Public Safety Danger in Santa Cruz: Gunmen Armed with Badges and Attitude

Off-Duty SCPD Cop Draws Gun on Salvation Army Food Seeker

by Robert Norse and Colin Campbell Clyde

Friday Nov 29th, 2013 2:44 PM

Several witnesses at the Tuesday Salvation Army Thanksgiving Meal including the mother of the victim reported that Officer Hernandez assaulted Jasmine Byron by knocking a plate of food out of her hand, threatening her with his gun, and subsequently taunting her from his car. Hernandez’s stated objective: to stop Jasmine from trying to take a plate of food out the door after having she said she’d asked permission to do so.

Yesterday on the stream of Free Radio, I interviewed Jasmine Byron and her husband Shade, who witnessed Hernandez’s assault. The first hour of the audio stream (after a silence of 12 minutes or so) at presents that interview along with commentary from Colin Campbell Clyde. He summarized his understanding of what happened. His account was initially posted on the Citizens for a Positive Santa Cruz, a new website, started to address issues and people banned from Steve Pleich’s Citizens for a Better Santa Cruz site.

(at )

“Officer Hernandez pulled a gun on my friend Jasmine and pointed it at her face at close range while volunteering off-duty at a Salvation Army Thanksgiving meal. Apparently this was super-necessary to prevent her from “stealing” a plate of leftover food, which he also knocked out of her hand, spilling the food all over the floor, the wall, even the ceiling. A few minutes later, Hernandez bragged and gloated about what he’d done. Her whole family is in shock and her mother has been having panic attacks since the incident.

Is this what people had in mind when “We Support Our Police” poster went up all over town when some cops were murdered earlier this year? Why was this man-boy wearing a gun to volunteer at a community event? Is the city or the legal system going to ANYTHING to reign in this loose cannon before he hurts someone again, perhaps more seriously next time? Or do cops get immunity to commit crimes (assault and battery in this case) in Santa Cruz, even when they’re not at work?”

Jasmine and Shade Byron play sweet music on Pacific Avenue and at the Farmer’s Market in a group known as The Dirty Pines. This serious, public, and callous incident of assault and battery followed by harassment–if accurately described by witnesses–is likely to be covered up and rolled past. KSBW did interview Jasmine at the scene, but I’ve not heard that they’ve played it. Police declined to come though they were called.

When Jasmine and her mother went to the police station and reported the crime there, one of the interviewing officers with Officer Vasquez, whose spring sidewalk-smashing of Richard Hardy on video ( ) has yet to be concluded–or at least no such announcement has been made.

In the hours and days that followed, Jasmine and her mother also stated they suffered post traumatic stress syndrome symptoms (headaches, panic attacks, inability to sleep, disorientation, irrational [rational?] fear of police, etc.]. A Salvation Army worker who witnessed the event reportedly broke down in tears.

Councilmember Micah Posner was twice advised about the situation but has not replied to my phone calls (831-227-4772) nor has Mayor Robinson, who also received word of the assault at the Thursday Civic Center Thanksgiving Meal (when she served me pumpkin pie). SC Patch police publicist Brad Kava was also informed, but I’ve not seen anything on SC Patch about the issue.

I circulated a flier (now updated and corrected) yesterday which I attach below. There is more discussion of the incident on the Citizens for a Positive Santa Cruz website at .

My accounts come from those who were directly impacted by Hernandez’s behavior. I encourage others who witnessed this incident to post or contact me at 831-423-4833.

by Robert Norse

Friday Nov 29th, 2013 2:51 PM

Jasmine said that Hernandez’s stated rationale for slapping the food plate out of her hand and then pulling his gun was the Salvation Army’s “rule” that food was not to be taken outside. She says as someone with a stomach condition that did not allow her to eat much at a meal and with the permission of Salvation Army workers, she was trying to leave with a plate of food, partially covered by her coat.

When Hernandez demanded to search her, she refused–which, she suggests, he regarded as an intolerable threat to his authority, provoking what they describe as his violent behavior, the drawing of the gun, and the subsequent waving it in her face and shoving it in her back.

Jasmine and Shade go into more of these details on the audio file. They also noted that many people had plates of food outside, so even without explicit “permission” and that it was not an uncommon practice.

Return of the Food Wars: L.A. NIMBY’s and Gentrification Lords Move to Starve Out Homeless

NOTES BY NORSE:  Santa Cruz food activists, even once-a-week religious groups like that of Pastor Ron’s on Thursday afternoon in front of Forever Twenty-One on Pacific Avenue, have experienced direct pressure from “ban the bums” bureaucrats like Julie Hendee, the City staff succubus who gave us the anti-performer sidewalk shrinking laws.  On October 24th, she scolded and pressured Ron’s street church to eliminate their weekly meal, complaining that its participants left litter in spite of the clean-up efforts of the group.  Ron replied that the sidewalk was the only location his church-without-a-building had.

               The right to serve free food outside has been a struggle in Santa Cruz, ever since Holy Cross’s Peter Carota’s efforts in the Beach Flats in the early 80’s.   Dozens were arrested in the early 90’s for feeding folks at the Town Clock, though the persistence of groups like SWAP (Soup Without a Permit), SLOP (Soup Lovers Outdoor Picnics), and Food Not Bombs ultimately exhausted authorities who tried arrests, injunctions, prosecutions, and jail terms unsuccessfully.  Direct Action got the goods and kept them.  Homeless activism actually created the twice-daily meals out at 115 Coral St.
Will Mayor Lynn Robinson (when she enters office in December) return to the repression that is scarring other cities in the country?   Already the City Council is moving today to implement a harsher Public Assembly bill, requiring permits for marches, with a longer advance time (5 days)  than the Egyptian military regime has recently proposed (3 days). Moving swiftly to “investigate” the imaginary crime of “homeless scavenging”.   City Council meets today at 2 PM to consider this new series of restrictions on Public Assembly  at City Hall.
Robinson’s Revanchists will soon move to rubberstamp the patently phony “Public Safety” recommendations of outgoing Mayor Hillary Bryant’s hand-picked hoedown of homeless haters which defines people sleeping outside as a “crime wave”.   (See the Sentinel’s front-page smear job at )
The seminal PeaceCamp2010 protests that provided a homeless encampment for a month in front of the courthouse and then a further 2 month protest  in front of City Hall, prompted City Manager-for-Life Martin Bernal, then-Mayor Coonerty, police Chief Vogel, & Parks and Recreation Czarina Dannettee Shoemaker to impose–with no public discussion or vote–nighttime curfews around the library, city hall, and the police station to deal with the protest/homeless menace.
A year later in  October 2011, the strong Occupy Santa Cruz protests  gave homeless people the shelter and community in the San Lorenzo Encampment that the pathetic Homeless (Lack  of) Services Center could not/  City police responded with military-style violence destroying the encampment on December 8, 2011 and the County with a dusk to dawn (7 PM to 7 AM) curfew around the county building and courthouse with one man given a 2 year sentence for challenging it peacefully with a sign (Gary Johnson–see ).
Food Not Bombs soupslinger Keith McHenry has reported on an upsurge of food fascism throughout the country (see  Food Not Bombs Santa Cruz continues to provide its weekly spread 4 PM Saturdays in front of the Main Post office in spite of threats from the “Punish-the-Poor” postmaster there.   But Santa Cruz soupsippers need to ready their ladles to ready for a local food fight  as the Take-Back-Santa-Cruz faction entrenches its power in December and moves on with its campaign to rebrand homeless locals, hippie travelers, & visible poor people of all kinds as criminals and sub-humans in an attempt to mobilize community fears against them.

As Homeless Line Up for Food, Los Angeles Weighs Restrictions

NYT  November 25 2013

LOS ANGELES — They began showing up at dusk last week, wandering the streets, slumped in wheelchairs and sitting on sidewalks, paper plates perched on their knees. By 6:30 p.m., more than 100 homeless people had lined up at a barren corner in Hollywood, drawn by free meals handed out from the back of a truck every night by volunteers.

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition has been serving free meals to the homeless in Los Angeles every night for more than 25 years.

But these days, 27 years after the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition began feeding people in a county that has one of the worst homeless problems in the nation, the charity is under fire, a flashpoint in the national debate over the homeless and the programs that serve them.


Facing an uproar from homeowners, two members of the Los Angeles City Council have called for the city to follow the lead of dozens of other communities and ban the feeding of homeless people in public spaces.


“If you give out free food on the street with no other services to deal with the collateral damage, you get hundreds of people beginning to squat,” said Alexander Polinsky, an actor who lives two blocks from the bread line. “They are living in my bushes and they are living in my next door neighbor’s crawl spaces. We have a neighborhood which now seems like a mental ward.”


Should Los Angeles enact such an ordinance, it would join a roster of more than 30 cities, including Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., Seattle and Orlando, Fla., that have adopted or debated some form of legislation intended to restrict the public feeding of the homeless, according to the National Coalition of the Homeless.


“Dozens of cities in recent years,” said Jerry Jones, the coalition’s executive director. “It’s a common but misguided tactic to drive homeless people out of downtown areas.”


“This is an attempt to make difficult problems disappear,” he said, adding, “It’s both callous and ineffective.”


The notion that Los Angeles might join this roster is striking given the breadth of the problem here. Encampments of homeless can be found from downtown to West Hollywood, from the streets of Brentwood to the beaches of Venice. The situation that has stirred no small amount of frustration and embarrassment among civic leaders, now amplified by fears of the hungry and mostly homeless people, who have come to count on these meals.


“They are helping human beings,” said Debra Morris, seated in a wheelchair as she ate the evening’s offering of pasta with tomato sauce. “I can barely pay my own rent.”


There are now about 53,800 homeless people in Los Angeles County, according to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development last week, a 27 percent increase over last year. Only New York had a higher homeless population.


The problem is particularly severe here because of the temperate climate that makes it easier to live outdoors, cuts in federal spending on the homeless, and a court-ordered effort by California to shrink its prison population, said Mike Arnold, the executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, an agency created by the city and county in 1993.


All told, about $82 million in government funds is spent each year on helping homeless here, Mr. Arnold said.

Tom LaBonge, one of the two City Council members who introduced the resolution (the other, also a Democrat, was Mitch O’Farrell), said food lines should be moved indoors, out of consideration to the homeless and neighborhoods. “There are well-intentioned people on both sides,” Mr. LaBonge said.


But, he added: “This has overwhelmed what is a residential neighborhood. When dinner is served, everybody comes and it’s kind of a free-for-all.”


Ted Landreth, the founder of the food coalition, said his group had fought back community opposition before — it moved to this corner after being ordered out of Plummer Park in West Hollywood in 1990 because of similar complaints — and would do so again.

