What’s next for the Santa Cruz temporary outdoor living ordinance — and how is the community reacting?
Many details of the replacement ordinance are still to be hashed out; councilmembers voted Tuesday for city staff return on May 11 with proposed language and a timeline. Here’s what some of the key voices around the area thinking.
Given the feedback from hundreds of city residents and a controversy that swirled for weeks, the replacement law for Santa Cruz’s now-suspended “temporary outdoor living ordinance” is likely to still place broad restrictions on where homeless people can camp citywide.
The difference would be that city officials — rather than leave areas with certain zoning open to overnight camping on public property — would designate specific sites on city-owned property, such as parking lots, to host “safe sleeping” programs and managed encampments for upwards of 150 people.
UPDATE: The “temporary outdoor living ordinance,” known as TOLO, was suspended by the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday...
City property at 1220 River St. is to be utilized either as a “safe sleeping” location, where only overnight camping is allowed, plus basic services such as bathrooms and water, or for a managed encampment similar to one the city operated there until January 2020.
Many details of the replacement ordinance are still to be hashed out; councilmembers voted Tuesday for city staff return on May 11 with proposed language and a timeline.
In the meantime, the existing ordinance will be unenforceable, but city officials could still pull pieces of it into the new law they will work on next month.
After the new proposal goes up for a first reading and vote on May 11, city staff have been directed to seek robust community input on the ordinance.
A second and final reading will take place after that, though the exact date is unclear at this time.
Given how the ordinance has created a widespread buzz in Santa Cruz, Lookout has rounded up reactions to the city council’s decision to go back to the drawing board. Here’s what some community members, from homeless advocates to neighborhood organizers to everyday people, are saying:
Don Lane, former Santa Cruz mayor, member of Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness
“Even though ... I wouldn’t have chosen to do it exactly this way, there was a part of it that has happened that was kind of necessary, which was people in the community had to be shown in a kind of dramatic way what the real options are,” Lane said Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have been working on homelessness for 30 years without having an optimistic streak in me. And I think when I look at that history, all I can do is say when something is this intractable and controversial, it takes a long time for people to get caught up and get in alignment with each other. So this is part of that process. It’s not a good thing that this takes so long, but it is a good thing that there’s this kind of learning that happens.”
“One of the things that I think has happened through all this is there’s an awful lot of people who, sometime in the past, really didn’t want some of these ‘solutions’ that were out there. They weren’t that excited about them...there’s a lot of people now who have sort of shifted based on what’s happened, and are saying yeah, that really is one of the best things we could do now, " he said. For example, “the whole notion of managed encampments was not something that two years ago very many people thought, ‘Yes, let’s do that…’"
Deborah Elston, president of Santa Cruz Neighbors (sharing her personal views)
“I was kind of good either way. I really did understand what TOLO was. I believe the map was a complete mistake, but the map wasn’t brought in until the third time. So I believe we could’ve been OK with TOLO, but going forward, this is simplified. It’s focused on caring and having safe spaces for people to be, and get connected to the services, which is the most important part of that,” she said. “They are still heading in the right direction. We need to have something on the books that is workable, that goes along with Martin v. Boise and moves us in a good direction for the whole community.”
Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs, an organization that provides basic services to the homeless
“The proposed Temporary Outdoor Living Ordinance was intentionally designed to fail with the goal of encouraging an even more anti-homeless law which is set to be introduced at the May 11 Santa Cruz City Council meeting,” he wrote in an email. “The withdrawal of the ordinance was not a victory for the unhoused and their allies. It’s a clear win for the property speculators and their employees at City Hall. It has been obvious from the beginning that ‘legalizing’ camping on sidewalks outside businesses and in industrial areas of Seabright from eight to eight was intended to build opposition to any humane ordinance directed at the unhoused community.”
Tom Brown, member of “Seabright Strong” community group
“In short, [TOLO] wouldn’t have fixed anything and it would’ve redirected our homelessness problem into our neighborhoods,” he said, noting a more narrow ordinance, “so long as that’s coupled with a ban on camping or temporary outdoor living in the rest of the city, is something that Seabright Strong would support.”
Serge Kagno, former member of Community Advisory Committee on Homelessness
“We’re going to have a lot more people on the streets” in the coming months, he said. “150 sleep sites is absolutely not enough.”
Kagno said he thinks TOLO should not just be changed to allow for “safe sleeping” sites and storage programs, but also more sleeping areas that are “accessible” and will keep people from having confrontations with law enforcement because they have no choice but to violate the law. “A lot of people are just misfortunate and poor, and I think that a more compassionate way will actually have a better effect for our city.”
Joy Schendledecker, Westside homeowner, member of “Sanitation for the People” group, which provides resources to people experiencing homelessness, including at Highways 1 and 9
“People living outside are our neighbors. They are part of our community, and finding ways to live better together is a two-way street,” she said. “The need for transitional and self-managed camps with sanitation, waste management, storage services, health services and other services and safety built in is more obvious than ever. One of the things that we hear over and over again from people living outside is that stability is one of the most important things — for them to have a safe community, to access services and to even think about working towards their next step.”