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The Forbidden Zone - Santa Cruz Bans the Beggars

In fact, it's all about the beggars. Sexual harassment is already illegal under existing laws. The ordinances expand the prohibitions against peaceful sparechanging from a seated position, in groups of two or more, or after
dark to include silent sparechangers, performers, or political activists on all sidewalks in town. What does this have to do with women walking on Pacific Ave. who get unwanted come-ons from young men? Neither the Downtown
Commission nor the City Council could say.
The Forbidden Zone - Santa Cruz Bans the Beggars

by Becky Johnson
Street Spirit, September 2002

A casually dressed tourist leans against a building downtown on Pacific
Avenue in Santa Cruz, idly sipping his iced mocha cappuccino as he soaks in
the pageantry of the street traffic. Soon, this leisure activity will likely
be a criminal act. On September 10, the "progressive" Santa Cruz City
Council will reconvene to fine-tune the new anti-homeless ordinances,
hustled through in a record four meetings in 15 days. [See "Fast Track
Repression Stalks Santa Cruz," Street Spirit, August 2002.]
Although the City Council pushed through dramatic changes to the
anti-sitting ordinance, the anti-soliciting ordinance, and laws regulating
display of merchandise, storage of property, and conduct on public property,
few of the problems merchants had complained about will be addressed.
Instead of addressing the perceived problems of vandalism, shoplifting,
shootings, stabbings, drug sales, sexual harassment, and lack of bathrooms,
the new laws target sitting, sparechanging, and resting an "unattended"
backpack on the sidewalk, with additional restrictions on street performers
and political activists.
Gentrification seemed to be the real agenda of the merchants, for these
ordinances target the menace of blowing bubbles, juggling, playing
hacky-sack, Frisbee, football, jacks, street musicians, tarot card readers,
political tables, and beggars. Already illegal on Pacific Ave. are dogs,
skateboards, putting a foot on the 8-inch-high concrete lip of a tree-well,
asking for spare change after dark, sitting on a bench the wrong way, asking
for spare change from a seated position or in groups of two or more, riding
a bicycle on the sidewalk, lying down, sitting 10 feet from a building,
dropping a cigarette butt on the sidewalk, "displaying" your artwork,
performing music for sale (or even for a donation), and, if you believe the
police, chalking on the sidewalk.
14-foot forbidden zone
Especially impacted by the ordinances are the street musicians who accept
donations, street entertainers such as Mr. Twister and Wild Willie, two
clowns who twist balloons into animal shapes to the delight of children.
They accept tips for their work, so they will be forced outside the
"forbidden zone," along with any political table that includes a donation
can (which is pretty much all of them). It will be illegal to perform or
table in many areas of downtown Santa Cruz after the forbidden zone is
expanded to 14 feet from a building, intersection, mid-block crosswalk,
drinking fountain, telephone, the railing of an outdoor cafe, or a bench.
"The benches were missing from the diagrams," reported Kathy Bisbee,
Downtown Commission Chair, commenting on the drawings that staff brought to
City Council as it rushed through the laws. The diagrams, prepared by Julie
Hendee of the Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency (RDA) repeatedly erred in
showing "green opportunity zones" where none existed in reality. For the
RDA, the "green opportunity" for homeless panhandlers will be almost
Three downtown commission meetings later, on August 13, the RDA maps still
failed to indicate all benches, some crosswalks, and at least one large
planter area, exaggerating the area of the "opportunity zones," as
Vice-Mayor Emily Reilly cheerfully renamed the small areas not forbidden by
her law.
Her upbeat bigotry is not new. Last October, Reilly led the council to ban
homeless parking in the Harvey West industrial area of Santa Cruz from 5
a.m. to 7 a.m., allegedly for daily "street cleaning." About 400-500
homeless people living in their vehicles risk losing those vehicles if they
cannot pay the expensive tickets that can accumulate quickly. Reilly
described this homeless-removal program as "a compromise."
Reilly said that this year's steamroller downtown ordinances are "putting
things in balance." Last year, activists hoisted a banner saying "EMILY
REILLY'S VOTES HURT THE POOR" in front of her Mission Street Emily's "Good
Things to Eat" Bakery. [See "Santa Cruz Ratchets Up Anti-Homeless Campaign,"
Street Spirit, October 2001].
Councilmember Tim Fitzmaurice, the only incumbent seeking re-election this
November, seems determined to bring his City Council rules of decorum to the
public sidewalks of Pacific Ave. He has banned hacky-sack players from
Pacific Ave. And he did so by passionately relating an incident he had
witnessed of a young man playing Frisbee and crashing into an elderly woman
walking by with her domestic partner and her daughter.
"He didn't apologize. And when they complained, he turned and looked at them
and said 'You f-king dikes!'" Fitzmaurice's voice shook with anger. He moved
to act to end this injustice. Did he speak to the young man in an attempt to
sensitize him to the error of his ways? No. Did he recommend that the human
rights task force expand diversity and tolerance outreach to high school
boys? No. Did he make a citizen's arrest of the young man for recklessly
endangering the woman? No. He banned Frisbees!
"How can banning hacky-sacks reduce drug dealing on Pacific Avenue?" asked
Mayor Christopher Krohn. Councilmember Ed Porter answered that drug dealers
