Late Tuesday night (or early Wednesday morning) the Santa Cruz City Council voted down a series of proposals introduced by Councilmember Drew Glover regarding homelessness, and in particular, the unsanctioned encampment that exists at Highway 1 and 9. The proposals that failed included having the City of Santa Cruz enter into a “state of emergency” for the purposes of addressing homelessness (failed 5-2, Glover and Krohn in favor) and lifting of overnight parking restrictions on Swift/Delaware Streets. The Council did, however, vote to extend public bathroom and facility hours and to continue working with the County to find more transitional shelter space. They did not commit to the planned March 15 abatement of the unsanctioned encampment at Highway 1/9 (4-3, Watkins, Meyers, and Mathews against).
The Council instead made a commitment to only clear the camp when shelter space could be identified for the current 150-200 nightly inhabitants. They have currently identified shelter space for families and people with children, as well as those with mobility issues at the Salvation Army facility on Laurel Street. The difficulty in finding other forms of shelter for some of the other people at the camp comes from the fact that many of the transitional, more formalized (sanctioned) camps found in other Cities like Portland and Seattle are zero tolerance on drug and alcohol use. Given the very real concerns and on the record reports about drug and alcohol use at the current location near the Gateway Business Plaza, the City must grapple with the painstaking decision of locating a “low barrier” campsite somewhere.
As for overnight parking for those living in their cars, RVs, and other vehicles somewhere in the City, the Council did’t specifically take a vote. There was discussion about how the decision might relate to the California Coastal Commission and prior overnight parking ordinances in the City. Ultimately the Council decided to revisit the item at a later date, but no immediate timetable was set forth.
The decisions came after a turbulent hearing that lasted well over 4 hours. After Oral Communications had concluded close to 7:30pm, staff gave nearly an hour and a half long presentation in response to Councilmember Glovers previously proposed homelessness package. Then Councilmember Glover gave his own presentation, outlining a multi-point plan based on his prior motion that hinged on the declaration of an emergency.
Business Council Executive Director Robert Singleton joined Maggie Ivy of Visit Santa Cruz, and Casey Beyer of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce to address the Council from the perspective of the local Business Community. The comments echoed the themes of their joint Op-ed piece that was published the day prior in the Sentinel.