[Hpn] Santa Cruz Mulls More Anti-Homeless Restrictions - by Becky Johnson (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 19 Sep 2001 00:00:27 -0700 (PDT)


FWD  [ California USA ]

Santa Cruz Mulls Expanding of Anti-Homeless Restrictions

by "Becky Johnson" <wmnofstl54@hotmail.com>

Sept. 16, 2001

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- In this picturesque seaside tourist town of 54,000, City
leaders are considering voting for parking restrictions which would only
affect homeless people.

Unable to afford the high housing costs in the City, hundreds have been
forced by economic neccessity to use their vehicles as their homes. For
years, the two industrial areas of Santa Cruz have been unofficial "home"
for both long-distance truckers who need to park and sleep, and for homeless
people who do not want to bother residents or businesses, and choose to park
away from them. In May of 2000, the council voted to establish safe sleeping
zones there, before abandoning the effort in June.

On July 24th, President Don L. Hubbard of the Harvey West Area Business
Association contacted the Public Works department and asked that problems
involving littering be dealt with. The subsequent discussion involved
discussion that either the City install porto-potties and a dumpster in the
Harvey West area, or put up signs preventing nighttime parking.

City Manager Dick Wilson favors the 5AM to 7AM parking restrictions which
would be in effect 7 nights a week. The stated reason in the staff
recommendation is "street sweeping." When Director of Public Works, Matt
Farrell was contacted by HUFF activist, Robert Norse, he acknowledged that
no public hearings had been held. When asked whether any other street in the
City has 5 AM to 7 AM restrictions, he admitted that there were none. When
asked whether Pacific Ave. is swept daily, he said "no." Yet the four
streets in the industrial zone which are neither in front of businesses or
residents, are slated to have these restrictions imposed in item #12 on the
afternoon calendar's consent agenda. Moreover this item was prepared without
discussions with homeless advocates, social service providers, and was
prepared over the summer while council was on vacation.

In March of 1999, a resolution initiated by Councilmember Christopher Krohn,
and passed by council recommended the installation of porto-potties and
dumpsters in areas traditionally used by homeless campers and those who are
vehicularly-housed. No such facilities have been installed despite repeated
efforts by activists. When asked why, Matt Farrell stated that the staff had
been taken up with working on the Master Transportation Study. Ironically
City Council comment at a December 2000 Council meeting rejecting similar
signs on Almar Ave. noted that no such signs would be put in until the
Master Transportation Study was done.

The streets on which the parking restrictions are being proposed are the
exact same streets that the council was considering as a safe sleeping zone
for homeless people in May of 2000.

The likely impact of the parking restrictions will be to disturb the already
fragile sleep of those forced to live in their vehicles. Sleeping between
the hours of 11PM and 8:30AM out of doors or in a vehicle is already
prohibited. The parking restriction being proposed will, if passed, be in
effect 7 days a week and threaten those vehicles whose drivers don't wake up
and move with expensive tickets and with towing. Since the vehicles of
homeless people typically contain the sum of those people's worldly
belongings, such towing effects their ability to survive at all.

Santa Cruz documented 1273 homeless people in a single night head count in
the City of Santa Cruz. 30% of which live in their vehicles. It has shelter
space for only 39.

Despite three shelter emergency declarations by the Santa Cruz City Council,
none of which have been revoked, City Manager Dick Wilson, Parks and
Recreation director Jim Lang, Police Chief Steven Belcher, and Public Works
director Matt Farrell, and Ron Marquez have teamed up to recommend to City
Council that the city streets in the weedy, and dusty industrial section of
the City need to have parking prohibited from 5AM to 7AM on the four streets
most used by homeless people at night.

No restrictions are imposed in front of large businesses located in the area
3 unpaid tickets will result in the "booting" of the vehicle. Lack of prompt
payment will result in the towing of their vehicle. To get the vehicle back,
they must pay the $116 tow charge and $25 per day North County Towing
charges, as well as paying the tickets.

The item seems so innocuous. Yet is it insidious. In the codewords of the
staff report they talk about area residents and businesses concerns which
are "echoed by the Police Department and the Parks and Recreation Department
to address the issue of long term parking on Sylvania Street and on Coral
Street from Limekiln Street to Harvey West Boulevard. This parking results
in health and sanitation concerns as well as traffic safety issues."

But the "health" of homeless people is not considered. This tiny
staff-inspired banishment of the vehicularly-housed will not drive them from
the area. Just into another area, and it will probably be in front of a
residence or a business.

The report goes on to say that "Staff proposes to sweep the streets
regularly in this area to address the health and sanitation issues and to
paint several curbs in this area red to insure adequate sight distance at
the adjoining intersections. In order to provide effective sweeping, parking
would be prohibited from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. daily.

Sweep the homeless away. That is what this item is all about. When Ed, a man
who lives in his RV, was asked what he thought of the restrictions he
blurted out "Hell, if they have a problem with keeping the curbs clean, I'll
sweep them myself every day." But no one ever asked him.

If Santa Cruz votes in favor of these restrictions, it will be moving away
from what other cities have been doing. Santa Barbara has recently moved in
the opposite direction, approving in concept a vehicular parking lot in the
County and a Eugene-style, or series of smaller, legal parking areas
throughout the city.



Santa Cruz City Council can be contacted at (831) 420-5020

To Contact HUFF, Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom call (831)
423-4833

To contact Becky Johnson, call (831)429-8529 or e-mail at
wmnofstl@cruzio.com

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