On the docket shortly after 2:20 p.m., Mathews’ City Council will likely rubberstamp the staff’s law reducing performance, vending, and “free speech” spaces by half. The new law will also seriously stiffen the “Move Along Every Hour” law. It will require anyone with a table or display device (anything “capable of holding tangible things”) to move along every 61 minutes. No warning will be required. Fines for overstaying your time or being outside the “exempt” areas (the blue bracketed areas on the sidewalk) will be $250 to $300 when court fees are added.The new Commercial Vending ban bars selling or displaying for donation any articles like clothing, scarves, crystals, rocks, geodes, and many other articles. This true whether anywhere on Pacific Avenue or the adjoining streets, whether inside or outside the Blue Boxes. Banned performances also may include face-painting, creating visual art, “visual art produced with limited variation”, handicrafts such as weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, and beading.The “clear” standard is whether an item though it has an “expressive purpose”, it is “deemed to have more than nominal utility apart from its communication, if it has a common and dominant non-expressive purpose.
Permitted performers such as singers, dancers, jugglers, puppeteers, magicians, actors, will be allowed to put a donation-seeking device directly on the sidewalk with their table, instruments, and possessions entirely contained within the Blue Boxes.
SCRUNCHING THE SPACE
A map of the Blue Boxes showed only 17 between Plaza Lane and Soquel Avenue. Only two spaces are available on the Del Mar Theater block in spite of the wide sidewalks. Much sidewalk space is taken up with privatized outdoor areas next to sidewalk cafes, unpermitted merchant A-frame advertising signs (technically illegal) and other city equipment. The expansive vacant space remaining is banned for “display device” use.
Defeated on May 10th at the first reading was a motion to allow “a few” spaces against any buildings for performers as repeatedly requested. Playing against the sides of building used to be regular practice prior to 2002 under the Voluntary Street Performers Guidelines.
There is no provision for public input or regular public hearing on the adequacy of these spaces or concerns about inappropriate police or host enforcement. Apparently these issues are left in the merchant-friendly hands of staffers like Redevelopment Agency leftover Julie Hende and Assistant City Manager Scott Collins. Both have a history of creating laws or projects that reduce public space at the behest of nearby merchants.
Vendors under the leadership of Shindig, a jewelry vendor, have begun signing up to oppose and fight back against the laws. HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) joined Shindig on Sunday to circulate petitions opposing the destruction of street culture. Many of these laws originate with a 1994 deal between merchants and a “progressive” City Council to clear away homeless-looking people from the sidewalk by instituting ever-expanding zones where it’s been forbidden to sit, table, peacefully spare change, perform, or vend.
DRIVING OUT THE RV’s: THANK COUNCILMEMBER NIROYAN
Agenda item #13 returns Councilmember Richelle Niroyan’s toxic attack on families living in their vehicles with a nighttime ban on RV parking anywhere in the City unless you’re a resident with a permit.
Though the federal government accepts homeless people as “residents” in allowing them to vote at the spot they currently frequent or try to find rest at, Santa Cruz will now ban homeless vehicle dwellers from applying for “resident” permits, no matter how long they’ve lived in town.
Niroyan’s latest attack on the poor on behalf of West Side wealthier folks who are concerned that RV’s block their view or “make them nervous” will have to meet a Coastal Commission review–which now seems more likely according to letters in the agenda packet.
BUDGET BOMBAST TONIGHT AND TOMORROW
The City’s 2017 Budget will be up for discussion beginning at 7 PM tonight all day tomorrow beginning at 9 AM. Social services (what little there is) will be up for discussion tonight with local agencies squabbling for tiny pieces of the ever-diminishing pie. Tomorrow morning Parks and Recreation (slated to take over First Alarm enforcement on Pacific Avenue and notorious for heavy ticketing and stay-away harassment in the parks at night) will be up for budget discussion at 9:10 AM. The police budget follows at 10:10 AM.
BLOATED POLICE/RANGER BUDGET
Strangely missing from the budget presentation on-line but occupying more than half of it in years past is the policing budget for the SCPD and Parks & Recreation. Nor is there any indication of the total budget with a pie chart indicating which departments get how much. In fact, nowhere in the budget agenda attachment that I’ve found is there any indication of what the total budget is for this year. City Administrator Bren Lehr was unable to find these stats in the budget, but after tracking the matter to the Finance Department, I found that this year’s budget is $90 million or so. And 42% of it goes to cops and rangers.
Mayor Mathews has declined to clarify when public comment will be allowed. I’ve sent her an e-mail asking her to correct this problem, but so far she hasn’t responded.
To address the real problems in the police departments generally, I suggest taking a long hard look at Black Lives Matters’ proposed reforms at http://www.joincampaignzero.
The Social Service component of the budget is less than $2 million.
FREEDOM SLEEPERS SUSTAIN VIGIL
For the 46th night, unhoused folks and their supporters will gather for soup (thanks to India Joze), coffee, and company through the night. Last week there were no tickets issued in spite of harassment driving poor people from the bricks and City Hall courtyard onto the sidewalk, where none have been prosecuted for sleeping.
Robert Norse (the author of this piece) is still facing charges for MC 13.04.011–being in a park after dark. This charge was widely used against Freedom Sleepers last summer and fall. I went to court on Friday and had my demurrer dismissed with a trial set for 10 AM on June 24. Motions hearing will be 10 AM June 17th in Dept. 1.
Though an original Freedom Sleeper, I am now simply writing and reporting. Hats off to activists Abbi Samuels, Zav Hershfield, and others who are holding down the protest each Tuesday. Support them in any way you can or propose new actions to end the Sleeping Ban!