Harassing the Homeless: ID Checks, Security Gate, Downtown Dragnet


Item #10 on the City Council’s afternoon agenda Tuesday (5-27) funds the Consolidated Goon Squad Operation downtown of D.A.’s, cops, parole officers, & “social services” targeting “Chronic Offenders”. This latest assault is part of the Homeless Removal Program (titled the “Downtown Accountability Program”[DAP]) as part of the on-going criminalization of the outside poor making Santa Cruz “less welcoming” to high rent refugees, foreclosure victims, disabled folks outside, and low-income travellers–not to mention hippies, performers, and street vendors.

Items #11 pressures the Homeless (Lack of) Services to complete a Security Fence and Gate and ID Cards within 90 days or forfeit funding.

The staff reports, draft City and County budgets for the “DAP” and Board of Supervisors DAP program passed 5-13 can be found at http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=557&doctype=AGENDA . Click on the link at Agenda Item #10. This is part of the dog-and-pony show announced by D.A. Bob Lee that provides few if any new resources for actual drug rehab and housing programs, but hires new bureaucrats and establishes new offices to “monitor” the “undesirable” element downtown. The targets: folks who have been ignoring their infraction citations because (a) they couldn’t afford to pay for them if they wanted to, (b) they’re an insult to basic human dignity frequently (“move on every hour, no holding up a “for change” sign after dark, disobeying a security thug in a park, etc.), and (c) they are essentially a response to the “get out of town” agenda of certain groups now holding sway at City Council–long entrehcned in the SCPD, Parks and Rec, and the City staff.

I suppose it’s also a backhanded acknowledgment of the value of the Housing First! idea or at least that’s how it’s being sold. But since the only housing it specifically anticipates is jail after the second “offense”, the main point is to get drunks, “crazies”, and rebels out of sight by locking them up. Job security for lawyers, courts,bureaucrats, deputies, cops, and the occasional social service person. No new meaningful resources for homeless people.

The contract, agenda report, and extra SCPD/NIMBY “goodies” can be found under the link at Agenda Item #11. This $100,,000+ boondoggle is part of the Public Safety mythology which suggests the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center [HLOSC] has a huge violent crime problem. The Sentinel has been pushing this Take-Back-Santa-Cruz Crime Scare stuff for quite some time. Mayor Lynn Robinson’s “Santa Cruz Neighbors”/SCPD baby-fascist combine has been doing the same. Glorifying abusive officers like Sgt. Butchie Baker and smearing those he harrassed has become “the new wisdom”. Sleeping for the poor outside has become not only a crime but a “public safety hazard”. “Public safety” is the undocumented, unjustified, and false rationale for turning HLOSC into an even more prison-like area. It will also drive away folks anxious about police contacts for the far more frequent “crimes” of sleeping, sitting near a building, drug possession, and trespass with intend to sleep.

Will these new “unwelcoming” measures materially impact the presence of chronically or seasonally homeless folks, or stop counter-culture travelers from connecting with friends, family, etc. in Santa Cruz? Or simply create more suffering, paranoia, and hostility?

No persuasive documentation of a “crime waye”, either at the HLOSC, in the surrounding Harvey West neighborhood, or downtown was presented either to City Council last year, in police reports obtained by Public Records Act action, during the NIMBY-dominated Public Safety Task Force show last summer, or anywhere else. That’s unless you consider open container, sleepcrime, sitcrime, smokingcrime, and drug use to be a serious crimes. What is really involved here is the old story, spruced up in new duds–jacketing homeless people as “needle menaces”, “lurkers”, “bad behavior problems”.

This Criminalizing Carnival is the most sickening and blatant hypocrisy, since all the “crimes” for which homeless people are being ticketed and jailed are things housed people can do freely in their homes.

The problem is not that the city (state and country) has ignored the need to build (or at least replace) low-income housing destroyed in each new upsurge of gentrification but that homeless people themselves have intractable mental, drug, moral, or alcohol problems, you see. It’s all their responsibility. Don’t blame the wealthy and the powerful.

The items are likely to appear soon after 2:30 PM when the open session of the City Council begins.

Budget hearings for the SCPD and the Water Dept. begin at 7 PM on the evening agenda.

Budget hearings resume Wednesday morning at 9 AM at a Special Session of City Council.

Though I’ve never had the patience or stomach to sit through more than a fraction of these hearings–it’s in the budget hearings that the fuel for the fires of the latest homeless Witchburnings will be appropriated.

Comments on this story can be left at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/05/26/18756293.php /
The Sentinel’s “story” on this is at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_25830031/santa-cruz-council-hear-new-approach-water-management

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Phony Reform of the Street Performer Laws Coming Up at Council 7 PM 5-13


Performance Pens–the “Reform” Proposal from Vice-Mayor Lane and Councilmember Comstock
by Robert Norse
Monday May 12th, 2014 11:28 PM

The evening session of City Council on Tuesday May 13 will feature as its second and final order of business, discussion of a report by Comstock and Lane on proposed modifications to the Display Device Downtown Ordinance. The current sidewalk privatization law bans sitting, performing, vending, tabling, and sparechanging on 95% of the downtown sidewalks (and 100% of sidewalks in other business districts where buildings are present). The Comstock-Lane modifications would make “a Morgani exception” but set in gleaming and glaring cement the street culture-crushing laws. Instead of restoring the Street Performers Voluntary Guidelines–which worked well for 22 years–they would set up highly-restricted designated zones, giving performers “their own space” but apparently no more than they already have–just differently arranged.

