[Hpn] Santa Cruz "Downtown Issues" Recommendations and Staff Report plus Analysis

Becky Johnson Becky_Johnson@sbcglobal.net
Mon, 8 Jul 2002 10:51:51 -0700


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THE STAFF REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE "DOWNTOWN ISSUES" COMMITTEE
BELOW DOCUMENTS THE DEPTH OF DECEPTION INVOLVED.  IT ALSO SHOWS THE
FULL-SCALE ACCEPTANCE (INDEED, EXPANSION) OF A POLICE AND MERCHANT AGENDA
BEING PREPARED BY CITY COUNCIL FOR A RUSH JOB BEFORE THE COUNCIL LEAVES FOR
AN AUGUST RECESS.  AN UNPRECEDENTED SPECIAL MEETING IS BEING PLANNED TO
RUBBERSTAMP FIVE SIGNIFICANT NEW LAWS.

ON JULY 9TH, COUNCILMEMBER EMILY REILLY AND ED PORTER WILL IGNORE THE FACT
THAT THE PUBLIC HAS HAD NO DISCUSSION OF SOLUTIONS TO PRESENT THOSE THESE
TWO COUNCILMEMBERS COOKED UP BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, AFTER PRIVATE MEETINGS
WITH POLICE AND MERCHANTS.

THEIR BRIEF SHOW OF A DEMOCRATIC PROCESS (WHICH HAS TO BE COMMENDED FOR
ACTUALLY INVOLVING SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS OF PEOPLE AND ALLOWING THEM TO SPEAK
AND INTERACT) IS NOW SHOWN TO BE WHAT MANY OF US FEARED IT WAS ALL ALONG:
WINDOW-DRESSING FOR A PRIOR AGENDA OF SOLUTIONS, NOT RATIFIED OR EVEN
DISCUSSED IN THOSE MEETINGS.

REILLY'S PLEA TO RUSH THROUGH "JUST ONE THING" WILL ACTUALLY RECOMMEND NINE
THINGS.

#1 FIRST AND FOREMOST, THEY WILL ENDORSE THE POLICE CRACKDOWN DOWNTOWN
("anti-social behavior and crime") IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT THE RECENT
POLICE HARASSMENT OF STREET MUSICIANS, VENDORS, POOR PEOPLE EATING FOOD NOT
BOMBS MEALS, AND HOMELESS PEOPLE JUST TRYING TO USE PUBLIC SPACES WAS
FAR-AND-AWAY THE NUMBER #1 CONCERN EXPRESSED IN THE TWO COMMITTEE MEETINGS.
ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION IS MADE OF THESE CONCERNS IN THE STAFF REPORT OR
RESOLUTION.  IN FACT, WHEN THIS COMMITTEE WAS FORMED, THE COUNCIL MADE IT A
POINT TO RESOLVE THAT "ALL EXISTING LAWS" (INCLUDING THE ABSURD DOWNTOWN
ORDINANCES DIRECTED AT 'STINGING', 'CATTLEHERDING', AND 'MOVING ALONG' THOSE
CONSIDERED UNSIGHTLY BY THE MERCHANTS).

#2  ENCOURAGE THE DOWNTOWN COMMISSION TO REVIEW SOCIAL PROBLEMS
DOWNTOWN--THIS IS THE MERCHANT-DOMINATED GROUP THAT GAVE US THE EARLIER BAD
LAWS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

#3  SET UP CONTACT WITH THE COURTS PRESUMABLY TO HEIGHTEN THE
CRACKDOWN--WHERE A HUGE AMOUNT OF ENERGY HAS BEEN EXPENDED DRIVING AWAY A
GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE FROM NEW LEAF BY FENCING OFF THE PUBLIC SIDEWALK, THEN
FROM THE PACIFIC COOKIE COMPANY BY REMOVING BENCHES, FINALLY FROM BORDERS
WITH HARASSMENT, ABSURD MARIJUANA FELONY BUSTS FOR SMALL QUANTITIES OF
GRASS, AND CITATIONS FOR CHALKING, DROPPING BREADCRUMBS, PLAYING AN
INSTRUMENT IN AN ALCOVE, ETC.  USING STAY-AWAY ORDERS AND URGER HARSHER
COURT ENFORCEMENT IS SIMPLY RUBBERSTAMPING A COMMERCIAL USE OF SPACE
DOWNTOWN AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL OF US.

#4  PROPOSES THE COUNTY HIRE A DOWNTOWN SOCIAL WORKER, BUT APPARENTLY DOES
NOT APPROPRIATE ANY FUNDING FOR IT FROM THE CITY--THIS AT A TIME WHEN THE
FINAL BUDGET IS BEFORE THEM.

