of the elimination of local redevelopment agencies, the report says.
The report lists about two dozen suggestions received by city officials to respond to homelessness. They range from increasing city contributions to business groups for security to licensing panhandlers.
NOTES BY NORSE:
Salinas restaurateur admits beating homeless man, will get nine years
In a stunning mid-trial turnabout, a Salinas restaurant owner accused of beating a homeless man with a metal bat admitted to assault charges early Monday that will mean nine years in prison.
Halfway through a jury trial that included costly expert witnesses rendering opposing opinions, Robert DeLeon, 43, entered a no-contest plea to charges of assault with a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury leading to a coma in an attack on Ramon Anderson in October.
DeLeon is co-owner of XL Grindhouse on Main Street near the National Steinbeck Center. Prosecutors said he admitted he inflicted injury that caused Ramon Anderson, 55, to “suffer brain injury resulting in a coma.”
An additional charge of attempted murder was dropped as part of the plea agreement.
The sudden change in the trial’s course came about in a matter of hours on Friday.
Prosecutor Steve Somers said Salinas police Det. Arlene Currier received a message Friday from someone suggesting she speak with a possible new witness in the case.
It was the same day DeLeon testified that he never beat Anderson with a bat, something his attorney has contended since the trial began one week ago.
DeLeon admitted a fight took place, but said he only used fists in self-defense.
Currier had no phone number for the new witness, Somers said Monday, but was told where she could find him. She did so, and obtained a recorded interview that told a very different story, one that matched versions given
by another witness and Anderson.
Anderson testified early in the trial that he suffers from schizophrenia and was sleeping behind the restaurant when a customer called police and he was asked to leave the premises. He said he did, but was later walking on the sidewalk in front of the establishment when DeLeon came outside and attacked him.
The new witness, a regular customer of the XL Grindhouse, told Currier that he was “sitting in the restaurant,” Somers said. “He saw the defendant hit (Anderson) with a bat three times in the head.”
During the fight, Somers said, “DeLeon lost control of the bat but continued to attack Mr. Anderson, punching him and stomping on his head as Anderson lay on the sidewalk in a fetal position.”
He said the witness told Currier that DeLeon came back inside the restaurant carrying the bat, then looked at the witness and angrily told him to be quiet.
Two days later, Anderson was flown to a trauma center and underwent surgery to relieve swelling in his brain, followed by weeks in hospitals and convalescent homes.
With another week of trial looming on Friday, Somers said he quickly sent the recording to DeLeon’s attorney Brian Worthington.
Before the night was over, a plea deal was forged, Somers said.
Somers said this was only the second time he has struck a deal halfway through a jury trial.
He said the witness told Currier he never came forward because he thought investigators already had enough evidence.
Worthington on Monday said he didn’t want to discuss witness allegations that are not in evidence, and said he stands by DeLeon’s testimony about not using a bat.
“He’s been consistent with that,” Worthington said. He said corroborating testimony by forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Cohen about Anderson’s injuries “more than showed that wasn’t the case.”
He said DeLeon did admit in the plea deal to using a bat because the sentence would have been the same whatever weapon was used, and it was more important to get the attempted murder charge off the plate.
“It was a reasonable compromise,” Worthington said. “What really made us move forward with a plea was the (acknowledgement) that Mr. DeLeon had absolutely no intent to kill.”
Somers had another take. Somers felt it met the legal definition of attempted murder, “But it was a tough charge to prove.”
Overall, he said, the plea deal was “an appropriate result.”
DeLeon was facing 15 years in prison, Worthington said, but the deal now stipulates the nine-year sentence. State law requires that DeLeon serve at least 85 percent of the term, and the conviction will count as a strike under California’s three-strikes law.
He is scheduled to be sentenced June 21.
His brother James DeLeon was also originally charged in the assault. He was later sentenced to felony
probation after he admitted to being an accessory after the fact when he lied to police officers about the beating.
It is unclear what will happen to the XL Grindhouse’s beer and wine license, which state records show is held by a company run by both brothers.
California law says convicted felons cannot own liquor licenses unless they are deemed “rehabilitated” through a lengthy court procedure.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES BY NORSE:
Perhaps De Leon can start a chapter of Take Back Monterey in jail and link up with the militant Take Back Santa Cruz [TBSC] organization up North.
Anti-homeless hysteria generated by TBSC has resulted in the closing down of the only Needle Exchange program located in the city. They’ve amped up “Reefer Madness” and stopped a 2nd medical marijuana facility from opening [See http://www.santacruzsentinel.
TBSC is pushing for more punitive police response, and recently sent a mob to pressure a local judge (successfully) into keeping an innocent man in jail (Ken Maffei) with the false charge that he stole flowers from a police memorial. See http://www.santacruzsentinel.
Today the Santa Cruz City Council is considering an anti-homeless curfew on Cowell’s Beach–the first beach “forbidden zone at night” ever–after a Drug Warrior gang of hysterical residents mobbed City Council and prompted it to vote behind closed doors to shut down the only Needle Exchange in town.