get bored waiting for a drug deal to occur and like to entertain themselves
by playing hacky-sack.
Highlighting the council's public comment period on the downtown ordinances
was the Mammary Manifesto. This ad hoc collective of three 20-year-olds
wrote a colorful and well-researched critique [see] of
the perceived crime wave on Pacific Ave., and read it during the public
comment period. The first speaker, a young woman sporting a fabulous
blue-and-black Mohawk headdress, began her public comment period by pulling
her top off. She then explained that there had been only two complaints of
topless women on Pacific Ave. in the past six months, both of them for the
same woman, a tourist who has since left town.
"The only time you ever tend to see women's breasts on Pacific Ave. is when
you try to ban them!" she exclaimed. Standing in line, the remaining members
of the Mammary Manifesto removed their shirts as well. A petition circulated
by Candi Jackson of Jackson's Shoes had recommended banning women's bare
breasts from Pacific Ave., but no such language appeared in any of the
It's all about the beggars
Moments after passing the sweeping ordinance changes into law, the council
planned to grant exemptions. "We won't ban professional bubble blowers,"
Porter confidently predicted. But no such language appeared in the text of
the ordinance they had just passed.
The Downtown Commission was given the clean-up job. In early August, the
generally pro-ordinance commissioners walked Pacific Ave. looking for
"traditional" areas to exempt from the 14-foot forbidden zones for street
musicians, political tables, or street entertainers. No one advocated for
the beggars.
In fact, it's all about the beggars. Sexual harassment is already illegal
under existing laws. The ordinances expand the prohibitions against peaceful
sparechanging from a seated position, in groups of two or more, or after
dark to include silent sparechangers, performers, or political activists on
all sidewalks in town. What does this have to do with women walking on
Pacific Ave. who get unwanted come-ons from young men? Neither the Downtown
Commission nor the City Council could say. But they worked furiously on
"finding exemptions" for the "worthy" donation seekers (tablers and
Less hypocritical was Orlando, Florida, which banned sitting or lying on the
sidewalk on August 5, 2002. While the Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa
Cruz Sentinel said not one word about the main target of these laws -
"commercially unviable" homeless people - the Orlando City Council was more
outspoken. According to the Orlando Sentinel, "The Orlando City Council
voted 6-0 Monday to further crack down on the homeless after getting
complaints that too many vagrants sleep in doorways or spend hours on
sidewalks in front of businesses."
The undeniable conclusion is that, in both Santa Cruz, California, and
Orlando, Florida, the purpose of these ordinances is to ban the beggars. For
the merchants are loath to see beggars outside of their stores. Since the
soliciting ordinance is in place citywide, and most other sidewalks in the
commercial districts are less than 14 feet wide, quite a chunk has been
taken out of public space to "discourage" homeless people and panhandlers.
An obscure part of the ordinance bans the purchase of an item for an amount
that is so much larger than the value of the item that both parties agree it
is a donation. One young woman commented. "I tried to get some items for my
apartment on Pacific Avenue - $60 for a pot! Sheets for $125! I feel I must
be donating well above the true value when I shop on Pacific Avenue!"
The ordinances began to take effect on August 23. After a two-week warning
period, the police will begin to ticket homeless people for standing and
holding a sign after dark which says: "Cold, Hungry, Homeless, Please Help.
God Bless!"
Violators must pay the state $162. If they don't pay the fine, they will be
arrested and jailed for an additional $200 booking fee. Repeat offenders may
face the irony of a probation condition that ties them to the Santa Cruz
area for three years, but bars them from the downtown area, as is being done
with minor marijuana dealers in the latest police crackdown and selective
On August 12, the Citizen Police Review Board voted to hold a special
hearing to look into police harassment and selective enforcement downtown. A
day later, activists asked the Downtown Commission to try to stop the new
laws. "At least wait until you hear from Berkeley, Olympia, and Portland on
alternative solutions," said an activist from Downtown For All, an
organization that formed precisely to oppose the new laws.
It seems that Tom Noddy's internationally famous "Bubble Magic" show will be
barred in all commercial districts under MC 9.50.020, which bans "[Any]
liquid substance to be thrown, discharged, launched, spilled, or to become
airborne." Porter told the Downtown Commission he wanted traditional
performers like Noddy "to be exempted."
Noddy is not grateful. "City Council just killed our successful, voluntary
Street Performers Guidelines with bad new laws that are simply stupid,"
Noddy said. "These guidelines took us months to hammer out in 1980 and have
worked well for years. Now the Downtown Commission invites me to 'help'
rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic? No thanks!"
Downtown For All has begun plans to make citizen's arrests of well-to-do
citizens sitting down on the sidewalk waiting for a trendy breakfast at
Zachary's or for jaywalking across the street by the Cinema 9. Selective
enforcement is the key to banishing the beggars on Pacific Avenue. If
well-dressed middle-class people and visiting tourists receive $162
citations for sitting or crossing a street, the council may just rush back
to reconsider.

