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Santa Cruz City Council to Consider Camping Ordinance

Ordinance is modified version of rejected Temporary Outdoor Living Ordinance

On the Highway 1 shoulder, near River Street, an encampment sat backed up to the rear wall of Housing Matters since summer. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

The Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday will consider an ordinance that would prohibit most camping in the city, as long as the city provides alternative places for homeless people to sleep and a place to store their belongings during the day.

The ordinance under consideration–called the “Camping Services and Standards Ordinance,” is a modified version from one rejected on April 9, when the council rejected the city’s Temporary Outdoor Living Ordinance.

Among the council members who opposed it was Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, who says that the new rules have more of a focus on helping homeless people find alternatives.

“We got to a point with that ordinance where we got far from what I hoped it would be,” she said. “That was to put forth programming that would address the challenges of outdoor living. I’m hopeful that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Under the proposed ordinance, the rules prohibiting sleeping overnight in the city cannot take effect until the city can offer a minimum of 150 sites “where sanctioned, nighttime camping could occur safely, legally and hygienically,” the ordinance says. Daytime camping would be banned as long as daytime storage is available. 

With increasing numbers of people needing shelter, that could be a challenge. 

Caltrans on Monday gave notice to about a dozen homeless people who had been camping along highways 1 and 9 in advance of road work set to take place there, including road widening and bike lane construction.

“We will continue to work with the city and county of Santa Cruz to move people into safer situations as available,” Caltrans spokesman Kevin Drabinski said in a statement.

About eight California Highway Patrol officers were on hand Monday to support Caltrans. The activity caused a traffic jam on Highway 1. 

As of 3pm Monday, piles of belongings and garbage were still visible along the highway.

Mark Lee, who graduated from Santa Cruz High School in 1988, said he had been homeless off and on for several years. 

“They came here four or five days ago and left information about clearing out this camp,” he said. “Now everyone is packing up and wondering where to go.”

Many, Lee said, were planning to move to San Lorenzo Park.

Lee says that Caltrans gave him “fair notice” about the move.

The encampments along the busy corridor have long been a bone of contention between the homeless community and the City of Santa Cruz. Several unsanctioned sites have popped up in the area the most high-profile of which was Gateway Camp, also known as Ross Camp. The city closed the area down in May 2020, displacing dozens of people.

“In reality, we’re several months away from being able to enforce an ordinance,” Santa Cruz City spokeswoman Elizabeth Smith said. 

To view Tuesday’s City Council meeting, visit zoom.us/j/94684401344 or cityofsantacruz.com/government/city-council/council-meetings.

Anyone who wants to participate can call 833-548-0276, 833-548-0282, 877-853-5247 or long distance 669-900-9128 and 253-215-8782. Enter meeting ID: 946 8440 1344.

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