#5  PROPOSE SIX SIGNIFICANT LEGAL CHANGES MISLABELING THEM "ADJUSTMENTS" AND
CLARIFICATIONS WHICH INCLUDE

    a. A huge expansion of already harsh limits on peaceful panhandling to
include those holding up signs and saying nothing.  It will now become
illegal to sit down holding a sign, to do it in a group of two, to do it
after dark, etc.  Rather than train police, CSO's, and hosts to respect the
right to hold up a sign, period, (they have regularly been harassing
people), it simplifies things by simply cutting people's rights in half.  It
is also probably blatantly unconstitutional, as well as being mean-spirited.
  But, remember, this is only a "clarification".

    b. Deputizing Hosts to give the "first warning" on the absurd "don't sit
down" ordinances, so they can become cops on the cheap.  Untrained,
underpaid,---a great idea.  This is the final deformation of former
Councilmember Beier's  "Hospitality" Squad.  A second "clarification".

    b. Prohibiting leaning against a building.  A court threw out a ticket
issued to me back in 1997 because I was "leaning" against some piece of
public property while recording police harassment nearby.  This
"clarification" makes sure that undesirables don't "lean" against the sacred
business temples downtown.

    c. Leaving an "object" on the sidewalk "so as to constitute a hazard to
traffic".  This is code language for going after homeless possessions on the
street at officer discresion.  Any stats indicating injuuries from homeless
backpacks?  None that I have seen--but for that matter  the Great Crime Wave
downtown hasn't been documented either, while the Mission St. Killings
(three hit-and-run fatalities this year) continue to be swept under the rug.
  Yes, this is another "clarification."

    d.  Criminalizing all hackeysack and other sports involving "balls" or
frisbees.  Increasing penalties and harassment against skateboarders
apparently will wait until another Council session or be done by stepped up
enforcement of existing laws.  This section also criminalizes
bubble-blowing. ("liquid substances [being]...thrown, discharged, launched,
spilled, or...[becoming]airborne")  But, have no fear, this isn't a
"clarification", it's an "adjustment" to existing laws.

    e.  Doubling the forbidden zones for sitting by changing the current
"10' from a building entrance or window" to "14' from any building, fence,
mid-block crosswalk, kiosk, or public telephone.  Street performing and
political tabling, which can now be done near stores if they don't block the
way, will be moved 14' away--which means they'll be excluded from one side
of Pacific Avenue entirely, and reduced to a small strip along the curb on
the other.  A nice "adjustment" for those who are tired of folks tabling for
a Downtown Plaza and looking for signatures to end the City's Sleeping Ban.

READ THE RECOMMENDATIONS AND STAFF REPORT BELOW, AND E-MAIL CITY COUNCIL AT
citycouncil@ci.santa-cruz.ca.us.  WRITE THE SENTINEL AT
editorial@santa-cruz.com  BUT MOST IMPORTANT PREPARE FOR PEACEFUL PROTEST,
SINCE THAT'S THE ONLY THING COUNCIL AND BUSINESSES PAY ANY ATTENTION TO.
THIS MAY MEAN BOYCOTTS, PICKETS, AND COLORFUL PROTESTS.

(Third Item of the Evening Session of Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday
July 9, 2002
following Oral Communications  at 7 PM  and consideration of the City
Budget--item
#20).

21. Downtown Issues Committee Recommendations (Councilmember Porter; Vice
Mayor
Reilly).

That the City Council consider the initial recommendations of the Downtown
Issues
Committee listed below and provide direction.
1. Adopt a resolution stating the City Council's position regarding
inappropriate behaviors
and actions in the downtown.
2. Direct that the Downtown Commission, or subcommittee of the Commission,
be
charged with the continual review of downtown issues, including reviewing
those
suggestions for improvement that require additional review (such as new
ordinances) or a
longer term to implement.
3. That a letter be sent to the Presiding Judge of the Court indicating the
Council's desire
to have the court support the City in its effort to create a safe and
healthy downtown, and
requesting that a meeting be held between the Presiding Judge and
appropriate City
officials to discuss this issue.
4. That the Council's desire to expedite the hiring of the Downtown Social
Worker be
communicated to the County Health Services Agency.
5. That modifications to existing ordinances be made that would help to
address some of
the most significant problems downtown, and that a special meeting of the
City Council be
scheduled next week for the first reading of the ordinance.

