Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

LOCAL Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights : Labor & Economics : Police State

Open Letter to Mike Rotkin, Re: 10 days camping in private driveways

Mike Rotkin has opened the possibility that a proposal to modify the sleeping/camping ban will be presented to the City Council.
Here is the response the Human Rights Organization received from Mike Rotkin and our response back to him, concerning homeless civil rights in Santa Cruz and other issues concerning City Council proceedures:

August 8, 2005

Mr. Bernard Klitzner and Others
Human Rights Organization
P.O. Box 332
Santa Cruz, CA 95061

Dear Mr. Klitzner and Others:

I am sorry that I have taken so long to respond to your letter of July, 11 2005. You raise four issues there that were discussed in our meeting earlier this year. With respect to the first, the level of fines for camping, etc in the City, I have no interest in changing the fine structure at this time. Although I know that your organization is under the impression that large numbers of people are being caught up in sweeps of the homeless in Santa Cruz, the fact is that relatively small numbers of people are actually charged with violations of these ordinances. Since the Council policy of only enforcing the camping ordinance on a complaint basis has been in place, we have never cited more than an average of one person a night. Most months, the level of citations is less than half that number --- for example, last month there were nine (9) citations. In effect, people get these citations when they ignore clear warnings that they are camping in an illegal place or when they refuse to move on when warned by the police. As you know, there is no other city in the country where people are allowed to sleep out in public areas, and I have no interest in our community becoming the national “solution? to the homeless problem. We do far more than most communities to address the issue, even if the response is far from adequate; however, further advances in solving the problem will depend upon regional and national action to a greater extent than decisions by the City of Santa Cruz acting on its own.

Second, having discovered no complaints about the current ordinance that allows individuals to sleep in the driveway of a private residence for up to three days – with the permission of the residents – I intend to bring a proposal to the City Council to extend that permissive period to ten (10) days. I will be doing this in September or October. Frankly, the one thing that makes this the least attractive to me, is the knowledge that putting this issue on the Council agenda will create a huge public controversy, no doubt stir up anti-homeless sentiment, and what is worse, provide an opportunity for you and your supporters to unfairly attack and insult the Council, spread misinformation about our community's commitment to the homeless, etc. But my commitment to trying to alleviate at least some suffering of homeless individuals overrules my concerns about how you will conduct yourself at our public meeting --- something over which I have little, if any, control.

Third, we do our best to generally have oral communications at 7:00 PM or whenever the Council meeting starts (if we have a late start because the afternoon session runs over) at all regular Council meetings. For some reason, this past spring we had an inordinate number of meetings with no evening session, and in order to allow the public a chance for oral communication we did set the time as the last item in the afternoon session or at 5:00 PM, whichever came first. I do not think that it is likely that many meetings will not have evening sessions in the upcoming year(s). I will continue to do my best, as will future Mayors I am sure, to be as clear as possible about when oral communications are scheduled when they are unavoidably at some time other than the regular 7:00 PM time on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month.

Finally, I have no legal requirement to share and no interest in sharing my personal schedule with you. No doubt you would love to hear about a series of public and private events you could disrupt with protests over issues unrelated to the events in which I participate. You have more than adequate access to me at public Council meetings, and, as you well know, I am always happy to schedule meetings with your group or any other if you would like to have serious dialog about City issues. I will come to your meetings/events, as I have often in the past, or be pleased to meet with you, as I have often in the past, at City Hall. All official City events are, of course, well noticed formally by the City and informally by various media in our community, and these events are open to you, as they are to all citizens and residents of Santa Cruz.

The mayorship in Santa Cruz is not compensated or organized as a full-time job (although it often takes forty-plus hours a week). I have two other jobs (one full time and one part time), and my personal calendar is not maintained by City staff or at any City expense. It is not a public document.

Thank you for your interest in the various City issues discussed above. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Mike Rotkin

HRO's draft response:
September 8, 2005
Dear Mayor Mike Rotkin,

Thanks for your commitment to bring the proposal to the City Council that we lobbied you for earlier this year on extending the number of days allowed for persons with permission from the resident to sleep in a vehicle in the driveway of a private residence from the current three days to ten days. We commend you for your brave stand on this issue and plan to rally support for your proposal despite the unkind, hostile, and self indulgent tone of your letter. Your aggressive and mocking attitude is very disturbing. Yes, we have criticized your past actions when it comes to your support of anti-homeless laws. We may represent an opposing viewpoint, but in no way are we addicted to mindless disruption of the Council as you suggest. However, we are fed up with homeless rights being put on the Council's back burner. Many of the Santa Cruz anti-homeless laws are unprovoked restrictions to placate business interests.

