Areas in Seabright industrial zone where overnight camping is allowed under the temporary outdoor living ordinance.
A map showing areas in Seabright’s industrial zone where overnight camping is allowed (shown in blue) under Santa Cruz’s “temporary outdoor living ordinance.”
(Courtesy city of Santa Cruz)
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Santa Cruz mayor responds after Seabright residents sound off about ‘outdoor living ordinance’

As news has spread throughout Santa Cruz about how the industrial zoning of the Seabright neighborhood could make it a camping destination for unsheltered people, many who live there are speaking out — most with harsh words for the city council. Now, Mayor Donna Meyers is responding.

Word that Santa Cruz’s Downtown homeless population might soon be displaced and end up in one of several designated locations across the city — the Seabright neighborhood among them — is stirring a strong reaction among Seabright residents.

A story Tuesday by Isabella Cueto — who talked to business owners, homeowners and city staff about the issue — further raised awareness and prompted many more to speak out on Wednesday, both in direct letters to Lookout (many of which also were directed to the city council) and via Facebook group comments, which numbered in the hundreds.

The following is a selection of that feedback, edited for clarity and brevity, including a reply on Thursday provided by Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers.

Much of it centers around the city’s “temporary outdoor living ordinance,” which designates parts of Seabright as one of the areas where overnight camping will be allowed. To read more from Lookout about that ordinance, which has passed the city council but likely will undergo additional modifications, click here.

To read the city’s overview of the ordinance, click here.

The railroad tracks that run along Murray Street from Downtown Santa Cruz to the Seabright neigborhood.
The railroad tracks that run along Murray Street from Downtown Santa Cruz to the Seabright neigborhood. The tracks themselves would be prohibited from overnight camping under the city’s “temporary outdoor living ordinance,” but camping would be allowed within other parts of the neighborhood.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Mayor: ‘We have to provide solutions’

This ordinance is a part of a much larger effort to manage a societal issue that the city simply cannot solve alone. The ordinance is one part of our approach toward achieving some really important goals for our community. We have to reduce the impacts of large encampments, and we have to provide clarity on the acceptable time, place and manner for people who are in the unfortunate situation of living outside. And most importantly, we have to provide solutions that the city can manage directly.

For the first time ever, the city is voluntarily stepping up to provide services that bridge some of the gaps. In the midst of a budget crisis and without a clear state or federal funding source, we have committed to an ongoing program of 150 nighttime safe sleeping sites that will be attended to and located in city parking lots, not in neighborhoods. The city is also working toward a managed encampment at 1220 River St., a site where the city previously has operated a temporary managed camp. I want to be clear there is no proposal to have a managed encampment or safe sleeping site in Seabright at all.

I also want to state that the ordinance is still under development, and community input is part of making good policy. Councilmembers are on the phone with Seabright and other concerned residents every day and night. The concerns of the community are at the top of my priority list.

— Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers

The following is feedback provided by residents on the issue earlier this week:

‘As if COVID was not enough’

This is unbelievable. The city instead of using tax dollars to actually TRY to develop solutions it is just sprinkling people around hoping to “camouflage” the issue.

This is ridiculous, unhoused people need solutions and housed people pay taxes so the city could do their job.

As if COVID was not enough to hurt our local restaurants now La Posta, Betty’s, the Seabright Social, Verve Coffee, Seabright Deli, Tramontti, Engfer pizza, will have people with tents in front of their business when people are coming for dinner? How about my neighbor who works night shifts at the hospital comes home at 3 am and has to deal with people camping on the street? So no more walking with the dog on summer nights or sending my kid to get marshmallows on Day’s market ... how about biking to school?

— Ana Paula Prado Teeple

‘Solution will require sacrifice on all sides’

Geez. So much absolutist talk on here. Either “THIS!” or “THAT!” This issue can’t be solved with one-size-fits-all proposals and solutions. Compassion should be had for both the homeless and the housed. It certainly is a horrible plight to experience homelessness, but also, doesn’t the neighbor also deserve compassion for wanting to live in a safe and healthy neighborhood?

The solution will require sacrifice on all sides. And boundaries and expectations need to be articulated with transparency. Neighborhoods need to be open to alternative housing solutions, but the homeless population needs to be willing to abide by agreed-upon standards that promote the vitality of the neighborhood. If not, they shouldn’t be afforded said opportunities. We also as a society need to reinvest in proper mental health support/care, creating organizations for compassionate care of those most in need. The drug addiction is a true blight and the solution to this issue is far murkier.

— Greg Derelian

‘Reckless and irresponsible, and will be fought in the courts’

Editor’s Note: This letter references the industrial corridor near Costco. Under the ordinance, camping would be allowed in that area.

Thank you Isabella for covering this story. I live in the Seabright neighborhood by Seabright/Doane. Tents would be permissible on the sidewalk just three doors down from me and my children. Couple of observations:

This is not a homeless solution, it’s just a relocation of the homeless camp to a new location, where none are presently. It’s completely unacceptable ...

The Seabright area is not an “industrial” area — that’s a misnomer, even though it might be zoned industrial. The cannery has not been operational in decades — it is a very small business district. Industrial is what is located over by Costco — why not put it there?