CITY COUNCIL
AGENDA REPORT
DATE: July 5, 2002
AGENDA OF: July 9, 2002
DEPARTMENT: City Council Downtown Issues Committee
SUBJECT: DOWNTOWN ISSUES COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council consider the initial recommendations
of
the Downtown Issues Committee listed below and provide direction.
We need to use as our foundation and main reference the Downtown Recovery
Plan.
Quoting directly from the Vision Statement: " Downtown is safe and clean. It
is a
multicultural place attracting all sectors of the community and serving as a
meeting place
for children, students, elderly, office workers retailers, shoppers and
visitors, as well as
those living in the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods." Right now
things are out
of balance, but we can change that.
Adopt a resolution stating the City Council's position regarding anti-social
behavior
and crime in the downtown, as well as its commitment to protecting public
space
and supporting our local artists and musicians and social service programs.
Direct that the Downtown Commission, or subcommittee of the Commission, be
charged with the continual review of downtown issues, including reviewing
those
suggestions for improvement that require additional review (such as new
ordinances) or a longer term to implement.
That a letter be sent to the Presiding Judge of the Court indicating the
Council's desire
to have the court support the City in its effort to create a safe and
healthy
downtown, and requesting that a meeting be held between the Presiding Judge
and
appropriate City officials to discuss this issue.
That the Council's desire to expedite the hiring of the Downtown Social
Worker be
communicated to the County Health Services Agency.
That modifications to existing ordinances be made that would help to address
some of
the most significant problems downtown, and that a special meeting of the
City
Council be scheduled next week for the first reading of the ordinance.
BACKGROUND: On June 25, 2002, in response to concerns voiced by residents,
visitors
and merchants, the City Council established the Downtown Issues Committee
(Committee) charged with the task of considering proposals that address
anti-social
behavior and crime in the downtown and that the Committee return to the City
Council
with initial recommendations by July 9, 2002.
The Committee met with concerned citizens when asked and also conducted
public
meetings on June 28 and July 1, 2002. The first meeting focused on hearing
issues of
concern to those present. Approximately 80 persons attended and provided
public
comment. A list of 33 issues compiled from Council oral communications,
e-mails, letters
and Downtown Association meetings was presented (see Attachment A). Members
of the
public commented on these and were asked to identify any other issues.
Approximately 45
additional issues and suggestions were provided as well (see Attachment B).
The meeting on July 1, 2002 focused on hearing from those present what they
believed to
be the most critical issues that should be addressed. Approximately 50
persons attended
and provided public comment. In addition, because of the long-term
commitment needed
to solve these problems, members of the public were asked to identify
stakeholders (see
Attachment C) who might be willing to participate in an on-going working
group. Those
in attendance were also asked to identify, from the previously generated
list of issues, the
top three issues that they would like to see addressed. The results of this
exercise have
been summarized (see Attachment D). In general, a significant number of
persons were
very concerned about issues related to civil liberties issues, as well as
public safety, crime
and anti-social behavior.
DISCUSSION: While many of the issues and concerns about our downtown have
previously been communicated to us, the public meetings of the Downtown
Issues
Committee have helped us solidify how significant and detrimental the
problems are in the
downtown. There is no doubt in our minds that many people are being
intimidated and
threatened by inappropriate behavior and illegal activities. This is not
only the case for
downtown visitors, but for merchants, employees and residents. It is also
important to
point out that many of the issues are complex and more significant than
those any city
council could address alone and immediately. These include problems of
homelessness,
poverty, substance abuse and mental health. We were cautioned to move
carefully and
reminded that our community places a high value on the preservation of civil
liberties. It
was also clear that even those most distressed by the current state of
affairs are supportive
of protecting the public space for musicians and artists. Some form of
vendor licensing
was mentioned more than once and would be a good topic for the ongoing
working
group.
Nonetheless, we believe we can and should act to address those issues that
are within our
authority. In conferring with the public, as well as with City staff (city
manager, police,
parks and recreation, redevelopment), the following five action items are
recommended.
1. Resolution of Values
The process identified the need for the Council to be clear about its
position regarding
intimidation, lewd comments and behavior and crime in the downtown.
Accordingly, it is
important that the City Council make a clear value statement is this regard.
The attached
resolution has been developed for this purpose.
2. Ongoing Review Process
The process has identified the need to have an ongoing process to review
downtown
policies and issues as well as to further explore some of the suggestions
for improvement
made to the Downtown Issues Committee, as well as any other suggestions,
that require
significant review to consider and implement (including new ordinances).
Given that the
City has an existing Downtown Commission, it is recommended that they be
tasked to
take on this role. The structure may take the shape of a subcommittee of the