Comstock and Lane cooked up these proposals in private conversations with individuals involving no announced public hearings. Lane ignored my request for the same.

I have not spoken with any street people or performers (other than Tom Noddy) that were consulted in the formation of these dialogues. It is not clear that Homeless (Lack of) Service Center bureaucrats were consulted either (though given their willingness to put in a Security Gate and ID cards they might have eagerly jumped on board).

The full staff report can be found at http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/1kfzveexdnc1m5f01431dc55/387346905122014102408710.PDF though it may disappear and have to be accessed through the City Council website under the May 13 agenda. I present what seems to be the (heartless) heart of the proposals below with my comments:

STAFF REPORT: The “new regulatory framework” would be “simpler”.

The last time this “simplification” argument was used (in September 2013), the Comstock-Robinson majority loped off 20% of the sidewalk space for street performers reducing their share to 5% or less of the sidewalk—cramming them next to the curb.

The gentrification geniuses also reduced allowable space to 12 sq feet, required 12′ distances between performers, sparechangers, vendors, and tablers, & banned blankets and tarps as “trip and fall hazards”.

Of course, merchant signs and display devices have proliferated as benches have disappeared.

All this and Santa Cruz’s unique “Move Along Every Hour” law (including resting “too long” on a bench) too!

STAFF REPORT: The performance pens and tabling spaces would be marked with paint on the sidewalk—clarifying that the First Amendment regarding tabling and performing with a cap on the ground only applies to highly limited areas of the sidewalk.

When some of us tried to chalk out the sidewalk being stolen in the Great Sidewalk Swindle of 2002 with (erasible) chalk, we were arrested for vandalism. But the friendly merchant fascism has grown so self-confident that they can propose this with a straight face and not expect a flood of outrage from those who still remember traditional Santa Cruz values.

STAFF REPORT: Performance-oriented spaces can be delineated separately from tabling spaces.

So city bureaucrats will now dictate what fraction of the sidewalk you can register voters in, where you can play a guitar, and where you can display your artwork.

STAFF REPORT: Marked spaces will no longer require the “need” to have the 14′ setbacks.

Since everywhere else will be illegal. Unmentioned is what the need was to have the vast forbidden areas in the first place, other than giving the police blank checks to run off “undesireable” people.

STAFF REPORT: Some larger performance spaces will be allowed accommodating larger performing groups.

Now, given the 12′ limitation voted in by Terrazas, Mathews, & Bryant, virtually all groups are technically illegal since it’s nearly impossible to take up that little space with instruments, cases, and other items.

STAFF REPORT: Likely that 50 to 60 spaces can be marked out– “very similar to what is available now”

Of course, no such number of viable spaces are available in the Pacific Ave. core downtown area—and this misrepresentation exposes the mendacity of the project’s conclusions generally.

Marking out spaces for performers is likely to put serious pressure on merchants nearby. The previously fluid and flexible flow of performers in the downtown area—until sabotaged by the destruction of the Street Performers Guidelines in 2003—addressed this concern. Limited and static places for performers is may also increase friction between performers, tablers, vendors, and others trying to use the sidewalk—as crowding often does in other confined areas.


“The more pressing issues for merchants include early morning messes left behind by homeless persons sleeping adjacent to businesses and the gap in downtown ordinance enforcement in the early to mid-evening after the Downtown Hospitality Team has completed its work. We now see for instance, partner with the Downtown Management Corporation to fund more early morning cleanup of human-created messes and more Community Service Officer patrol coverage on Pacific Avenue on busier evenings. It appears that these efforts, along with the City’s current work on the vertical prosecution team (Downtown Accountability Program) will have a more positive impact on the Downtown.”

The bigoted language (barren of documentation) speaks for itself. More cops, more harassment of homeless people. But let’s lure back The Great Morgami and still the criticism these abusive ordinances have roused, by accustoming the community to a step-by-step surrender of public space to anxious merchants and right-wing ideologues.

As for the noxious and nearly unique-to-Santa-Cruz “Move Along” law, all discussion is to be postponed for six months.

The full staff report can be found at http://sire.cityofsantacruz.com/sirepub/cache/2/1kfzveexdnc1m5f01431dc55/387346905122014102408710.PDF

Prior commentary on the latest turn of the screw in enforcing the “homeless get out” Downtown Ordinances:
“Restoring Sidewalk Sanity in Santa Cruz ” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/03/19/18752796.php
“2013: A Nasty Year Heavy With New Anti-Homeless Laws” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/03/10/18752404.php?show_comments=1#18752432

For those who want to look over the Downtown Ordinances, go to http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/08/29/18657087.php?show_comments=1#18752784 though you have to go through the comments sections to update the earlier document.