The exceptions (in the city’s outdoor living ordinance) swallow the rule that the homeless must pack up their tents and belongings by 8 in the morning. There are so many exceptions that the police would be unable to enforce it, and likely unwilling as well. Inclement weather, those with “disabilities” etc. can stay up to 96 hours. So what does that look like?

The ordinance itself says issuing citations for violations will only be “as a last resort” after repeated warnings. Citations are completely ineffective, we all know this. So effectively there will be ZERO enforcement of the so-called camping hours, and then we will have homeless wandering our residential neighborhoods all day long, passed out on the streets, in our yards, on our sidewalks and at the Seabright Beach.

It’s one thing for a homeless camp to organically be established — quite another for the city to establish one in a neighborhood. That is reckless and irresponsible, and will be fought in the courts. If any person or property is damaged or injured as a result of this Ordinance, there should, and will be, multiple lawsuits filed against the city for damages.

— Jennifer Zeiter

‘That could be any of us’

When I see homeless people, my only thought is how lucky I am to have a home. A couple tiny turns of luck, and that could be any of us. People from other comparable countries are appalled by the existence of so many homeless, as well as our treatment of the most vulnerable in our communities. Frustrated with outdoor living? Put your effort into homes for the homeless.

— Shaneen Dyani Porter

‘It’s a nightmare to live like this’

I am outraged at the proposal of the SC City Council to move homeless encampments into the Seabright neighborhood. I’m already sick and tired of bearing the brunt of the criminal activity of the “homeless” in the Seabright area, and now the city council proposes to move even more threat to our community. We have lived in Seabright for 11 years. Our home has been broken into and robbed. We have had our cars broken into and thousands of dollars of possessions stolen out of them (even the trunk) over the years. We have had to clean up defecation off our driveway and clean out our car from someone who looked like they slept in it.

We’ve had chairs stolen off our deck and more than once a knock on the door that we had to call police to deal with. I’ve also had to clean up needles left in landscape, filthy makeshift beds, graffiti, and clothes left behind on my property. I’ve had water hoses left on overnight. It’s a nightmare to live like this and now the city council wants to allow the residents and business owners to deal with an increase in this behavior???

This is a family community, with small businesses that are already struggling to survive during COVID. Why is it those of us who take care of our property, pay exorbitant property taxes and permit fees to have our homes are expected to live like this? I vote the homeless be moved to every single city council member’s neighborhood. It’s time the Santa Cruz City council actually deal with this rather than expecting the community to endure this right in their front yards.

— Lori Stoll

‘Could have a devastating impact on their business’

I feel SO sorry for the locals, but especially for the longstanding struggling businesses like Java Junction, Engfers, La Posta, Tramonti, Seabright brewery and Linda’s. They’ve already been struggling so much during this pandemic, and a move like this could have a devastating impact on their business. Seabright is both a residential area and hub for small businesses ... whoever thinks that having people camping in an area where parking is crucial for these businesses, not to mention will hinder individuals to come to the area is just an awful idea. We need to be focusing on the infrastructure of this town, and in order for it to thrive we need local businesses to be successful, especially in these trying times. It saddens me that the city council would even suggest this ...

— Rex Solway

‘Only one way’

There is only one way to ensure that the designated homeless camping zones are equitably distributed throughout the community: Each member of SC city council gets a zone spanning the city block in front of their house!

— Daniel Thomas

‘So enraged ... I could spit’

If it isn’t making a space for a blight on Seabright it’s creating a 5-story mega-monstrosity on the corner of Water and N. Branciforte. It’s like every decision this council makes ends up having a really really bad effect on midtown Santa Cruz. I’m with Daniel Thomas, put the camping zone in your front yard, council members.

I’m so enraged by the crappy way the City handles its funds (OUR funds) I could spit.

— Toni Corrigan

Potential to affect home value

Homeowners in the area would be required to disclose the situation to prospective buyers, potentially reducing home value and associated tax basis, which funds schools ...

— Molly Thompson

‘Officials don’t want to see the problem’

Why not just allow camping in the times named in the county courthouse parking lot, the police station parking lot, the city buildings parking lots and other county building parking lots. In theory the tents would be up after ‘normal’ work hours and should be coming down just before work hours typically start. Oh wait city and county officials don’t want to see the problem.

— Natalie Bennett

‘Band-Aid on a broken arm’

I grew up in the beach neighborhood off Marine Parade. My parents still live in the same house and I am in the neighborhood a couple times a week. To learn of what the city is proposing just absolutely blows my mind. It is in NO WAY a solution and it’s incredibly damaging to all of the homeowners, renters, small businesses and everyone else who spends time visiting the area. I am quite aware there are bigger problems that are causing the homeless issues but this would be absolutely crushing to the neighborhood. No longer would I feel safe walking my son up to Linda’s for breakfast (I’ve been dining at for decades), no longer would I feel safe popping up to Verve for a coffee. ...

This is putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm. It’s pointless and will make the situation worse.

This whole thing makes me incredibly sad. I don’t have any solutions to the homeless problems, this is a statewide issue that many cities are dealing with. While we figure out what the best thing to do is ... let’s not take down whole neighborhoods while we are at it.

— Beth Ann

Updates:

1:08 PM, Apr. 01, 2021: This story has been updated to note that camping would not be allowed on the railroad tracks in the photo with this story under the “temporary outdoor living ordinance, to include the editor’s note in Jennifer Zeiter’s letter, and to include Mayor Donna Meyers’ letter.