Vote on the “Stay Away” Ordinance: Parks and Beaches
During their January 13th meeting the Santa Cruz City Council will be hearing the second reading of the so called “Stay Away” ordinance. For those of you who haven’t heard of this before, the ordinance would give Parks and Recreation staff and other enforcement officers the ability to ban repeat offenders from entering public parks and beaches for extended periods of time, depending on the number of citations and/or arrests they have received. Should a banned individual choose to re-enter a public park or beach they could be charged with a misdemeanor. The issue has proved somewhat controversial with homeless advocates and neighborhood groups taking opposing stances, and thus there is likely to be a lively discussion during the next Council meeting.
Proponents of the ordinance say it’s needed to deal with the level of anti-social behavior being reported in many local parks. Parents and residents who live in close proximity to these sites have written to the Council and the Parks Department with concerns about safety and cleanliness. During the first reading of the ordinance alone Council received over 100 emails from residents about the issue, though not all were in favor.
Opponents of the ordinance claim that it unfairly discriminates against the homeless, who they say have no other option but to sleep in public parks. They point to the lack of available shelter space and existing restrictions on outdoor camping as reasons why many homeless individuals choose to sleep in parks or at the beaches. They further contend that if the ordinance were adopted, it would simply result in more people going to jail for sleeping, or that they will move to other public places.
The ordinance is based on a similar restriction that was adopted by the downtown library regarding repeat offenders. Those who were continually causing problems to other library goers were asked to vacate the premises, up to a year in some cases. If the ordinance were adopted for parks and beaches, first time offenders would be prohibited from re-entering the facilities for 24 hours, the second offense would get a week long ban, third offenses a month, forth offenses 6 months, and 5 or more offenses wold result in a year long ban.
What do you think? Should Santa Cruz adopt a “Stay Away” ordinance for local parks and beaches? Is there another way to address anti-social behavior within these public places? Should the city do more to provide more places to sleep at night for homeless individuals? Vote on the ordinance below, and leave comments about what you would do.