“The people who want to get rid of us see dollar signs, property values, ahead of pretty much everything else,” he said.


”We have stood our ground,” he added. “We are not breaking any law.”


Communities that have sought to implement feeding restriction laws have faced strong resistance. In Philadelphia, advocates for the homeless won an injunction in federal court blocking a law there that would have banned food lines in public parks. Even before the court action, religious groups had moved in and began setting up indoor food lines.


In many ways the agonies of the national battle over dealing with homelessness are etched into this four-block-square section of Hollywood, where industrial buildings, including the Cemex cement factory, film production facilities and the stately former headquarters of Howard Hughes’s enterprises, sit two blocks up North Sycamore Avenue away from a middle-class neighborhood of Spanish Mission homes. Construction in the area is bustling, reflecting the gentrification that is taking place across this city.


The coalition’s truck, a Grumman Kurbmaster, arrives every night at 6:15, drawing as many as 200 people from across the region.


The other night, men and women lined up for firsts and, if desired, seconds. Some were quiet and grateful, and a few were loud and agitated. “You all right?” Mr. Landreth asked one man who was shouting to himself.

Just up the street, 75 people filled a living room, anxiously exchanging stories about what many described as a neighborhood under siege, and demanding help from local officials.


“You guys have had your fill here — we know that,” Officer Dave Cordova of the Los Angeles Police Department told them. “And the food coalition doesn’t help. Where do all these guys go after they get something to eat?”


Peter Nichols, the founder of the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch, which helped organize the meeting, said there has been a steady increase in complaints about petty crime, loitering, public defecation and people sleeping on sidewalks.


“While it sounds good in concept — I’m going to pull up to a curb, I’m going to feed people, I’m going to clean up and I’m going to leave — well, there are not restrooms,” he said. “Can these people get a place to sleep? To clean up? We want there to be after-care provided every day they do the program. But they don’t and they can’t.”


What Mr. Landreth described as the most serious threat in its existence — a powerful combination of opposition from homeowners, businesses and city officials — is stirring deep concern among the people who come here to eat most nights.


“I know because of the long lines, a lot of times we have trouble and confusion,” said Emerson Tenner, 46, as he waited for a meal. “But there are people here who really need this. A few people act a little crazy. Don’t mess it up for everyone else.”


Aaron Lewis, who said he makes his home on the sidewalk by a 7-Eleven on Sunset Boulevard, chalked up opposition to what he described as rising callousness to people in need.


“That’s how it is everywhere,” Mr. Lewis said. “People here — it’s their only way to eat. The community doesn’t help us eat.”

Correction: City Council Meeting is at 2 PM not 3 PM Today

Oops–sorry about the error.  Those who want to speak against the Public Assembly Permit bill need to show at 2 PM rather than 3 PM (though the actual agenda item time is still uncertain).

New Public Assembly Restrictions Up For Initial Vote Tuesday 11-26 at City Council
by Robert Norse
Monday Nov 25th, 2013 10:47 PM

I’ve not had time to look at it carefully, but agenda item #12 rewrites the entire sections on public demonstrations for commercial and non-commercial events. The staff report can be found at . I hope to take a longer look later, but the one thing I do notice is that the permit requirement has now tightened apparently so that 50 rather than 100 people require a permit. Additionally marching in the street is no longer provided for except through costly street closures, and permit now have to be applied for 5 days rather than 36 hours in advance. –Not that anyone seeks permits for Santa Cruz protests.

I encourage indybay readers to examine this ordinance themselves. Like the Sidewalk Shrinkage ordinance severely reducing space for public performance, political tabling, panhandling, vending, and art display, this ordinance has come with no advance notice and is likely to be rubberstamped at tomorrow’s afternoon session. For the texts of the old and new laws, go to and look up agenda item #12.

If you value your right to publicly assemble and march in any cause, this ordinance should have a big red warning light attached to it, considering the make-up of the Council, the likely next mayor (Lynn Robinson), and the past record of this Council and the City Manager in cutting back public space, public assembly, and public accessibility.

It also may be overshadowed by the evening’s Water Solutions hearing and next City Council meeting’s Task Force Report consideration as well as the dreaded appointment of Lynn Robinson as Mayor.

The ordinance also needs to be contrasted with the Commercial Events permit.

The parallel with the recent ordinance changes throttling of street performance and art is instructive. The hypocrisy and special interest nature of the “display device” ordinance was obvious then and has become more obvious since. Obstructive commercial signs now litter the Pacific Avenue sidewalks in spite of the alleged “trip and fall” hazard. This “danger” as well as the Robinson-Comstock-Mathews “upscale aesthetics’ concerns prompted the banning of blankets on the sidewalk, the constriction of tabling, vending, and performance space, and the expansion of “forbidden zones” now encroaching on 95% of the sidewalks downtown for non-merchant activity.

But probably many have noticed that almost every performer, vendor, even political tabler down there is in violation of the letter of the law as passed on September 24th. Hosts and police have given out few if any citations. When I visited Pacific Avenue tonight there was a group of 12 traveling musicians and young folks sitting in a circle next to the Cafe Capesino kiosk playing music for donation, taking up 5 to 10 times the amount of allowed space (but, of course, blocking no one).

So may it be with this “Parade Permit” ordinance–last hauled out notoriously to ticket Whitney Wilde, Curtis Reliford, and Wes Modes for “walking in a parade without a permit” on a DIY New Years event 3-4 years ago. I have been in at least several dozen marches down Pacific Avenue in the last few decades, probably more, and none of them had a permit.

However mischievous laws in the hands of Mayor Robionson’s police instructed to be “tough” may take a different course. Police and politicians may move to punish those exercising the traditional freedoms Santa Cruz peaceful protesters have enjoyed.

The ordinance coming up tomorrow on the afternoon agenda empowers them to do so and makes spontaneous protest significantly more difficult.

by Robert Norse

Monday Nov 25th, 2013 10:49 PM

The item is on the afternoon agenda which begins at 3 PM. It is likely to come up between 3 and 4 PM.

Tightening the Noose on Public Assembly: Santa Cruz City Council’s New Law 3 PM 11-26-13

New Public Assembly Restrictions Up For Initial Vote Tuesday 11-26 at City Council

by Robert Norse
Monday Nov 25th, 2013 10:47 PM

I’ve not had time to look at it carefully, but agenda item #12 rewrites the entire sections on public demonstrations for commercial and non-commercial events. The staff report can be found at . I hope to take a longer look later, but the one thing I do notice is that the permit requirement has now tightened apparently so that 50 rather than 100 people require a permit. Additionally marching in the street is no longer provided for except through costly street closures, and permit now have to be applied for 5 days rather than 36 hours in advance. –Not that anyone seeks permits for Santa Cruz protests.

I encourage indybay readers to examine this ordinance themselves. Like the Sidewalk Shrinkage ordinance severely reducing space for public performance, political tabling, panhandling, vending, and art display, this ordinance has come with no advance notice and is likely to be rubberstamped at tomorrow’s afternoon session. For the texts of the old and new laws, go to and look up agenda item #12.

If you value your right to publicly assemble and march in any cause, this ordinance should have a big red warning light attached to it, considering the make-up of the Council, the likely next mayor (Lynn Robinson), and the past record of this Council and the City Manager in cutting back public space, public assembly, and public accessibility.

It also may be overshadowed by the evening’s Water Solutions hearing and next City Council meeting’s Task Force Report consideration as well as the dreaded appointment of Lynn Robinson as Mayor.

The ordinance also needs to be contrasted with the Commercial Events permit.

The parallel with the recent ordinance changes throttling of street performance and art is instructive. The hypocrisy and special interest nature of the “display device” ordinance was obvious then and has become more obvious since. Obstructive commercial signs now litter the Pacific Avenue sidewalks in spite of the alleged “trip and fall” hazard. This “danger” as well as the Robinson-Comstock-Mathews “upscale aesthetics’ concerns prompted the banning of blankets on the sidewalk, the constriction of tabling, vending, and performance space, and the expansion of “forbidden zones” now encroaching on 95% of the sidewalks downtown for non-merchant activity.

But probably many have noticed that almost every performer, vendor, even political tabler down there is in violation of the letter of the law as passed on September 24th. Hosts and police have given out few if any citations. When I visited Pacific Avenue tonight there was a group of 12 traveling musicians and young folks sitting in a circle next to the Cafe Capesino kiosk playing music for donation, taking up 5 to 10 times the amount of allowed space (but, of course, blocking no one).

So may it be with this “Parade Permit” ordinance–last hauled out notoriously to ticket Whitney Wilde, Curtis Reliford, and Wes Modes for “walking in a parade without a permit” on a DIY New Years event 3-4 years ago. I have been in at least several dozen marches down Pacific Avenue in the last few decades, probably more, and none of them had a permit.

However mischievous laws in the hands of Mayor Robionson’s police instructed to be “tough” may take a different course. Police and politicians may move to punish those exercising the traditional freedoms Santa Cruz peaceful protesters have enjoyed.

The ordinance coming up tomorrow on the afternoon agenda empowers them to do so and makes spontaneous protest significantly more difficult.

by Robert Norse

Monday Nov 25th, 2013 10:49 PM

The item is on the afternoon agenda which begins at 3 PM. It is likely to come up between 3 and 4 PM.

Hope and Despair in Palo Alto

NOTES BY NORSE:  Activists are proceeding on several fronts to defend the rights of vehicularly housed folks up there.  Chuck Jagoda yesterday described on the stream of Free Radio Santa Cruz how Palo Alto activists invited and funded a Santa Barbara social worker involved in the government-run park-and-sleep program down there in hopes of replicating it in Palo Alto.  Attorneys, as can be seen from the press release below, are not waiting for the city to start ticketing homeless people peacefully and harmlessly sleeping in their vehicles, but have llaunched a pre-emptive strike with a demand letter to be followed by a letter.

Jagoda’s account is at the end of the audio file.

Meanwhile Santa Cruz’s “Smear the Poor” Sentinel’s headlines for yesterday scream out the fraudulent “Task Force on Public Safety” pre-constructed agenda redefining homeless survival campers as public safety threats. (See   ).  Strangely enough, the usually toxic stream of comments following the story has some defenders of basic human rights and common sense.  Jump on and provide your own perspective.