Robert Norse contributed to this article.

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Citizens Arrests/Vigilantism

I live and work in the area that you propose to "police". I ask that your group "Downtown For All" reconsider its plans. When I cross the street downtown I try to use the crosswalk and occasionally I stand and observe events and folks downtown. If any of you get within arms reach of me I will assume that your intent is to attack me. I will defend myself. Please reconsider your actions.

self defense

(On today's episode of "Law Libraries are Fun!"..)

Is that because you don't believe in the authority of civilians to perform a citizens arrest, or because you think you'll have a legal excuse to beat up a hippy with whose politics you disagree?

You're a good law-abiding citizen, arent you Fed? According to the law of California:

CPC 837. A private person may arrest another:
1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.
2. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence.
3. When a felony has been in fact committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.

CPC 834. An arrest is taking a person into custody, in a case and in the manner authorized by law. An arrest may be made by a peace officer or by a private person.

CPC 835. An arrest is made by an actual restraint of the person, or by submission to the custody of an officer. The person arrested may be subjected to such restraint as is reasonable for his arrest and detention.

CPC 841. The person making the arrest must inform the person to be arrested of the intention to arrest him, of the cause of the arrest, and the authority to make it, except when the person making the arrest has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested is actually engaged in the commission of or an attempt to commit an offense, or the person to be arrested is pursued immediately after its commission, or after an escape.
The person making the arrest must, on request of the person he is arresting, inform the latter of the offense for which he is being arrested.

