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New S.C. council crafts a compromise

New S.C. council crafts a compromise


Sentinel Opinion
December 13, 2002


By keeping enforcement part of regulating musicians downtown,
council demonstrates pragmatic approach.

Sometimes compromise is best. In the case of the new Santa Cruz
City Council and the oft-debated and criticized downtown regulations,
what the council did Tuesday night hopefully sets a new tone of
consensus and sensibility that has been lacking the last couple of
The council essentially decided to roll back one provision of the
regulations that would specify how far away street musicians must
stand from building entrances, outdoor dining areas, street corners,
intersections, telephones, fountains and benches.
By reducing the distance from 14 feet to 10 feet, the council left
itself open to criticism it was softening the regulations put together
last summer after a spate of complaints and outbreaks of violent and
illegal behavior caused an uproar over downtown’s future. Street
musicians protested the regulations and were given a seven-month
reprieve in which to work out alternatives.
But the council, with newly returned members Cynthia Mathews and
Mike Rotkin helping lead the way, also included an important provision
that would require musicians, along with political activists who have
set up tables, to change locations every hour.
On the face of it, this would seem to be unenforceable, and, if aimed
at every musician or cause-spouter, probably would be. But in the
case of people who are acting out in a bizarre or inappropriate
manner, this clause can be used to keep them moving.
Indeed, it answers one of the major complaints from merchants
about being driven crazy by noisy, uncooperative, harassing so-called
musicians who park outside their doors for an entire day or night.
Police, meanwhile, seem to have no problem with reducing the
14-foot distance to 10 feet, as long as the new regulation is
consistently applied.
The council wisely did not create “exemption zones” for musicians,
although it left the possibility open. Nor did members support a
Downtown Commission plan that would have let the musicians work
under their own guidelines.
We’re still concerned that the provisions for musicians and political
tablers will allow pushy, obnoxious panhandlers just to set up camp
under new guises.
But the council showed admirable restraint and realism in Tuesday’s
decision, and did so without a lot of political grandstanding or
appeasement to various interest groups. In the end, the solution they
crafted has some enforcement teeth, which is what has been needed
to begin to clean up downtown.
It may not have been the perfect solution, but it was a solution. It
gave city residents hope that this new council will work for the
interests of all concerned strollers, business owners, shoppers,
taxpayers, police and, yes, those who just like to hang out
Most importantly, as Councilman Scott Kennedy said, enough time
and energy had been spent on the issue. The council now has to
grapple with a major financial crisis and impending budget cuts. Let’s
hope the promising beginning demonstrated Tuesday night carries
over into a new economic pragmatism on the part of the City

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No Craft In Compromise

Craft comes through careful study and experience. The lack of study couldn't have been clearer in the new council's actions. From the silly do-nothing suggestion for a 12' setback from Mathews, to the irrelevant 'what-people-said-to-me-on-the-campaign-trail' comments by Rotkin. What was clear however was their desire mark their territory, and mark they did.

Text of Council Actions Against Performers 12-10

The following is the text of the "Action Agenda" from the December 10th Council meeting, Item #12, which dumped the Voluntary Street Performers Guidelines and the Downtown Commission report. Thanks to Becky Johnson and Joe Williams for getting it to me.

City Council Administrative Business for meeting of December 10, 2002 740-20

22. Downtown Commission Recommendations Regarding the
Impact of Downtown Ordinance Revisions on Street Performers and Other Activities. (CM003)

Version one of Ordinance No. 2002-49 was introduced for publication amending Display Device Ordinance, Chapter 5.43, to provide for 10 foot distance regulations;

Version Two of Ordinance No. 2002-49 was introduced for publication amending Display Device Ordinance, Chapter 5.43, to provide for 10 foot distance regulations and one
hour sidewalk location limitation;

Ordinance No. 2002-50 was introduced for publication amending Display Device Ordinance, Chapter 5.43, to provide for distance regulation "exempt zones";

Ordinance No. 2002-51 was introduced for publication amending the Aggressive Solicitation Ordinance, Chapter 9.10, to clarify that street performing does not constitute "solicitation" for purposes of the Aggressive Solicitation Ordinance;

the City Attorney was directed to prepare an emergency ordinance rescinding Ordinance No. 2002-36 and Ordinance No. 2002-43 pertaining to a 14-foot distance regulation for display devices and to return that emergency ordinance to the City Council for final adoption at the Council’s January 14, 2003 regular meeting;

and the Downtown Commission review, in a special meeting if necessary, the proposed ordinances, with a map indicating setbacks, and encourage the ongoing discussion among community members, independent of this process, and provide comments prior to the January 14 Council meeting


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