For those who harkened to comforting fantasies spread by City Council staff about “permits” as an “escape valve” for those wanted to be legal, see “Shrinking Sidewalks and the Permit Fantasy” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/11/09/18746169.php

A general critique of some of the Downtown Ordinances after the passage of the Sidewalk Shrinkage laws in September: http://www.indybay.org/uploads/2013/10/10/tour_of_shame_longer_flyer.pdf .

Some of the comments in the Council-friendly Sentinel story are of interest at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/News/ci_25737729/Santa-Cruz-council-to-review-downtown .

This issue will be on the City Council agenda Tuesday evening shortly after 7 PM.

Bring an audio recorder at your own risk! (See “Video of the False Arrest at Santa Cruz City Council for Audio Recording on April 1” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/05/03/18755258.php).

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Video of Arrest at Santa Cruz City Council for Audio Recording April 1st


During a Special Session of the Santa Cruz City Council on April 1st, I was arrested for failing to leave when I twice replaced my recorder on the bannister between the public and City Council. I have regularly placed my ancient tape recorder there for more than two decades without incident. The railing is the best spot for an audible recording. Nonetheless Mayor Robinson termed my replacing the recorder there “a disruption” and insisted I leave the meeting or face arrest. I declined to do so, since attending (and recording) public meetings is an essential right (that needs to be exercised in order to be real)–particularly so for an alternate media person like myself. These rights are guaranteed on paper at least under the Brown (Public Meetings) Act. Video-journalist Brent Adams posted a video on you-tube which documents much of the action. I discuss it further below.

Brent’s video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUNz646cnoM .

Brent Adams kindly made, uploaded, and provided the video of the incident. I wrote the entire article. The views above are mine and do not necessarily represent his.

The audio for the incident can be heard at http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb140403.mp3 (about 15 minutes into the audio file).

The Mayor’s action was a false arrest in that my behavior not only didn’t disrupt the meeting but was protected under constitutional rights supposedly guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions. Obviously by any reasonable standard, my recording activity was not disruptive. Having Lynn Robinson say so does not make it so. In fact, filing a report on that basis is a criminal act, since the report is a false one. Both Deputy-Chief Martinez and Sgt. Bush refused to accept my citizen’s arrest of Mayor Robinson for making the false report.

Martinez said it was “her meeting”. However the 9th Circuit Court has ruled (in the earlier mock-Nazi salute case) that such a disruption has to be real. Refusing to follow an unconstitutional restriction (actually created to impact me) is not “disruptive” unless it actually disrupts.

Both Deputy-Chief Martinez and Sgt. Bush, initially saw no disruption in the activity I engaged in until directed to remove the recorder by the Mayor.

A legislative body may not prohibit any person attending an open meeting from video recording, audio recording or broadcasting the proceedings, absent a reasonable finding that such activity would constitute a disruption of the proceedings. (§§ 54953.5, 54953.6; Nevens v. City of Chino (1965) 233 Cal.App.2d 775, 779; see also § 6091.)

Under the Act, the public is guaranteed the right to provide testimony at any regular or special meeting on any subject which will be considered by the legislative body before or during its consideration of the item. (§ 54954.3(a).) In 80 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 247, 248-252 (1997),

The rule cited by Robinson reads “Hand-held recording devices may not be left unattended at the speaker’s podium or elsewhere in the Council Chambers.”

Under this rule, if taken literally one would have to sit next to one’s recorder at all times wherever it was placed. If one left the room to use the bathroom or to interview someone else it would be a “disruption” to leave the machine “unattended” to record the meeting.

On April 1st, Robinson–under her own rules by excluding me–denied me the opportunity to record the proceedings since leaving the tape recorder anywhere in the room “unattended” would be a “disruption”. I was also denied the chance to speak at the meeting and report on it for my twice-weekly Free Radio Santa Cruz show.

AFterwards I asked Bren Lehr, the City Administrator/Clerk, for copies of any complaints on e-mail or hard copy as well as any discussion between Council members and staff regarding the presence of the offending tape recorder. Lehr reported that there was only one complaint she had heard of and nothing in writing from any members of the public.

The rule seems to have been activated either as part of the Mayor’s confusion of repression with order or perhaps a particular disliking for having me visibly present at City Council meetings. Though video recordings are available days afterward and streaming happens during the meeting, I think it important if not essential that individuals and particularly reporters be able to make their own recordings with their own equipment without harassment. There’s actually a provision of the Brown Act that provides that even during a real disruption where the chambers are cleared, reporters unconnected with the disruption must be allowed to remain. This is the first time in over the 27 years that I have faced this bizarre kind of arrest for “criminal recorder placement”.

I’ve described this incident in more detail at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/04/02/18753441.php (“Norse Incident Sounds Alarm”).

I am slated to be arraigned Tuesday morning May 6th sometime after 8:30 AM in Santa Cruz Superior Court. I face a possible maximum penalty of $1000 fine and one year in jail. I’ll be checking on Monday afternoon to see if D.A. Bob Lee intends to back up this blatant denial of basic rights.

I may be in good company because the morning of May 6th is also the date for the bogus arraignment of numerous UCSC students, activists, and union supporters arrested for striking up at UCSC around the same time.

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