Santa Cruz getting tougher on transients

Panhandler at River Street/Highway 1 median/Sentinel photo by Shmuel Thaler


We have to concede a sense of uneasiness when a local government body attempts to regulate who can stand in roadway medians, particularly when the new limitations clearly are aimed at a particular message.

But when that message is part of a set of problems accompanied by unacceptable and sometimes criminal behavior, then such a move becomes a case of the greater good.

Which explains why the Santa Cruz City Council, long criticized for failing to get a handle on panhandling and other issues related to the city’s large transient population, is moving decisively to make long-needed changes in what officials and residents are willing to put up with.

The council Tuesday approved two new rules aimed at cutting down on panhandling, public drunkenness and other obnoxious behaviors that have long bedeviled the city and gained it an unwanted and unnecessary reputation as a sanctuary for transients and drug users.

By a 5-2 vote, with councilmen Don Lane and Micah Posner dissenting, the council approved a measure banning people from poaching on roadway median strips and roundabouts. Lane, Posner and homeless advocates said the measure is an invasion of free speech rights and clearly aimed at the city’s homeless. Clearly, though, it wasn’t aimed at people advocating political candidates or positions, but at the ever-present panhandlers.

The council also, and unanimously, approved another rule allowing park officials to ban for 24 hours any person who gets a citation or is arrested for breaking the law at a city beach or open space. Those who refuse to comply will be charged with a misdemeanor.

Posner, however, opposed a related rule also making it a misdemeanor to interfere with a city parks or maintenance employee — or threaten or bother anyone on a beach or park through their conduct or foul language.

Councilwoman Cynthia Mathews correctly described the rule as a “common sense” approach to keep city employees from having to put up with “untenable behavior” — while making beaches and parks safer for families and the vast majority of local residents.

In another sign the city is embarking on a significant new direction, the 15-citizen Public Safety Task Force gathered for its second meeting Wednesday night. The task force was appointed by the City Council after it became apparent recent outbreaks of violence, drugs and discarded needles and illegal campsites had reached the tipping point. Task force members heard Wednesday from city officials about multiple problems caused by transients such as illegal camps, drug use, garbage and litter and property damages. Among the reports:

No local issue so inflames, or provokes, public debate like this one. And while many Santa Cruz residents want to help homeless people, the city’s longstanding tolerance and compassion has limits. The city and the task force have their work cut out for them, but so far, their determination to take on difficult issues should be applauded.

This post will be the Sentinel Editorial for May 31, 2013

This entry was posted in Crime, culture, Environment, Health, Local news, Media, Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Santa Cruz getting tougher on transients

  1. douglas415 says:

    At least you are allowed to smoke inside bars in Santa Cruz

  2. Roxanne Baker says:

    I believe this will step all over the Americans with Disabilities Act and the City of Santa Cruz will soon have Lawsuits…:)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Really? How exactly? What possible need would there be for a disabled person to go into the median?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Since when, douglas415? You can’t even smoke behind bars let alone inside a bar in the whole state of Ca

  5. says:

    I was at.a beach by the cliffs on the Westside with my daughter yesterday and some people had a tent and they were smoking pot and bathing in the ocean..the lady was just putting on her clothes when.we came up…gross

  6. Ped ICU RN says:

    Thank heavens! We had visitors in town over the past week and were lucky enough to encounter a transient person urinating in the downtown parking garage in full display with no concern for the people and kids walking by. The entire town of Santa Cruz is becoming a public health concern between needles, human waste, and violence. In this past week we were also given the privilege of watching a very intoxicated man approach a woman who was pumping gas and ask for money. After being told she didn’t have any he then proceeded to badger her and get in her face physically until she looked scared and gave him a dollar. When all of the families have left and tourists no longer visit, Santa Cruz won’t be left with much. It is sad and unfortunate because there are so many great people and things about this city. Many people are working hard to keep Santa Cruz an awesome community and it is really frustrating when people trash our town.

  7. InkyMoses says:

    What exactly are you smokin’ Douglas?

  8. Roxanne Baker says:

    Disabled folks who live on a fixed income may be hungry,need to feed a pet. I can’t believe I’m having to explain this. Common sense…Think about it!

  9. Roxanne Baker says:

    Medical Marijuana is legal in this town,Get over yourself….Don’t look…..

  10. Anonymous says:

    Finally and about time. Good for Santa Cruz. Now Watsonville has to start dealing with the same problem. I’m noticing more and more people camping in parking lots at Walgreens, Safeway and other points. There are also druggies wandering around committing illegal acts and threatening people. The city of Watsonville also needs to start doing their job with code enforcement. When you have 20 people living in a two bedroom house with 10-12 cars parking on the lawn, and elsewhere it is a problem. There have been fatal fires in rented out garages just because the city isn’t enforcing the laws they created. From selling junk food right outside of public schools right under signs that say it’s illegal, to camping out in the Catholic cemetary on Freedom Blvd. I saw a guy the other day who must have been using the burial sites for a bathroom because he came out from behind a burial building zipping up his pants. Disgusting! Watsonvillencity, do the job you are being paid to do by our tax dollars.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If it’s code, then it isn’t against the law. If all people are made to abide by the law it is not illegal.

  12. Anonymous says:

    We feel the same way in Watsonville.

  13. Anonymous says:

    “Untenable behavior”, Don? Like smoking in an isolated section of San Lorenzo Park? Or perhaps sitting at the Town Clock after dark (recently closed as a “park” by the homeless-hostile wizards at Parks and Recreation)? Falling asleep deep in the Pogonip when there is no legal shelter? Ah, these are “crimes”, “public safety” issues right? nnHomeless people deserve to be uprooted and driven away on threat of a year in jail and a thousand dollar fine under the new stay-away orders, even before any kind of court hearing?nnThose of us indoors are lucky we don’t have to face this kind of darkness. Yet.

  14. Furby McPicklebutt says:

    Been to the Red Room? OR upstairs at the Catalyst?

  15. Anonymous says:

    There are plenty of places to panhandle that are not in medians. I can’t believe there is a clause in the ADA that somehow guarantees the right to panhandle in a median. Your statement is basically claiming that if you are disabled you can justify any and all behaviors you wish to undertake.

Leave a Reply