Downtown
Commission.
3. Communication with Courts
We also know that the courts play an important role in communicating to the
general
public what will be tolerated. We would like the court to be informed that
the City Council
would like the court's support in making our downtown a safe and healthy
place, and that
illegal behaviors and violations of City ordinances should not be tolerated.
Furthermore,
we recommend that the letter include a request to meet with the court to
discuss the
situation.
4. Downtown Social Worker
A critical element of the support structure for social issues in the
downtown is the social
worker. This position has been vacant for some time and it is critical that
this function be
reestablished as soon as possible. It is our recommendation that a letter be
sent to the
County Health Services Agency requesting that it expedite the hiring process
as much as
possible.
5. Ordinance Modifications
In reviewing the most significant problems downtown, it has become clear
that our
existing ordinances governing behavior have certain limitations that make it
difficult to
address these problems. The recommended modifications fall into two areas
and are
recommended by staff. The first is modifications that simply clarify or help
to facilitate
existing procedures. The second is to make adjustments to help address
problems
associated with conflicts that arise when multiple users occupy limited
space.
It is also important to note that a number of suggestions have been made
regarding
ordinances that would more severely restrict activities in the downtown.
However, given
the limited time that this Committee had to develop recommendations, as well
as our
agreement that an incremental approach should be taken, this Committee
recommends that
the modifications described below be made first and given an opportunity to
see if they
improve the situation. Over a longer period of time, the ongoing commission
process may
need to evaluate additional ordinance revisions, particularly if the
situation does not
improve.
Clarifications
There are four clarifications that are recommended. The first is to more
appropriately
define solicitation so that it includes both verbal and non-verbal
solicitation. The second
clarification is to add a provision to the code (section related to
remaining on business
property after a request to leave) that would prohibit leaning against any
business front
after having been notified by the owner or representative. It would also
allow the owner
the ability to authorize Downtown Hosts or other appropriate City employees
to enforce
this provision if a letter of authorization is filed with the Police
Department.
The third clarification relates to obstructions on streets and sidewalks and
adds a provision
that makes it clear that an obstruction exists when a person knowingly
permits a vehicle or
object to remain unattended in such a way as to constitute a hazard to
traffic or
pedestrians. The final clarification is to modify appropriate code sections
to allow a
Downtown Host or any other public officer the authority to notify those that
are in
violation City ordinances. Existing ordinances only specifies a law
enforcement officer.
Adjustments
There are two overall adjustments that are recommended. The first is to add
a provision to
the code to prohibit the intentional throwing, discharge or spill of any
solid object
(including, but not limited, to hacky sacks, footballs, baseballs, beach
balls, Frisbees or
other similar devices) or liquid substances or otherwise cause such object
or substance to
be thrown, discharged, launched, spilled or to become airborne. This would
address the
significant concern, especially by senior downtown residents, of being hit
by those playing
hacky sack. It would also make it clear that these types of activities are
simply not
appropriate for the downtown. There are parks facilities that can
accommodate the
recreational activities noted here, including the playing of hacky sack.
The second adjustment is to have a more consistent distance threshold where
solicitation
and sitting down on sidewalks can occur, and where non-commercial display
devices can
be located. This would make the ordinances much easier to understand and
follow, as well
as to enforce. Currently the distances vary considerably. For example,
sitting or lying on
the sidewalks is prohibited within 10 feet of any building entrance or any
building window,
4 feet of any drinking fountain or public phone, and 50 feet of any cash
dispersal machine.
Solicitation is prohibited within 6 feet of any building face, 10 feet of
the entrance or exit
of any building open to the public, and 50 feet of any automatic teller or
vending machine.
Display devices cannot be within 4 feet of any drinking fountain or public
telephone, 6 feet
of any mid-block crosswalk, or 6 feet of a kiosk, building entrance or other
structure
separating private property from the public right-of-way.
The proposed adjustment is to make the distance for all of the above
situations 14 feet
(except for the 50-foot provisions which are not proposed to be changed).
Given the time that it will require to consider the recommended
modifications both for
Council review and discussion and public comment, and the fact that this
agenda (July 9,
2002) is quite full, we recommend that the Council schedule a special
meeting next week
to consider the modifications and introduce ordinance amendments as
appropriate.
FISCAL IMPACT: The above recommendations have no fiscal implications.
Submitted by:
Emily Reilly
Vice Mayor Ed Porter
Councilmember
M:\Agenda\Update\CM\Downtown Issues Committee Report.doc
Attachments:
Resolution
Attachment A: Identified Downtown Issues
Attachment B: Public Comments from June 28, 2002
Attachment C: List of Stakeholders Identified on July 1, 2002
Attachment D: Major Issues/Priorities Table from July 1, 2002




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