A group pro-bono lawyers from Palo Alto, California has notified the City of Palo Alto that they intend to file suit to prevent enforcement of a new ordinance that they say effectively bans all homeless people from within the city limits. According to the letter, sent by Palo Alto-based attorney Carrie LeRoy, along with co-counsel William Abrams and Paul Johnson, of the Silicon
Valley law firm of King & Spalding, and Stanford Law School professors Juliet Brodie and Michele Dauber, the law criminalizes the homeless in their daily lives and activities and is unconstitutional. The letter also contends that Palo Alto’s ordinance discriminates against the disabled homeless.
The lawyers represent several clients who stand to be arrested and imprisoned if the law goes into effect, according to Abrams. “James and Suzan Russaw are elderly grandparents who need to stay in the area to be near their granddaughter and grandchildren. Mr. Russaw is receiving regular kidney dialysis and needs to be able to drive to his medical appointments. Fred Smith is an elderly man and long-time resident of Palo Alto who, since he lost his job a few years ago, has been unable to afford conventional housing. Since Mr. Smith’s wife passed away and is buried in Palo Alto, where the two resided for most of their lives, he hopes that he will not be forced to leave the city. Mr Smith also needs to sleep in his vehicle rather than outdoors in order to avoid exacerbation of health issues. The Russaws and Mr. Smith are on every affordable housing and shelter bed waiting list in the area, but there is simply insufficient shelter in Palo Alto and Santa Clara County for Palo Alto’s vehicle dwellers.”
The lawyers are contesting the legality of Palo Alto’s Vehicle Habitation Ordinance, which was passed by the City Council on August 5, 2013. The ordinance is one of the broadest bans of its kind, banning all eating, sleeping, and resting in any car within the city limits. “This law is overly broad, and effectively means that the homeless who happen to rent or own a vehicle must leave Palo Alto or risk arrest. They cannot even stop here to eat a sandwich or read a book. This is needlessly draconian,” said Abrams, who noted that a violation of the law carries a possible fine of $1000 and six months in jail. “This is incredibly harsh,” he said.
The pro bono lawyers are working without pay in order to stop the law from being enforced.
“Our clients have done nothing wrong, are not criminals, and do not belong in jail,” said LeRoy. “They need housing, not criminal prosecution.” LeRoy was quick to point out that Palo Alto has no available shelter beds for the homeless. The local Opportunity Center which provides some housing for the homeless currently has a 20 year waiting list. “Santa Clara county in general and Palo Alto in particular have a dramatic shortage of available housing,” according to LeRoy. “It is the height of cruelty to tell people that it is criminal to sleep in your car, but that we have nowhere else for you to go within the entire county.”
The city has also banned overnight use of all city and public parks and facilities. “Palo Alto has been uniquely inhospitable to the homeless and poor,” noted LeRoy.

According to the city, the VHO was passed in order to prevent the homeless from congregating at Cubberley Community Center, a city recreational facility. However, according to LeRoy, there was no need to ban vehicle dwelling everywhere and at anytime in the city. “What about commercial and industrial areas as is permitted in Menlo Park and Mountain View? What is the basis for banning sleeping in areas where there are no homes, parks, or other people at night?” For LeRoy, who grew up in Palo Alto, the question is about the character and values of the city itself. “To me, the question is what kind of town do we want to be? I grew up in this city and have always thought of it as a compassionate, creative, resourceful and inclusive one. It would be one thing for the city to ban vehicle dwelling where it could point to readily-available, conventional housing alternatives. It is wrong, offensive and contrary to the spirit and values of Palo Alto to pass a law that, if enforced, will serve only to punish and injure Palo Alto’s poorest and most vulnerable residents—that is the criminalization of poverty.”

Attachments: Letter to Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump; City Staff Report 8-5-13 (Excerpt)

William F. Abrams (650) 590-0703
Carrie LeRoy, (650) 470-3144

Palo Alto Homeless Update - Despondent Husband Found Dead At Don Barr's $25 million dollar Homeless Asylum

---------------------------------------------------- Decaying body found at shelter by Angela Ruggiero, Palo Alto Daily Post Staff Writer Mon Nov 25 2013 The decomposed body of a man who lived at a Palo Alto homeless center was found in his room, and may have been there for weeks. Lonnie Gullett, 63, was a resident of the Opportunity Center at 33 Encina Ave., where homeless people are provided rooms and services.  The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner was called at noon Friday for his body.  The office said his death appears to be from natural causes. Friend and neighbor Lorin Krogh said he had not seen Gullette for several weeks and believes he was dead in his room for a long time. Mila Zelkha, director of strategic relations for the InnVision Shelter Network, which runs the Opportunity Center, said that employees had noticed Gullette had not been around for some time.  Employees decided to check his room on Friday, and found his body. Krogh said that Gullette had been through some bad luck recently after his longtime girlfriend Vivian “Venus” Sarmago, was attacked.  She had been beaten at the center and suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed her.  Michael Rowe Guilford, 46, of San Jose, was arrested in connection with the attack on suspicion of battery and being drunk in public. Gullette spoke to the Post at the time, and said that at first, Venus seemed OK, but was later in a coma after she wouldn't wake up one day.  She was  left Stanford Hospital paralyzed and is currently in a nursing home. Victim once owned his own business Krogh told the Post yesterday that he had known Gullette for at least 10 years.  Gullette had hired Krogh to work with him on a street team to help get homeless people off the street.  Before, Gullette had been a general contractor and owned his own business in Sacramento for 15 years.  After being hospitalized he became seriously ill, and went on disability. “He was a really good guy,” Krough said. “and he was really bummed out about Venus.” Krogh said Gullette had told him “I don't know what to do,” after Venus was left in a vegetative state. Chronic health problems Krogh said that he and Gullette used to drink together years ago, before they turned sober.  Gullette had chronic health problems and used a wheelchair and Krogh said he thinks the cause of his death was natural. Gullette made Post headlines on April 4 when he fell down the embankment of San Fransquito Creek.  Gullette, who used a wheelchair to go long distances,, was able to stand.  He said he had gotten up to relieve himself, but lost his balance and tumbled 39 feet down the side of the creek bed.  Firefighters had to lift him out of the creek, but he was not badly injured. As the firemen began to pack up and leave the creek that day, Gullette pointed to the crown of first responders and said, “That's your tax dollars at work.  Those guys don't get paid enough.” 

Palo Alto: Opposition Produces Results–Legal Fightback against Anti-Homeless Bigotry

NOTES BY NORSE:  Attorneys in Palo Alto previously stepped up to the microphone when the ban was being debated several months ago and warned the city they would take every case, challenge every arrest, and fight the ban.   Since then, activists in Santa Cruz and Palo Alto have urged attorneys to preemptively seek an injunction and not wait until police actually wrote tickets.

The suit is gratifying news to those interested in an immediate and pre-emptive strike to stop the further criminalization of the homeless.  No evidence was presented of car-camper problems except in one area (the Cubberly Community Center) where the city had failed to provide adequate oversight and there the problems were hugely inflated by NIMBY community members concerned with disappearing homeless people from their neighborhood as an aesthetic problem and “perceptual” threat (i.e. no indication of serious crimes but a fear of such).The arguments used supporting the Ban are similar to those used in Santa Cruz before the rise of the “homeless are criminals and a Public Safety menace” Big Lie.  “Why don’t those who support homeless rights, simply provide private space for them?”
“The homeless aren’t parking in front of their homes!”  “Banning the right to sleep is perfectly legal.”   “City Council knows best.”  etc.

Palo Alto activists, lawyers, and attorneys, however, are fighting back unlike Santa Cruz–which sinks more deeply into paranoia, repression, and bigotry.  See the infamous Task Farce for Public Hysteria (aka the Task Force on Public Safety)’s proposed recommendations at ).

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 4:39 pm

Suit threatened over city’s car-camping ban

Coalition of pro bono attorneys argues that Palo Alto’s new ordinance is cruel, unconstitutional

by Gennady Sheyner / Palo Alto Weekly

A group of Palo Alto attorneys is threatening to sue the city over a recently adopted ban on vehicle habitation, a law that they claim effectively criminalizes homelessness and that is far more draconian than car-dwelling restrictions in other jurisdiction. The coalition, led by local attorney Carrie LeRoy, is working pro bono and is representing several homeless residents who will lose the right to live in their cars when the car ban takes effect on Jan. 6. The plaintiffs include James and Suzan Russaw, a couple who the attorneys say wish to stay in the area to be close to their grandchildren. James Russaw, 84, is also receiving regular kidney dialysis and needs to be able to get to his medical appointments, the attorneys said in a letter to City Attorney Molly Stump.

[The text of the letter can be found at ]

Fred Smith, a homeless man who had spoken publicly against the ban, is also a client. At the Aug. 5 meeting, shortly before the council voted 7-2 – with Karen Holman and Marc Berman dissenting – to approve the ban, Smith urged the council to reconsider.
“I recently lost my job, my wife and my house. I now live in an RV in a commercial zone. Please don’t criminalize me,” Smith said, drawing an applause.

LeRoy said in an interview Monday that the list of people represented by the group may further expand as she and her colleagues in the effort proceed with their legal opposition to the ban. Other attorneys involved in challenging the ban are William Abrams and Paul Johnson, both of the firm King & Spalding, Stanford University professors Juliet Brodie and Michele Dauber, Menlo Park-based attorney Jeff Koppelmaa, criminal attorney William Safford and Nick Selby. The group contends that the city’s new ban is far too broad and that staff has misrepresented other cities’ ordinances to the City Council before the vote.
“There were an number of attorneys who expressed real concerns and had deep reservations over whether this was actually a

constitutional ordinance,” LaRoy said.

Abrams, a partner at King & Spalding with a long history of pro bono work and high-profile cases involving civil rights intellectual property, called Palo Alto’s new ordinance “overbroad.” The effect of the law, he said, will be to force homeless individuals who own or lease vehicles to leave Palo Alto or risk arrest. It will target the city’s “invisible” population, he said, people who don’t have any other options for shelter.

In their letter, the attorneys request a meeting with Stump by Dec. 5. Unless the request is met, the letter states, “We will proceed with filing a complaint in court against Defendants on behalf of the Plaintiffs.” The defendants in this case would be the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Police Department and Police Chief Dennis Burns.

The attorneys are challenging an ordinance that the council adopted on Aug. 5 after nearly two years of community meetings, outreach efforts and persistent criticism from the homeless community. The ordinance makes it illegal for individuals to use “a vehicle for a dwelling place” (it makes exception for mobile-home parks and for guests of city residents). The council adopted it largely in response to a growing encampment of homeless residents at the Cubberley Community Center and the resulting increase of police complaints about what city officials dubbed a “de facto homeless shelter.”

