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City leaders want downtown ordinances delayed

City leaders want downtown ordinances delayed


September 7, 2002
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ -- Two City Council members want street performers exempted from a set of new downtown rules, at least until mid-January.
“It has never been our intention to target musicians,” Councilwoman Emily Reilly said Friday, when she and Councilman Ed Porter announced they would seek to delay aspects of the rules that could restrict donation-seeking musicians.
Reilly said the new rules were devised to curb anti-social behavior, not harm musicians or “political tablers,” which some residents say would be the net result.
The new rules, set to take effect Tuesday, would increase existing space limits for panhandlers, money-soliciting musicians and political tablers. The rules also ban Hackey Sack downtown and expand an existing after-dark ban on panhandlers to include beggars with signs.
But musicians have complained the space-limiting rules would, at least on paper, blot out their favorite spots, corralling them into select areas.
So on Tuesday, Reilly and Porter who helped craft the rules plan to ask the full council to delay implementing the “display device” section of the revisions, which affects “political tablers” and musicians who solicit with open guitar cases and other containers.
Porter and Reilly were responding to a plea from the council’s advisory Downtown Commission, which had asked for at least two more months to research “exemption zones” or other ways to keep the street musician scene. The group proposed up to 15 zones but ran into merchant resistance. Some commissioners said they were concerned that too few zones would burden certain shopkeepers, while raising free expression issues.
Reilly said she and Porter are taking the commission’s concerns seriously.
“They had the courage to tell us they were not ready to give us an answer,” she said.
In early July, the council approved the ordinance changes on a 5-2 vote. The vote met with strong approval from many merchants, downtown employees and residents. But some activists complained that the opinions of homeless people, street artists and others were ignored.
Activist Sherry Conable, who the city consulted while researching exemption zones, said she was pleased with the announcement.
“I’m glad they see the wisdom of doing a more careful thoughtful process before putting anything in place,” Conable said.
Conable, who once organized a six-hour showcase of street performers, said she remains concerned about other rules taking effect, “but I think it’s really clear that out of all the things they were looking at, street performing and tabling were things people had a strong commitment to preserve.”
Musicians and others already are subject to some space limitations. According to present rules, they must stay at least 10 feet from store fronts and varying distances from benches, kiosks and other areas. Space limits don’t apply to those who aren’t seeking donations.
The popular street accordionist Morgani says he’s glad two council members are proposing a delay but calls existing rules “silly,” adding that he’s played within 10 feet of buildings without police enforcing it.
“I talk to police and they say, ‘As long as we don’t get a complaint it’s OK,’” he said. “Either enforce it or don’t.”
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at)

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