In our effort to engage the community, we table and leaflet written information, hold meetings, and forums open to all. We encourage letter writing, phone calls to the city council and demonstrations against such selective and abusive power; all of these actions are legal and within the laws of this country! Yes, we will be heard, on the streets, in the halls of government, in the nation's courts and anywhere else the fight for human rights and the preservation of the Bill of Rights takes us. We hold the viewpoint that every person, homeless or housed, be free of persecution in accordance with the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was made to protect everyone and must be obeyed by everyone to be effective. It represents the basic understanding of human rights. If we cannot agree on this we can not move forward.

As for your lament about the part-time status of the Santa Cruz Mayorship, one should ask one's self “what am I getting out of this?? We and many others have asked the same question. What is the purpose and intent of your involvement in local government?

Thanks for your invitation for further discussion. We will be in contact with you soon.


Bernard Klitzner
Bob Patton
John Thielking

Human Rights Organization

John Thielking's editorial comments on the above letters:

The proposal to extend the permitted time for car camping in a private driveway from 3 days to 10 days is a small, but significant move in the direction of liberalizing the anti-homeless laws in Santa Cruz. Having a three day limit on car camping in a private driveway essentially serves almost no one as it would be impractical and take much longer than three days to get written permission from both the owner of the property and the current residents before someone could legally camp in any one driveway. Increasing the permitted time to 10 days changes the practicality of this section of the ordinance dramatically. It would now be possible for one individual to hit up three of his/her friends to allow car camping on their three driveways on a rotating basis until that person could find suitable housing. Critics would be mostly silenced by the fact that this proposal has no theoretical magnet effect. Only those people who already know someone (or a few people) in Santa Cruz would be usefully served by this ordinance change. There would not be a sudden clustering of homeless camping vehicles, from all over the city, along any one street or industrial corridor as there was when the safe sleeping zones were proposed in 2000.

This ordinance change would also serve the interests of non-homeless campers who would then be able to camp in an RV in their relative's driveway legally for 10 days. There is some concern that this ordinance change would not address potential zoning code violations that could be present when allowing a camper in a private driveway. But the rest of the ordinance, that allows camping in backyards for instance, faces basically the same problem. We will see if Mike Rotkin lives up to his commitment. One potential pitfall is that as Mayor, he can not make a motion to put this issue to a vote before the Council. But he may be able to bring it to someone else's attention and second a motion by someone else. Tony Madrigal and Emily Reilly are good candidates for this possibility.

New Comments are disabled, please visit


Re: Open Letter to Mike Rotkin, Re: 10 days camping in private driveways

I moved here recently so I don't know the history of this, but I was wondering if you could tell me about the legality of renting out a camper in your yard, either backyard or driveway? When I was hunting for a rental, I saw quite a few trailers and converted garages (often for prices like $650, $675, where three 'apartments' shared a bathroom and a microwave sink, no stove). Is this legal or do they need a special permit? Santa Cruz can be pretty weird. First, going to yard sales, it strikes me that a large percentage here totally has fewer years of schooling or less prestigious jobs than places with equivalently outrageous housing prices up the peninsula near San Francisco. So I guess that many of them bought a few years ago when it was possible for middle/working class people to get a 1-storey 3 bedroom house in this region, and maybe they live off a home equity loan. Secondly, there are stories in the Sentinel that make it seem like houseowners are much more territorial about patrolling their street than in San Francisco/Oakland/most urban areas. The party ordinance would be one example. Today I was really pissed off when I parked in west SC next to what looked like a monster home built where a small house had been knocked down (i've driven less than a mile this week due to national situation- just washed the salt off and moved car). I walked off and this woman came out and chased me down the street and told me to move the car. I asked if she needed the street, and she said "yes, I do need the street" with a certain tone and accused me of not living here. I had asked expecting to hear that she was planning construction or to put a moving van there in one of the four parking spots in front of her house, but it turned out that she felt like she owned spots by her house, and had taken notes when I parked by her house a few weeks ago. I just walked away hoping they have an interest-only adjustable rate mortgage and will get hurt when Greenspan resigns, but yeah, a few suburban mentalities like this will surely be bugging city hall that typical students or renters etc.


No events for this day.

view calendar week
add an event


Media Centers

Syndication feeds

Account Login

This site made manifest by dadaIMC software