According to police data, the number of complaints about Cubberley dwellers had risen from 10 in 2010, to 16 in 2011 and to 39 in 2012. An August staff report noted that in some cases, vehicle dwelling has resulted in “nuisances or more serious disturbance to residents and businesses.” The passed ordinance states that vehicle habitation causes the city to “incur increased costs for policing, maintenance, sanitation, garbage removal and animal control” and that it “creates a risk to the health, safety, and welfare of those persons in the vehicles, as well as the public at large.”

Abrams rejected this argument. The city, he said, already has plenty of ordinances in places for addressing incidents in which people disturb the peace, engage in violent conduct or engage in public drug or alcohol use.

“This is directed toward getting rid of homeless people in Palo Alto,” Abrams told the Weekly.

At the Aug. 5 meeting, Stump told the council that violation of the car-dwelling ordinance would in most cases result in an infraction, though it could be turned into a misdemeanor at the city attorney’s discretion. Staff noted that enforcement would be largely based on complaints. The most severe penalty would be a fine of $1,000, Stump told the council.

Critics contend that this proposed punishment is not only draconian but illegal. In her letter, LeRoy argues that the new ordinance will “cause the poorest and most vulnerable among us to lose the only protection that they have from exposure to the elements and to ensure some measure of personal safety.”

“It cannot be disputed that sleeping in a vehicle affords better protection for homeless persons’ health and safety than living or sleeping outdoors on streets, sidewalks, benches, or the ground,” LeRoy wrote. “Enforcement of VHO (vehicle habitation ordinance) will exacerbate serious health issues and disabilities prevalent among Plaintiffs, who will be forced out of their vehicles or Palo Alto altogether to avoid criminal liability.”

In recommending the vehicle-ban ordinance, staff from the planning department from the city attorneys office cited similar bans in other neighboring jurisdictions and noted that 92 percent of the cities in Santa Clara County (all except Monte Serreno) have restrictions of some sort in place. In San Mateo County, all cities except for Colma, East Palo Alto and Portola Valley regulate vehicle habitation, a report from city staff states. Not having such an ordinance makes Palo Alto a “magnet” for vehicle dwellers, proponents of the ban argued.

Before voting for the ordinance on Aug. 5, Councilman Larry Klein talked about the city’s “obligation to protect our neighborhoods.” He told his colleagues that he had seen dozens of homeless campers during two recent tours of Cubberley.
“The dramatic increase in homeless in Cubberley sleeping in their vehicles shows that we have inadvertently become a magnet,” Klein said. “That has to come to an end.”

The attorneys contend that this argument — other cities have such ordinances and so should Palo Alto – is a misrepresentation. While most cities do indeed have restrictions, Palo Alto’s new law is both broader and more punitive than those elsewhere, LeRoy said. In Mountain View and Menlo Park, for instance, vehicle bans are limited to residential areas (in Menlo Park, this includes 300 feet within a residential zone). In Los Altos, it is illegal to “stop, stand or park a vehicle” for longer than 30 minutes between 2 and 6 a.m., when a notice is posted on the block. Palo Alto’s law, meanwhile, applies to all streets, all the time.
Furthermore, punishment for violating this ordinance in other cities is a parking citation. In Palo Alto, it could potentially be incarceration, LeRoy said. The difference between a parking ticket and possible jail time, is huge, she said. Palo Alto’s ordinance, she argued, effectively makes homelessness a crime.

“Cities across our nation have come up with restrictions that may be directed at homeless residents, but include exceptions so as to avoid punishing homeless residents for involuntary acts necessary to human survival, such as the acts of resting or sleeping,” her letter stated. “The VHO, on the other hand, is one of the most punitive ordinances in the area and it has the effect of criminalizing the status of homelessness.”

In addition to the vehicle-habitation ordinance, the council adopted a separate law on Aug. 19, mandating that all community centers, including Cubberley, be closed between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise.

LeRoy noted in an interview that the council’s ban on overnight parking at Cubberley and other community centers already addressed the major problem that the city was trying to solve in banning vehicle habitation. Given the new restriction on community-center hours, the broader ban on vehicle dwelling wasn’t tailored to address any legitimate concerns, she said.
“If vehicle dwellers can’t be here at night during normal sleeping hours, do you still need to ban vehicle habitation throughout the city?” she asked.

She contended that if the City Council knew that the proposed ordinance goes far beyond those of neighboring cities, it may have been less likely to support the proposed vehicle-habitation ban. She couldn’t say Monday what an acceptable alternative ordinance would be, noting that this might be the subject of settlement discussions.

“I think the effort now is to repeal the vehicle ordinance,” LeRoy said.

Though Stump said on Aug. 5 that violations would only be prosecuted as misdemeanors as a “last resort,” Abrams said the assurance is insufficient. The attorneys may be open at a future date to discuss alternative ordinances, but that’s a “different conversation.” The goal now is to get the recently passed ordinance off the books.

“Now, we have an ordinance that is illegal, that is unconstitutional and that needs to be stricken down,” Abrams said.

Many Posted Comments at


A sample:

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North on Nov 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm
No worries. Law suit away if you’d like. San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz are three of the most open and liberal cities in the country. They have all have overnight camping/parking bans which have all been tested and successfully defended in a civil court. Like I said, no worries. It also leaves me to think how quick one of these attorneys crying foul would be the first to call the police if someone was sleeping in a car in front of their house every night. A perfect example of compassionate and open when convenient. If they’re that concerned, then these attorneys and advocates should open up their personal driveways and homes to give these folks somewhere to sleep.

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto 22 hours ago
They way I see it, as long as financial institutions are still allowed to sell and trade junk mortgages, as long as not one Wall Street conman has gone to prison, car-camping should not be criminalized. Once the big criminals are punished, I’d be willing to deal with car-camping. Speaking of double standards, how interesting that the already existing leaf-blower ban ordinance isn’t enforced, unrelated of course to the pressure by the manufacturers and landscape contractors, who promised demonstrations and hunger strikes in front of city hall if the ordinance is enforced.
Posted by Very Simple, a resident of Midtown 22 hours ago
If all of these attorneys and others are so concerned, they can open up their own personal property and have the homeless live there. We don’t have that many homeless in Palo Alto that they couldn’t all be accommodated in this easily by a small subset of ban opponents. That’s what real generosity is– giving of yourself to the less fortunate. Not morally preening and harassing the overwhelming majority of residents who don’t want our city turned into an open-air homeless encampment, don’t want the “San Franciscoization” of Palo Alto and are concerned about the safety of say, their kids (as mine do) going to preschool right next to a site of a homeless encampment.
Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis 20 hours ago
I applaud Carrie Leroy and her coalition for challenging this ordinance. This incredibly well-off community with its sky-high home prices and outrageous rents should find ways to help people on the margins, not threaten them with fines and jail. Many of the so-called affordable housing projects are well out of the reach of the homeless–we need more places like 801 Alma. Meanwhile, we should find more humane ways to manage the problems that do often accompany homelessness.
The suggestion that anyone who is concerned about the homeless should take them into their own homes or let them camp out in front of their homes is clearly an attempt to confuse the issue. Taking care of the less fortunate is not just the job for a few concerned people. It’s the responsibility of our entire society, and right now, we’re doing a lousy job of it.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of Greenmeadow 19 hours ago
I’ve had people living in front of my house. It was especially unsettling when my daughter was 2 years old and I couldn’t let her play outside and had to keep the drapes closed because the guy would watch us. More unsettling when we would jugs of undefined liquid on the ground, some knocked over, between his vehicle and the curb. Totally unsettling when we came home once to find the guy having a seizure on our front door steps, with paramedics attending. Disgusting when I had to go out and clean up after both the medics and the homeless person, gloves, needles and booze bottles.
I wouldn’t object if an area with a sort of rest stop with shower and toilets and cameras were to be established.
Meanwhile, the attorney’s who brought the suit are welcome to offer their driveways to anybody they please!
Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown 18 hours ago
Homeless means that these people do not have a home, place to live. Therefore, they are NOT “residents” of Palo Alto and are not entitled to the same rights residents are. They are also not entitled to be a nuisance or a danger to said residents. If these lawyers bringing the suit feel so strongly about the plight of the homeless, they should work with non-profits — the churches for example — which pay no taxes because of their supposed public benefits and services and get them to cooperate in finding a solution.  I do not want a homeless family or persons living on my street and I am glad that the City Council has finally done something to see that this does not happen.
Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown 18 hours ago
Palo Alto is generally a well-educated community, however there seems to be a significant lack of compassion in evidence. Perhaps it’s time to offer some free classes (open to all ages) on the subject.
All of those who think this ban is fair and wise really need to open their hearts. Sending a check off to some distant place to help others doesn’t buy you freedom from concern for those closer to home.
Get a heart!

Posted by JoAnn, a resident of Ventura 17 hours ago
Another basic human need is elimination. If porta potties were installed in a few commercial (non-residential) areas, the cars would go there. I agree it doesn’t solve the drug/alcohol problems though. A lot of these people were Palo Alto residents until skunked out of their homes by the banksters or just going broke due to divorce, layoffs, etc. They shouldn’t have to skulk away from their home town, too. What I hear about shelters is they are dangerous and people get robbed there. Would all night security help? It might be cheaper to fund. Of course, those with cars would still need a place to park them. I don’t see that the RV’s parked along Park Blvd. hurt anyone. I’ve ridden my scooter there many times and never seen an actual person, nor jugs of urine left at the curb.
Posted by Sensible, a resident of Crescent Park 17 hours ago
A real issue is simply taking a persons shelter, in this case a car, and depriving them of no other option for freedom from harm. If a city blankets a wholesale requirement then it should be at the forefront to provide an equal and opposite opportunity to balance the deprivation of a constitutional right. Even in a government shutdown when employees are deprived of their right to work and pay, they are latter paid what they are entitled to. Now I know that is a horrible example of entitlement for many who don’t like that sort of thing, but this is one of the reasons people all over the world come to enjoy the rights Americans still have…

Four Tales of Terror from the Central Valley: Fresno & Visalia Cry Out

NOTES BY NORSE:  The same cold-blooded methodical destruction of homeless survival camps is happening in Santa Cruz, night after night, week after week, month after month.

With no expansion in shelter services (less than 5% of the population is housed–even in the cramped and wretched gone-by-dawn Armory and over-booked Paul Lee Loft), stepped up ticketing, increased fines, and expanded punitive legislation are on the agenda for Santa Cruz’s Bryant-Robinson City Council as the winter closes in.A sinister co-ordination of repression long urged by NIMBY and merchant groups is targeting homeless recycling (“scavenging”), homeless vending, busqueing, and art display (shrunken sidewalk spaces available, increased patrols), stepped up Drug War policing (and an end to the City’s needle exchange, tightening of anti-marijuana policies), & quiet pressure on church food providers to relocate indoors and out of sight.