Not that I harbor any illusions that any cop in Santa Cruz would enforce or abide by any of this. Their sworn oathes to defend the Constitution are bold-faced lies. All they care about is maintaining their illegal power monopoly, because they fear competition. Our own Sheriff Tracy has even commented on KSCO radio that he would "like to disarm all of Santa Cruz County" - nevermind that pesky 2nd Amendment.

I'm not saying I support the D4A citizen's arrest ploy (nor saying I don't. It's.. odd.) But you are, Fed, so here we are. Refusing to do your lawful duty as a citizen of California to comply with a lawfully-executed citizen's arrest and have your day in court? Or do you only believe in obedience to force, and only when that force wears the colors of the dominant street gang?

This is, of course, assuming the citizen's arrest IS lawfully executed, which means they announce their intention to arrest you before they come within arm's reach. (Even though cops violate this all the time, getting right in your face regardless of their intent to arrest and then crying "assault on an officer" if you even touch the big crybabies).


Notes on Citizens Arrests

A citizen's arrest need not involve forcibly detaining someone. In fact the words "citizens arrest" may simply mean that you are requiring a police officer to write a citation and get a promise to appear from a suspected criminal downtown.

It can involve simply taking a picture of a person committing a criminal act, informing the person s/he is committing a crime and asking that person to wait for a police officer to arrive. If the person declines to do so, the report can be forwarded to the police.

The most efficacious time to make arrests for violations of these selectively-enforced anti-homeless ordinances is when police are nearby with video equipment or witnesses ready to make statements. At that point, you point out the offending yuppie jaywalker (or person in a business suit sitting on the edge of a planter, or a Democratic Party organizer with a sign leaning against or posted on public property or a musician playing a guitar while seated on a public bench or in front of a public cafe) to a police officer.

You announce (before witnesses and/or on videotape if possible) that you are making a citizen's arrest and would like to turn the offending individual into the police and DEMAND that a citation be issued.

For those concerned with fine points, you must be careful to know the exact text of the law. Some of the Downtown Ordinances have language that requires that a police officer, host, etc. warn an individual that s/he is guilty of a violation before making the arrest.

Such cases are problematic, (and perhaps unconstitutional) since they seem to bar citizen arrests without the participation of police or crypto-cops like the hosts.
It's not clear to me in such cases who can legitimately give "warnings" to police, though one can always try and then ask the police officer to issue a citation when your warning (again, tape or video recorded, if possible) is ignored.

You needn't follow through with the ticket,though, and presumably, without your testimony in court, the "perpetrator" will go free if s/he demands a court trial.

The problem, of course, with this whole approach is that it mirrors police practices downtown. Instead of a furthering a festival of life and expanding public spaces, this is a punitive approach that involves using bad laws against innocent people.

I have myself made a Citizen's Arrest of Host Terry Butler, for loud and offensive noise, when he was the Host in the Downtown Information Center in charge of the "classical music" that was being blasted out in January to get rid of youth and hippie folk in front of New Leaf. Butler was cited, but shortly thereafter (which I learned only later), the police officer himself quashed the ticket under a code section stating that Butler's behavior (blasting out amplified music under the direction of the Redevelopment Agency which bothered workers across the street at Cottontales) did not rise to a crime.

In the case of somehow whom you have video evidence that he technically broke the law (jaywalking), it would be harder for the police department to avoid legal liability.

Note that the above remarks are speculative and the process untested. The real point is to find some way to rein in a police department that has been harassing musicians, performers, and poor people downtown as well as to dump the 1994 and recent Downtown Ordinances.

We have real problems downtown. No need to contribute to them with stupid anti-homeless laws.


i have been back to santa cruz several times since leaving after graduating hs in the valley.
i grew up during the hippie time and married and left town in 1977.
i have been all over the world since then and have been horrified at the numbers of able bodied young people content to lay around all day begging for money all over santa cruz.
we left ca and found a life for our family. no begging.
if life is to hard there and begging is the only choice why dont people find someplace where there are jobs. because people in santa cruz support peoples right to sit and beg. alway have always will.

You're Banned...

I hereby Ban the Santa Cruz City council from my mind.


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