Thursday, September 19, 2013

Santa Cruz Suffocation of Street Culture

NOTE by NORSE:  This is a corrected and amended version of the e-mail to City Council. 
The question, of course, is whether the community is prepared to tolerate this crackdown on street performers, vendors, smokers, and homeless people downtown and what effective resistance strategies can be mounted.  Next Sunday's 1:30 PM protest in front of Forever Twenty-One may provide some ideas.
There'll be an additional gathering at City Council on the afternoon of the 24th when Council votes pn the 2nd reading.
I played some of the staff's defense of the proposed amendments on my show--archived at (about 2 hours into the audio file).
In response to what I heard, I wrote the following--some of which has already been detailed in the main article:

An inconvenient fact not mentioned and an area not examined by staffers Hende and Collins in their no-input-from-smokers presentation on September 10th  was the current law:
Current law MC 6.04.060 (u)   provides:
    Areas which share their air space, including, but not limited to, air conditioning, heating, or other ventilation systems, entries, doorways, open windows, hallways, and stairways, with other enclosed areas in which smoking is prohibited. It shall be the responsibility of any person smoking outside where smoking is otherwise permitted to ensure that smoke does not enter any buildings where smoking is prohibited through open windows or doors; however, in no event shall smoking be allowed within twenty-five feet of any such door or open window or within twenty-five feet of any other air-intake facility through which air may flow into a building from outside that building. Notwithstanding the prohibition set forth in this subsection an employer may establish an outdoor employee smoking area within twenty-five feet of an employer’s service entrance door; provided, that said door is closed while employee smoking is taking place.
In other words, there's a 25' setback for smokers already on side streets and hence no need to create a total ban and thus a clustering on streets still further away.    Mentioning this inconvenient existing law might strip some of the wind from the sales of law supporters (though no clear evidence of complaints was presented by the SCPD or any other staffers around this issue and certainly no input from the affected group).
Additionally, as the tenor of the town turns more hateful under pressure from Take Back Santa Cruz and other hobophobic groups, recent accounts and common experience documents that  homeless people smoke at a significantly higher rate than the housed population (see ).   Hence this ordinance unduly impacts the poorest portion of our downtown community and seems likely to be used as another tool to move them out of the downtown, out of sight and out of town.

This huge restriction of space comes on the heels of an already sterilized sidewalk which irrationally excludes people from sitting, peacefully sparechanging, performing for donation, vending, and/or politically tabling from more than 75% of the sidewalk on Pacific Avenue.  It also (currently) impacts 100% of virtually all sidewalks in other business districts----which are less than 10' wide.
Additionally, the notion that one street performer--much less two--can comfortably perform within a 4'X4' area is ridiculous.  The notion that a vendor can do so and also have a chair and her or his personal possessions in that area is even more far-fetched.
And the notion that this all should be put on boxes or tables increases the burden on performers & vendors unnecessarily and to a ludicrous extreme in the interest of a hostile aesthetic--again imposed without any input from performers.

Staff members Collins and Hende (and City Attorney Barisone) misleadingly implied that street performers aren't impacted by the display device provisions since they can "play anywhere on the avenue".  There was also the absurd suggestion that artists can "hold up their art with their hands" and so also not be impacted.
While it is true that a street performer without an open guitar case or cup or cap on the sidewalk is not limited as to where he or she may play, that's only if they don't have one of those items out to collect donations.  This, of course, ignores how street performers operate sine the point of the performance usually is to collect donations.  What collects donation?    Cups, caps, guitar cases, etc.   These are indeed  "display devices"--as defined by the peculiar wording of the ordinance and have been treated as such by police for the last 19 years.   
The specific definition of  MC 5.43.-000(b) defines display devices as "a table, rack, chair, box, cloth, stand, or any container, structure or other object used or capable of being used for holding or displaying tangible things, together with any associated seating facilities..."   Could anything be any clearer (or more sweepingly inclusive)?
In addition the few spaces left in the area street performers, political tablers, and vendors usually set up (between New Leaf Market and Locust St.)  are further constricted by the Move-Along law (another unique Santa Cruz DTA creation) which forbids using any particular space for more than 1 hour in any 24 hour period.    This means that even if a space is suddenly emptied of someone sitting, sparechanging, standing, performing, vending, or tabling, anyone who's "set up a display device" during that day won't be able to come back and use that space for a day.   
Given the severe expansion of the "forbidden zones" (now covering 95% of the sidewalk), as well as the new 12' distance required between display devices, the new laws seem both likely and indeed designed to drive away the "unsightly" cluttered scene that so offended Mathews, Comstock, & Robinson--who are essentially imposing their own aesthetic dictates upon the entire community.

SIGN-MAKING TOMORROW (Monday September 16th)  AT THE RED CHURCH 5-6 pm at Lincoln and Cedar Streets.  The Occupy Santa Cruz Homeless Justice Working Group and HUFF will be making signs for the September 22nd and 24th protests tomorrow at the Red Church.  Come on down and mingle with those who will be affected. 
There is also some discussion of this issue on Steve Pleich's website at Citizens for a Better Santa Cruz facebook page ( ).  Pleich posted that I was permanently banned from the page for posting a link to the revealing and abusive Ken Collins video ( ) illustrating, I think, the mentality behind these anti-homeless laws and many of those who support them  (Collins was weighing in heavily on the issue and I felt the video of his threatening and harassing a homeless camper was pertinent; Pleich's strong censorship response, I think, shows too much concern with offend Take Back Santa Cruz sensibilities.

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