NOVEMBER 19, 2013

What Happened To The People Displaced By Fresno’s Homeless Camp Destructions?


Credit Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio
Nancy Holmes, left, and Sinamon Blake, right, were evicted from their homeless encampment in October.

For almost a year, Nancy Holmes and Sinamon Blake were neighbors in a homeless encampment in downtown Fresno.

But city employees bulldozed their camp a few weeks ago, in an effort to rid the city of illegal structures. The two friends, and the other residents of their camp, scattered. Nancy and Sinamon ended up on a huge, dusty piece of land outside the city’s jurisdiction.

“I didn’t care for the path that Sinamon found us, but damn, we were safe,” says Nancy, 61, a borderline diabetic with asthma.
She lasted there for about two weeks.

“You blow your nose in the morning, and you have a mud pile,” she recalls.

Since then, Nancy and Sinamon have taken separate paths toward survival. Their current living situations shine a light on the housing options available to Fresno’s homeless, now that the city is cracking down on encampments.

I met Nancy last week at a house on Dakota Avenue, where she’s lived for about a week now. The Dakota Eco Garden, as it’s known, is the brainchild of local homeless advocates.

Currently, two people live inside the home, and one is in her tent on a raised platform in the backyard. A fourth is in a small, eco structure designed by architect Art Dyson that generates its own heat and air conditioning. The backyard has a huge fruit and vegetable garden.

“I have high hopes for the people who live here, eating a lot of the food from the garden and lowering their food costs,” says homeless activist Nancy Waidtlow.

After living in a tent for almost a year, Nancy Holmes says she feels saved.

“It’s between heaven and hell. Hell is out there in the dirt” – Nancy Holmes

“I can take a shower, wash my clothes, eat food, any put my food in the fridge,” she says. “It’s between heaven and hell… Hell is out there in the dirt.”

For the first time in years, Nancy finally feels like she’s back on solid ground.

“I guess you can say living in a motel you’re homeless, but we had showers, we had a stove to cook on, things like that,” she says.

Before she landed on the streets, Nancy moved from motel to motel with her daughter and grandson.=

“My daughter is a prostitute. I had food stamps, she would pay the rent and I would buy the food,” she says.

Years ago, she says, she cooked at area restaurants and hotels, and then worked as a security guard at the Fresno Art Museum.

She hasn’t worked since 2006, when she lost her security job, and later had two heart attacks.

Today, she says she’s found a new calling. I ask her if she still considers herself homeless.

“No, I consider myself a homeless advocate now, someone that’s there to help,” she says.

She pauses, and a smile comes over her face. We’re sitting on lawn chairs, and she points toward a flower garden.

“How sweet, a hummingbird!” she exclaims. “Sinamon would love that.”

The next day, I join Nancy and two homeless advocates to visit Sinamon. The dusty field is a stark contrast to the Eco Garden. It doesn’t look like a hummingbird – or a human – could survive here.

Soon, Nancy spots the make-shift structure that she shared with Sinamon and her dogs. Sinamon had been in the nearby canal, and was soaking wet. She met us at her camp, a sprawling structure that’s ingenuously made from tarps and other found items. She’s built a living room, kitchen and bedroom.

“We’re out of view of the public, which is what the City seems to be pushing so hard” – Sinamon Blake

“We’re out of view of the freeway, and far away from the street,” she says. “We’re out of view of the public, which is what the City seems to be pushing so hard, that they don’t want to see us.”

The location is remote, but it has a huge asset: Running water. Sinamon led us down to the canal. Then she waded in to scrub the dust off the fur of her biggest dog, Sheba.

“Even if there were nicer places that had grass, or had other things going for it, I would pick this, because running water is life,” Sinamon says.

Sinamon says she’s been homeless most of her life. She grew up relying on welfare, school lunches, and free snacks from rec centers.

She has, she says, “a lot of memories of blanketless or sheetless beds, a mattress in the corner of the room, and about 8 or 12 kids sleeping and sharing that bed.”

Why, then, I ask her, didn’t she want to move into the Eco Home with Nancy? One reason, she says, is she couldn’t take all of her dogs, who she loves like daughters. She says she values freedom for herself, and her dogs.

“I didn’t raise them like that, to sit in the corner, and wait to fetch,” she says. “I taught them to roam around, keep an eye on things, and run and be alive. She doesn’t have the space for that.”

To an outsider, it might be tough to see Sinamon living alone like this. But she says she’s less likely to get raped, robbed or jumped here, than in other areas where the homeless stay.

“It’s safer out there than it is to sleep in the doorway of a business downtown, or anywhere in town, actually,” she says. “It’s safer here than it is to sleep at Roeding Park, or Woodward Park, or Kearney Park, or any of the missions.”

As we say goodbye, Nancy, Sinamon and the homeless advocates point out to me the taller buildings of downtown Fresno. They can make out the women’s old encampment. It was a reminder that these women’s homeless journeys could be long from over.

Wed October 23, 2013

Fourth Fresno Homeless Camp, Considered A ‘Neighborhood’ By Residents, Is Razed


Credit Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio
Homeless advocates were prepared to resist the destruction of the encampment.

Cinnamon has lived in a make-shift structure near the grain silos, west of Palm Avenue and H Street, for more than two years.

She says the homeless encampment there is different from others that have cropped up in downtown Fresno.

“We’re not a camp, we’re a neighborhood, a family,” she said. “We all look out for each other.”

The encampment has rules. For example, the residents decide – together – if a new person could move in.

“We’re not supposed to do anything that intrudes on your neighbor,” she said. “We’re not supposed to take from your neighbor.

When it comes to anything that affects each other, we’re all supposed to agree on it.”

This morning, Cinnamon and other residents agreed on something else: Despite the city’s order to clear the homeless encampment, they didn’t want to leave. They also didn’t have a choice.

Over the last two months, City of Fresno employees have dismantled three homeless encampments in downtown Fresno. This would be the fourth to go.

Tears streamed down Cinnamon’s face as she wondered aloud how she’d pack up all her belongings, or where she’d go. A friend handed her a mug of coffee that had been cooked over a small fire.

“They call us homeless – it’s true, we have less of a home, by their standards – but this is a home” – Cinnamon

“It’s not a clean-up, it’s a lock out,” she said. “They call us homeless – it’s true, we have less of a home, by their standards, but this is a home, this is where I rest my head, this is where I kept my food, this is where I was safe, and I had a sanctuary, at least for a moment.”

Across the railroad tracks, city workers began bulldozing the remnants of a nearby encampment.

“We’ve certainly done enough of these now,” said city spokesman Michael Lukens. “We are doing it by the book, we are doing it the way we are supposed to. We’re going in, we’re packing belongings, if people want to keep them, we’re going to document them, we’re storing them as we’re required to do, we’re trying to do everything we can to work with these folks, and we need to take the illegal structures down.”

He stressed that the goal of this clean-up, and past ones, is to rid the city of camp structures, which are considered to be public health and safety threats.

“We’re aware that people will still be on the streets, and there’s not enough housing, we just want to make sure these structures don’t come back up,” he said.

“We’re aware that people will still be on the streets, and there’s not enough housing, we just want to make sure these structures don’t come back up” – Michael Lukens

About a dozen homeless advocates were prepared to resist the destruction of the camp where Cinnamon lived, including Dixie Salazar.

“It was the last encampment, the last stand, and we were willing to stand between the bulldozers, if they were coming,” she said.

But by mid-morning, it looked as though the act of civil disobedience might not be necessary. Camp residents were generally complying with orders to pack up their belongings.

“I was ready to get arrested, if that’s what it took to try to keep them from harming these people,” she said. “The people have been harmed by these clean-ups, or destructions – that’s what they are.”

Nancy Holmes fears the harm she could face once she’s back on the streets – wherever she ends up. She’s lived in the camp for eight months, and says her neighbors protect her.

“I spent a couple nights in Roeding Park, and that was the most frightened I’ve ever been,” Holmes said. “I’ve had the safety of my neighbors, and now we don’t, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

City spokesman Mike Lukens expects this to be the last encampment that workers dismantle. In an e-mail, he said a city taskforce is working to ensure illegal structures don’t return. The taskforce will strive to discover and deal with the structures

before they become full-blown encampments, he said.

Tue September 10, 2013

As Homeless Camps Are Dismantled, Street Pastor Soldiers On


Credit Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio
Pastor Ray Polk provides support through his homeless ministry.

On Monday morning, Pastor Ray Polk comforted a man who was packing up everything he owned.

“You alright?” Polk asked. As the man expressed his pain and frustration, Polk replied, “I know, I know, I know, we got to keep going forward.”

Along H Street in Downtown Fresno, the homeless were stuffing their possessions into plastic bags and shopping carts, as city workers bulldozed and raked the debris left behind.

Yesterday, City of Fresno workers dismantled the third homeless encampment in three weeks. Overall, the effort has displaced a total of about 250 people.

It’s part of the city’s efforts to rid Fresno of permanent homeless camps, which officials say are a health and safety threat. They say the goal is to connect people with housing and services.

But Polk said he wouldn’t take down the street church he constructed in the camp.

“They told me I would have to dismantle it myself and if not, they will bulldoze it down,” he said. “So I told them I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t defy God like that, and tear down something that God had me put up.”

The church is made of white slats of wood. Polk has covered them in proverbs and Bible verses. It’s covered with a blue tarp, and contains about 10 white, plastic chairs.

“I would not upon any circumstances take that down” – Pastor Ray Polk

“They make the decision,” he said of city officials. “I would not upon any circumstances take that down.”

He also ran a food distribution from the church. Next to it, he constructed a memorial to the homeless who have died. There are flowers next to each makeshift headstone.

“I figure, I’d take a piece of wood, paint it white, put their names on it, at least they can come and pay tribute to a friend or loved one, even if it’s just once a year on Memorial Day,” he said.

On Monday afternoon, city spokesman Michael Lukens said the memorial could remain, but that the church would be put into storage.

It’s not the first time that Polk, and the homeless he serves, have been displaced. But this time, Lukens says, they city has formed a task force to ensure that the camps don’t re-emerge.

“We’re making every effort, certainly more than we have in the past, to make sure we’re on top of making sure structures don’t come back up and encampments don’t return,” Lukens says.

He says the city is working with local agencies, like the Housing Authority, to find people housing.

But 28-year-old Lena Richardson has no idea where she’ll live now. She had lived in the camp for six months. Yesterday, she stood on the side of the road with her dog, Princess.

A shopping cart contained her belongings:  “My tent, my blankets, my batteries, my solar panels so I can have electricity, that’s about it.”

She said she felt puzzled, confused, and sick.

“What if they woke up the next day and they don’t know where they’re going?” – Lena Richardson

“What if they woke up the next day and then don’t know where they’re going?” she asked. “That’s depressing.”
That’s where Pastor Polk comes in. He says he’ll still be there to provide spiritual support to the homeless.

His role he said, is “comforting my brothers and sisters, hugging and embracing them while they cry, and try to uplift their spirits

like I always have done, and try to continue to give hope where hopelessness has filled.”

Lukens says the city might demolish one more camp in the next 30 days.

Tue October 22, 2013

Visalia’s Oval Park, Ground Zero For Homelessness


Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
Eric and Eva both frequent Lincoln Oval Park regularly. Eva refers to the park as a “cesspool” that is hard to escape.
The City of Visalia is known to many as the small town with the good restaurants on the way to the giant sequoias. Its bustling downtown district is home to a thriving music scene and dozens of shops and entertainment venues. But less than a mile to the north, in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Lincoln Oval Park is home to a much different Visalia. It’s ground zero for the city’s homeless population.“The people in this park are a cesspool, they go around and around and around and around and they never stop, they’re insane,” says Eva, a homeless woman who has called the park next to Highway 63 home for over a year.

This century old public space has dealt with issues of alcohol, drugs and homelessness since its inception, according to Ryan Stillwater.

“I’ve got a stack of old newspapers articles and some old photos and apparently it has always been a real problem,” Stillwater says. “It was referred to a sheep pen a number of times, a trash heap.”

He was hired by the Visalia Rescue Mission two months ago to reinvent the park. His initiative will launch in the coming months as

“The people in this park are a cesspool, they go around and around and around and around and they never stop, they’re insane,” – Eva, an Oval Park Resident

“I got this quote on my board from 1893 where someone had wrote in and said the park project is a good one, everyone should lend a hand and be interested in it,” Stillwater says. “So it’s always had this unfinished project mindset.”

And that is why the city and organizations like the Visalia Rescue Mission have banded together to curb the issue.  A shopping cart ordinance went into effect on October 7. The ordinance forces anyone with a cart outside of the bounds of a shopping center to turn it over to authorities. Come December stores will be fined $50 for every cart found on the streets.

Under the new law, any homeless person found with a cart will be given a bag for their belongings. They’ll also have the option of storing their goods in a trailer at the Visalia Rescue Mission. Since the ordinance went into effect, 30 carts have been confiscated from homeless people and over 100 carts have been corralled city-wide.

Jessica Cavale is the director of development with the mission. She says the condition of Lincoln Oval Park helped spur the community to take action.

“Previous to the shopping cart ordinance it was filled with shopping carts and homeless people, prostitution, the police are always out there, and recently the city council has realized like, hey, we need to enact some step,” Cavale says.

Visalia Mayor Amy Shuklian says that working with non-profit organizations will be key to revitalizing the area. She estimates there about 1,000 homeless people in Visalia.=

“It’s gotten to the point where enough is enough,” Shuklian says. “The citizens are noticing it, it’s creeping more into the downtown and outlying areas and so we’re working on something’s that will help manage the situation.”

Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
Oval Park supporters hope that the park will see better days and an improved look including a new playground and more.

A five tier plan to revitalize the park was submitted to the Visalia City Council earlier this month. The council requested more information about the cost of the plan. The improvements include a new playground, security cameras, a walking path circling the park, an amphitheater, and an iron fence on the busiest side of the park. Restrooms which were once a venue for crime have now been demolished.

Ryan Stillwater’s office is in a building at the park that the rescue mission has remodeled into an event center. The mission leases the building from the city for one dollar a year. Stillwater’s main goal isn’t to serve the homeless population but to slowly change the park’s culture by producing events.

“My main job is not to act as a case manager; it is really to focus on bringing a positive influence to the park and to change its reputation,” Stillwater says. “We’ve considered rebranding it, but we decided we rather redeem Oval Park.”

But the homeless in the city are skeptical about impending changes. Eric got out of prison three months ago and now calls the park home.

“This park changing – you can’t change the park you got to change the people in it,” Eric says.

That’s where Ryan Stillwater comes in.

Shuklian says she hopes to see homelessness reduced “to a manageable way so that it doesn’t interfere with the quality of life of all Visalians.”

“Fortunately with the restrooms being torn down, the shopping cart ordinance going into effect,” Stillwater says. “What that’s doing – at least my hope – is there is a less of a convenience to be.”

And by doing that, the Rescue Mission hopes that those living on the streets of Visalia will make their way to the mission for food and what they call restoration.

“We don’t hope that they are moved out somewhere else, we hope that they are moved down to the rescue mission where we have a new community center that opened last September,” Cavale says.

Mayor Shuklian says Visalia is at the beginning stages of change, but the rapport they have with the homeless and community organizations is vital.

Shuklian says she hopes to see homelessness reduced “to a manageable way so that it doesn’t interfere with the quality of life of all Visalians.”

She also says the city and Rescue Mission will launch a campaign later this year educating the public on best practices on homelessness.

Updates from Albany and Palo Alto

NOTES FROM NORSE: In Palo Alto, activist attorney are supporting homeless struggles to retain basic rights.  In Santa Cruz night before last, reportedly a dozen tickets for survival camping were issued–though there is no legal place for the overwhelming majority of the 1500-2000 unhoused in the City.  One angry victim reported that he has been told that future citations will be misdemeanors for sleeping–even though that was specifically banned in 1999 when the Sleeping and Blanket bans were softened to allow only infraction prosecution.

Meanwhile the NIMBY Task Farce for Anti-Homeless Hysteria (deceptively termed the Citizens Task Force on Public Safety) is shitting out its final recommendations that likely include: getting the District Attorney to prosecute Sleeping Ban citations (rather than the City Attorney as is currently the case), pressuring judges to deal harshly with “repeat offenders” (i.e. survival sleepers), driving needle exchange (already banned in the City) even further away, implementing a non-“best practices” model for that exchange (while simultaneously claiming to be implementing safe practices).

Casual destruction of homeless bedding and property by Cal Tran authorities and other agencies continues to be reported by cold and gloomy homeless elders.

Where are the Santa Cruz attorneys?

Updates from the Palo Alto Daily Post

> 1. Daily Post update – HOMELESS EVICTION: A federal judge in San Francisco yesterday turned down a bid by 10 homeless people to block the city of Albany’s plan to evict them and others living on a bayside landfill known as the “Bulb.” Judge Charles Breyer said that the homeless people and a nonprofit group that joined them in the case had “failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits” of their lawsuit, which was filed last week.
> 2. NEWS – Car camping ban draws legal threat:  lawyer says new law goes too far
by Breena Kerr Daily Post Staff Writer

> A group of attorneys are warning the city of Palo Alto that they will sue on behalf of homeless people who have been prohibited from camping in their cars under a new city law.
> In a letter sent to City Attorney Molly Stump, lead attorney Carrie LeRoy says that the car camping ban essentially prohibits people who live in their cars from entering the city for fear of being cited.
> No Citations Yet
> Although Palo Alto police say they do not intend issuing citations for car camping until early next year, the fine can run up to $1000 or six months in jail
> LeRoy, a Palo Alto-based attorney, said she represents car campers James Russaw, Suzan Russaw, Fred Smith and others. She indicated that she thinks Palo Alto should modify its policy and enact parking restrictions that are punishable by a ticket rather than misdemeanor charges, or make the ban only applicable to residential areas, as the cities of Mountain View and menlo Park do.
> LeRoy said in an email to the Post that she had two people with her as co-counsel, William Abrams and Paul Johnson, both of whom are professors at Stanford Law School.
> “Enforcement of the (ban) will cause the poorest and most vulnerable among us to los the only protection that they have from exposure to the elements and to ensure some measure of personal safety,” the letter said. “…Sleeping in a vehicle affords better protection for homeless persons’ health and safety than living or sleeping outdoors on streets, sidewalks, benches, or the ground.”
> LeRoy said that the disabled, chronically ill or elderly are especially vulnerable under the new law.
> Forced out?
> “Enforcement of the (ban) will exacerbate serious health issues and disabilities among plaintiffs, who will be forced out of theier vehicles or Palo Alto altogether to avoid criminal liability,” LeRoy’s letter states.
> “The (ban) criminalizes the homeless in their daily lives and activities and is unconstitutional,” LeRoy wrote in her letter.

Questions for a Councilmember

Micah (Posner):   Following up on the HUFF meeting of several weeks ago, I’ll attempt to briefly summarize what I’m now seeking–either clarification or action–from you on the issues raised there and earlier.  Please do it briefly and in writing.  If you feel unable to do so because of “tactical” or other concerns, please contact me by phone.  I also include some of the prior e-mail for reference.  Again, short answers are fine.  And I’d be happy to meet with you if you need clarification or elaboration.

1.  Forward to Vogel a request for an update on Vasquez’s sidewalk smash of Richard Hardy ( the video itself referenced in the comments that follow).  If you’ve done this, when did you do it?  If you won’t do it, why not?2.   As I understand it, at the HUFF meeting 3 weeks ago, you committed yourself to making sure that any member of the public got 2 minutes to speak on each individual Consent Agenda item–whether by pulling it yourself or some other means.  Am I correct here?  Our previous dialogue:    Is it still your position that 2 minutes is adequate public comment time for 6-30 items on the Consent Agenda that are supposed to receive a Public Hearing at the request of the public or city council?  Your response:  I think that the public should be able to speak ONCE for two minutes on each consent item that they are concerned with. I believe that this is how Mayor Bryant has been holding the meeting.   BUT THAT IS NOT THE POSITION OF THE MAYOR OR YOU AT THE LAST FEW COUNCIL MEETINGS.  RATHER YOU CAN TALK FOR TWO MINUTES ON A TOTAL OF ALL THE ITEMS AS A GROUP NOT ON EACH ONE.  AND YOU MUST COMBINE THAT WITH YOUR EXPLANATION OF WHY YOU WANT ANY OF THESE ITEMS PULLED  AND YOU MUST BE CAREFUL NOT TO SAY ANYTHING OF SUBSTANCE ON THE ITEM THAT ACTUALLY DOES GET PULLED OR YOU WON’T BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK AT THE PUBLIC HEARING–AS GUARANTEED BY THE BROWN ACT.   ARE YOU CLEAR ON THIS? Do you still support Bryant’s position claiming that you will still not be able to speak on any particular item even if you’ve successfully coaxed a council member to remove it from the agenda because you’ll then “have had your comment time?”  What if you want to speak on several Consent agenda items?  Then the time you’ve spent “persuading” a Council member to “allow” a Public Hearing on one item will leave little time to address any other item essentially violating the spirit if not the letter of the Open Meetings (Brown) Act?  I THINK YOU’VE AGREED THAT 2 MINUTES IS NOT ENOUGH TO SPEAK ON 15 ITEMS (OR EVEN A SUBSET OF THEM).  WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO TO BACK UP THIS UNDERSTANDING?

3.   Have you followed up on your commitment to attend an ACLU meeting and/or letter them specifically urging them to publicly oppose the cutbacks on space for street performers, vendors, and artists recently passed by City Council over your and Lane’s objections?  Will you be doing so?  (It’s actually probably equally if not more important to request a statement supporting homeless survival rights and opposing police sweeps when there is no alternate shelter being offered–are you willing to do this?).  My previous comment is still apt:  If you are really interested in putting some energy into public education here, I believe it would ultimately encourage allies and challenge the level of hatred (and merchant discrimination) against homeless people.   I’d suggest public statements as well as public appearances at the ACLU Board and other organizations, seeking to enlist their aid and buck up their spaghetti  spines.   Useless as these groups have generally been locally, they seem like political animals who perk up at the appearance of a public official.  It also might make up in some degree (in their eyes) for your sell-out on the Cowell Beach issue  (I believe the harsh term is accurate).  Your response: That’s a great idea but is a better role for activists then elected. That’s partly what I learned by encouraging the ACLU prior to the Council Meeting.   TO REPEAT–THE CLOWNS AT THE ACLU BOARD, SCCCPL, NAACP, DON’T RESPOND TO ACTIVISTS.  BUT POLITICAL CLIMBERS AND POWER-WORSHIPERS THAT THEY ARE, THEY DO RESPOND TO VISITS FROM POLITICIANS. YOUR PROPOSAL TO SEND THE SIDEWALK-SHRINKAGE ORDINANCE AMENDMENTS TO THE ARTS COMMISSION IS A NICE TACTIC; USE IT IF YOU NEED TO REASSURE YOURSELF YOU CAN RAISE THE ISSUE PERSONALLY AND PUBLICLY WITH THE ACLU & OTHER GROUPS, BUT GO IN PERSON OR SEND WRITTEN LETTERS.

4.   I appreciate the additional info about the segregated costly Levee portapotty (i.e. potential plumbing).  I’d still like some insight into who is pushing this in the staff rather than the much more reasonable and dignified alternatie of keeping open the San Lorenzo Park bathroom, say?  Hence my request about who you talked to, when, their responses, any written communications, etc.  Hence my inquiry to you in late October:  “THE STAFF” IS NOT A HELPFUL REPLY.  ACCOUNTABILITY IS THE QUESTION HERE.  WHY WAS THE OBVIOUS KEEPING BATHROOMS THAT ALREADY EXIST OPEN AT NIGHT REJECTED?  WAS IT EVEN CONSIDERED?  I REPEAT THE QUESTION BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T ANSWERED IT.

5.   What’s the follow-up on your request to Barisone re:  Sparks v. White?  Specifically–has Barisone responded–in writing?  If not, please renew the request–it’s likely to be helpful in court and in dealing with cops on the street.   It is my feeling that his vindictive response to finding street art and culture constitutionally protected from the “no price tags” nonsense being pushed by the police were these bogus time-place-manner restrictions that essentially constrict-to-death street performing, vending, art, and tabling downtown.  Do you have any indication around this either way?
        You replied:  I will follow up, however, the issue doesn’t seem very timely to me.
FOR ANY ARTIST TRYING TO DISPLAY HIS WORK IN A 3 1/2′ x 3 1/2′ SPACE IT’S OBVIOUSLY VERY IMPORTANT.  THEY CAN PRESENT THAT OPINION IN COURT WHEN THEY’RE HARASSED.   When did you follow-up on the Barisone request?6.   You may ignore the internal conservative pressures  that  shut down the 5 Krohn Krappers a decade ago, but I suspect we’ll hear the same crap soon about your costly portapotty “solution”.   Or we’ll find the same two-tier “homeless get surveilled; middle-class people get privacy” that is now the case in the Locust St. Parking Structure.   I suggest you head this off by getting the real records of real police concerns.   Otherwise you may find yourself swept up in a Council response to mob myths fearprompted by TBSC et. al.   This is a repeated request.   Please review  the requests in bold below and forward those questions to staff.  They are currently claiming to “have no records”.  Which frankly strikes me as steaming horseshit without benefit of portapotty.
You replied:  I don’t see what happened in the past is relevant. We will soon open the bathroom and I will be very careful about reported “problems”.  With regard to privacy issue, these didn’t seem very important to the homeless at a well attended HUFF meeting several months ago.

7.  Dan Madison reports being banned from Verve for backpacks/homeless appearance.  Similar stories are coming out of New Leaf and Lulu Carpenter’s as well as the  Coffee Roasting Company.  What’s the result of your inquiry to the Roasting Company?
      You replied:  I’m having a hard time getting ahold of the owner of the Roasting Company. It changed hands several years ago from a well known local to some guy in Watsonville and the staff gave me a bum phone number for him. Could a HUFFster work on finding the contact info for the owner? If not, I will keep it on my long to do list.   A LETTER TO THE DOWNTOWN ASSOCIATION WOULD BE HELPFUL HERE ASKING THEM TO CLARIFY THEY DON’T SUPPORT POLICIES THAT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THE HOMELESS.  Yes?8. The request you ignored seeking specific written response from P & R and the SCPD regarding the requirements, advance notice time, specific limits, costs, & appeal processes regarding Special Permits and Amplified Sound permits.  You responded:  I’ll work on this.   I did  the work and the “info” such as it is, is at    PLEASE KEEP A RECORD OF REQUESTS TO STAFF, TO WHOM THEY WERE SENT, WHEN, AND THE REPLIES RECEIVED–SINCE STAFF ARE THE REAL RULERS OF THE CITY UNDER KING BERNAL.  WE WILL AT LEAST THEN HAVE A PAPER RECORD OF WHAT’S (NOT) HAPPENING. I REMIND YOU THAT YOU HAVE AN INTERN THROUGH WHICH MANY OF THESE ACTIONS CAN BE FUNNELED.


10.  You might want to consider that your complaissance with staff (the constant strokings you do as they mendaciously remove everyone’s rights using the phony Public Safety mythology are embarrassing and repugnant).  I refer to the earlier issues the Parks and Recreation blank check 24-hour stay-away-or-face-a-year-in-jail ordinance, the median law, Cowell’s Beach closure, the bucks-for-baloney “Security” gate out at the H(LO)SC.  You replied:   I consider it all the time.   AND YOU ARE TO BE COMMENDED FOR ACTUALLY RAISING THE ISSUE SHARPLY FOR THE FIRST TIME–IN THE CONTEXT OF THE LATEST SCAVENGING “INVESTIGATION” SCAM AT LAST COUNCIL MEETING.  EVERY TIME YOU CHALLENGE THIS MYTHOLOGY WITH A REQUEST/DEMAND FOR STATS, THE MORE SHAKY THEIR HOUSE OF CARDS BECOMES.  SEE ITEM xxX BELOW.

11.  I have no written response from you on CruzioWorks discrimination against Dan Madison and his son Gryphon, which I requested you seek info from.  Didn’t you agree to look into that–as a private party if not as a Council person?  What have you learned?  You replied: I’m not at all convinced that Cruzio was discriminating against the Madisons based on their housing status and don’t intend to get involved.   YOU BASE THIS ON WHAT?  YESTERDAY AT CAFE BRASIL I SPOKE WITH A CRUZIO CLIENT WHO WORKED NEXT TO MADISON FOR SEVERAL HOURS AFTER HE’D PAID HIS $300; THIS GUY WAS BAFFLED WHEN THE MANAGEMENT CAME IN AND BOOTED MADISON OUT WITHOUT EXPLANATION.  WHAT HAS LED YOU TO ABANDON THIS ISSUE?
12.  Any sign of restored Needle Exchange in the City?  Please forward me a map of where Sharps Containers are available.  You replied:  Staff is working on a Sharps Container in the new bathroom. This is a good effort as it gets them in the business of figuring out how to do Sharps Containers and could be used for other locations. With regard to Needle Exchange, the Council here’s a lot more about getting rid of needle exchange at Emeline rather than the converse.   I REPEAT PLEASE FORWARD ME A MAP OF WHERE SHAPRS CONTAINERS HAVE BEEN PLACED OR DETERMINE THAT THEY DON’T EXIST.12.  When will you appoint a real activist (or anybody, for that matter)  to  the Measure K Commission?  Craig Canada might still be interested if you approach him.  The Commission is a joke, but having a strong voice there would still be helpful in exposing the rising marijuana bust rate here (and the freeze and cutback in dispensaries within the city).  What really needs doing, of course, is public statements regarding legalization and medicalization–something to talk back to the poisonous nonsense being spread by Comstock and Robinson and their TBSC friends.

You replied: I appreciate your suggestion. I think I did reach out to Craig at some point and he wasn’t interested. Feel free to refer him to me. It’s hard for me to recommend this position to someone given that the Commission is a joke. I don’t like to waste people’s time.   GIVEN THAT THE PUBLIC SAFETY TASK FARCE IS CONSIDERING ELIMINATING MEASURE K, LIMITING OR SHUTTING DOWN HEAD SHOPS, AND USING THE DRUG WAR AS PROTECTIVE COVER ON THEIR WAR ON THE HOMELESS, I THINK HAVING A STRONG VOICE THERE–EVEN ONE THAT CAN’T WIN VOTES IS IMPORTANT.   I’LL PASS THIS ON TO CRAIG.  DO I UNDERSTAND YOU’LL AGREE TO APPOINT AN ADVOCATE, IF ONE COMES FORWARD (I CAN’T VOUCH FOR CRAIG).

Sorry for the backlog, but these issues don’t go away.   Though the tone and extent of these questions may put you off, please try to respond however briefly.  That is your job.

Thanks again for getting back to the basics by attacking the Public Safety mythology as far as you did.  You need to talk to Vogel and get his specifics–since it’s my understanding from a conversation this summer that there has been no increase in crime subtantially in Santa Cruz in the last 20 years–all the comparisons with other cities of its same size aside.  Not that Vogel is the most disinterested source, of course.

Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2013 13:32:44 -0700
Subject: Re: Reiterating some requests and questions

Dear Robert,Sorry to miss the HUFF meeting.

With regard to the shitter questions. I don’t find them pertinent/ am not interested in them. I was directed by HUFF (a couple months ago) to get a 24 hour bathroom, “any bathroom”. That’s what I’m trying to do. The one we are going to open is not the most efficient or obvious or “best” use of funds. It’s the easiest one for me to get. Welcome to government.

I’ll forward your question to Barisone.

I would be very happy to talk to the owner of the Cofee Company about backpacks. Then I’ll get back to you.


Micah:Thanks for the heads-up on the latest attack on street vendors.

Please quickly request an opinion from Barisone–who continues to stonewall me–on the City of Sparks v. White decision’s applicability here (i.e. the constitutionality of banning street artists from showing price tags for their artwork).  I’d have thought you’d have done that back in February actually,  or several weeks ago.

On the shitter front, regarding item #9 is it correct to assume that the former public bathroom in the Locust Street garage  is now gone?    I believe I’ve also pointed out to you both the wasteful and discriminatory aspect of spending $15,000 to set up what is essentially a segregated portapotty on the leevee instead of using that money to open the San Lorenzo Park and/or Soquel/Front bathrooms all night.  Your response? 

Also what’s the status of the most-expensive-portapotty ever?  How does its cost compare with the cost of the 5 portapotties set up in 1999 under the Krohn Krapper Kommission?

I have not been able to secure police data  in spite of a Public Records Act request regarding the removal of those portapotties in terms of actual crime or vandalism then.  Please seek this directly from the SCPD or via the City Manager.

You should also be advised that certain cafes are now banning people from bringing their backpacks in the store (the Coffee Roasting Company for one)–which means, unless an individual wants to risk losing her or his stuff by setting it outside (and being ticketed too boot for “abandoned property”), they can’t access that public service.   Are you willing to publicly step up to mediate problems so that cafes have another alternative to expressing their bigotry than banning homeless-looking people with backpacks (or without–Brent Adams noted a family of three turned away earlier this week from the same Coffee Roasting Company).



Subject: Re: City of Sparks v. White and letter to City Attorney
Date: Sun, 8 Sep 2013 22:07:26 -0700

Dear Robert,
I hope you are aware of further efforts by 3 councilmembers to reduce selling art. It is on Tuesday’s agenda.
MicahSent from my iPad

On Sep 3, 2013, at 9:58 PM, Robert Norse <> wrote:
John:  While I appreciate this fairly boilerplate answer, I do know that in the interests of both fairness and saving the City money, you have clarified the status of certain practices and rights in Santa Cruz in the past.  Robin told me that he conferred with you several years ago after the City of Sparks decision came out, and got your agreement to encourage the SCPD to lay off (to put it gently).   Was I misinformed?
Are you saying that you’ll answer a question for a Council member but not a member of the public about this issue?
Hopefully not.
Since police are still variously misinforming artists on Pacific Avenue that they can’t display prices on their artwork (when they’re not harassing them for other things), I’d again encourage you to simply do what you did before when approached by an artist trying to stop this practice, which unnecessarily lays the city open to litigation.
It is my understanding that the decision is still valid law (one of the attorneys involved actually practices in this area), so please, step out from behind the template and be direct here.
I am also requesting Chief Vogel and the Council contact you for your “advice” here, so I’m not ignoring your suggestion either.Thanks,


Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2013 15:43:58 -0800
Subject: RE: City of Sparks v. White and letter to City Attorney

Robert, I passed your concern along to the Police Department and if it has questions I will do the necessary research and answer them for the department. As you are aware I work for the City Council and the various City departments. I don’t take instructions from, perform work for, or provide opinions to members of the public; nor do I publicly divulge my advice and communications to my clients unless the clients make such  a request. I would suggest that in the future, if you have a complaint or concern concerning a City employee or practice, you contact the responsible City department head. If that department head seeks my advice in connection with your issue, I will be happy to assist him or her. Thanks, JGB


From: Robert Norse []
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 9:19 AM
To: John Barisone
Cc: Robin the rightsfinder; Ricardo Lopez; Brent Adams; Tom Noddy; Becky Johnson
Subject: RE: City of Sparks v. White and letter to City Attorney


John:  On 2-7, as you probably remember, I sent you an inquiry regarding City of Sparks v. White.  On 2-13, you advised me you hadn’t got to it yet.It’s now a week later and street performers will be attending the HUFF meeting today at the Sub Rosa.

I’d like to be able to advise them if they are acting legally, based on your understanding of the law and the police enforcement policy.

If I don’t hear from you in the next few hours, perhaps later today you can let me know–and I can them contact the performers by e-mail.



— On Thu, 2/7/13, Robert Norse <> wrote:
From: Robert Norse <>
Subject: City of Sparks v. White
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” <>
Date: Thursday, February 7, 2013, 11:05 AM


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.



Subject: Questions
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2013 07:53:15 -0700


Included for diversion:

What’s the status of the $15,000 portapotty slated to be installed near the Levy?  Why aren’t you proposing that that money be spent instead to open up the Soquel garage bathroom or the San Lorenzo restroom at night?  It would probably be cheaper, more durable, less segregated, and more sensible.

Have you e-mailed your Cruzio server to ask them why the discrimination against homeless client Dan Madison and his son Gryphon?   (See ).  I include Dan’s e-mail (he does a Free Radio show under the name “Sean Deluge”) in case you wish to speak with him directly.


Debbie’s Death and the Rebirth of Compassion in Santa Cruz

NORSE’S NOTES:  They follow in the comment section of this story.  Leave your own comments at .

The Sad Story of the Woman Who Died in a Camper Fire Last Week

A woman was touched by tragedy.

Posted by Brad Kava (Editor) , November 10, 2013 at 11:29 PM

by Regina Henderson

I befriended a homeless woman whose camper broke down on Ocean St last week which was pushed on to my block. Anyone who knows me.. knows I don’t look kindly regarding this sort of thing. After 2 days, I left a terse note saying “You are being watched.. Move your vehicle” …young sketchy looking guys hanging out, garbage, shopping cart, guys on bikes coming by…. as time went on I realized the owner/occupant was a woman maybe my age.. but looked 70. I got to know her a bit … while she tried to work on her engine, I got to know her name,..Debbie.. how long she’d beein in town …since 1987…. 17 yr. old son in Felton… and she wanted to get back up there. ..she was in need of guidance and help…and I wanted to help her…while she worked on the engine every day, we chatted and I became invested in wanting to help her as her story unfolded… I told her to find someone to tow it back to Felton… she had just received the 72 hour notice…I called HSC to get help for her, a nice guy Kevin gave me his personal # and said he would tow her but needed tow straps..
I gave her his info… checked up on her… she said she was often victimized by “the 26 year old homeless kids” (her words not mine) she said she was like their mom and they took advantage of her… stole her medication, her $ etc. I checked up on her this morning and she said she wasnt feeling well… she was in the loft bed and complained about friends who did not return with the groceries she paid for etc…..
I told her to take care of herself and asked if she needed anything to help her feel better.. she thanked me and said no……About 4 PM today my husband yelled out as he was leaving on a bike ride… The RV is on fire…….I ran out and up to her truck when the firetrucks where …. just as I got there they were laying Debbie on the ground…she was not alive….. this has touched my soul on a profound and deep level…going over this with Keith late tonight…
I cant help but wonder Why? of all the “characters” I have met over the years, and the many “transients” I have encounted in this town the last 10 years…why Debbie…. why did I get so involved with trying to help this one lost soul???.. Keith said it kind of perfectly in one word “Eerie” This experience will last with me the rest of my days … RIP Debbie… I know you will be treated far better on the other side than you were treated here….

Regina Henderson
Ocean’s 11 Neighborhood Watch

Regina November 11, 2013 at 12:07 PM
After a few days of soul searching and research I have found out that we have NO program specifically geared toward Homeless women. I have to to understand and believe that homeless women are so completely vulnerable and are targets for the aggressive and crime ridden youth/young men who wear the mask of homelessness and who are running amok in our community. In honor of Debbie… I am committed to opening this dialogue NOW and work toward a way/space that we can nurture and give comfort to the truly vulnerable homeless… our women on our streets without a place to call home. I understand that the HSC has just purchased a house/property next to the Evergreen Cemetery in Harvey West… I have a call out to them and look forward to hearing back … perhaps we can make this space a safe place for the homeless women of our community… in honor of Debbie…Debbie’s Home…..
jmelhuff November 11, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Regina, Thank you for writing this. I’m so sorry to hear of this terrible tragedy. Hoping this raises awareness in our community.
Kathryn Paul November 11, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Thank you very much for the nice words you have said about a friend. I have new Debbie for about ten years and yes she has had much more tragic in her life. This has been very shocking for myself as I just seen her around the first, and now she is gone. I do know that yes, she had a very hard life, but now she is with her Guardian Angle..(Her Daughter) RIP, My friend Debbie…
Eve Roberson November 11, 2013 at 05:18 PM
When I read the article in the paper I immediately called another older woman I know who lives in her camper truck because she cannot find housing either. Thankfully, she answered my call but she is still not close to finding a home either. We have tried to locate some help for her but as you found, Regina, there is apparently none. Our social service net has a big hole in it and I support your suggestion. Eve, Local Live Oak Neighborhood Watch
warren west November 12, 2013 at 02:59 PM
what sc social services have a big hole / is that why im a retired senior nurse who has been homeless 20 yrs.
warren west November 12, 2013 at 03:01 PM
perhaps people paying taxes are getting ripped off by there gov.
There is no shelter for 95% of the homeless community in Santa Cruz–including the most vulnerable–women and children. HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) and other activists have been trying for years to require the City Council to designate even the most rudimentary facilities–some “gone by dawn” parking lots (as they have in Santa Barbara now), a Sanctuary campground (as proposed by Brent Adams and others), or at the very least some Safe Sleeping Zones where homeless families can sleep without fear of being ticketed (the fine is now around $150).The fear of groups like Take Back Santa Cruz and other neighborhood NIMBY’s has blocked City Council from taking even the most elementary steps to let folks sleep–not anywhere and everywhere–but somewhere. When protest camps arise (as they naturally do–since there are 1500-2000 homeless in Santa Cruz without legal shelter), they are dispersed and the leaders prosecuted.

One activist, Gary Johnson, received a two-year sentence for sleeping four nights on the bench at the courthouse with a “Sleep is Not a Crime” sign. Yet the drumbeat to make life harder for the poor outside gets louder. Vigilante groups spur the Mayor’s anti-homeless Task Force on Public Safety to propose ever more repressive legislation and harsher enforcement.

But, as Regina’s story, experience, and research shows, once people really look into what’s available, who’s impacted, and even the cost of the current War on the Poor, the picture shifts harshly into focus. Perhaps there is hope after all.