Saturday, January 22, 2011

City of Santa Cruz Noisemaker Laws Capture Students

~ Going from being a Nuisance to becoming a Criminal ~

by Linda Ellen Lemaster for Linda's Hearth

Finally leaping into 2011 New Year spirit, I was waiting my turn in the midnight supermarket check-out line last weekend, when a group of five UCSC students que'd up behind me. All in their early 20's I'd guess? One was talking about the "noise tickets" he and his three Westside housemates received Saturday night.

He said to his grocery-shopping buddies, "yeah, we EACH have to go to court. But I think it should be easy to clear this up, since two of us were asleep in the adjacent bedrooms when the cops came, and an officer had to wake us to give us the citation."

I wish them all well in court!

The obviously bright young man was believable to me: his story seemed incredible to his buddies. I remember when that 'neighborhood versus students' law was enacted. The Santa Cruz City Council assured their packed-to-the-gills, all-ages audience that police officers would "always use their discretion," as thought this should reassure people.

Again and again, in my view, this City keeps passing innovative, reactionary and experimental ordinances, without making much parallel effort to educate residents, nor appropriately analysing actual underlying needs, nor looking into peaceful and alternative modes of resolution. Legal consequences are meted out without the City's engagement in any process that gets past the structure of upset people's complaints.

Without neighborhood involvement beyond draining bitch* sessions. Without even a hint of community interaction. And it leads to deepening a chasm build out of "them or us" expletives and curses. (Not to mention poor language that wastes time in court later, to the extent that I've heard almost every sitting judge lament the City's impact, "eating up the court's overtaxed time," as one judge said last year. I see that as another different concern.)

I believe there's a serious downside with enacting too much regulatory control over people's native and human behaviors, for they preclude citizens and their friends from even communicating without any chance to find real and inclusive solutions; and then young men become "criminals" without ever having faced their accusers. If it isn't already a "conflict" when these noise complaints are called in to the police, or when weekend gatherings get unplugged, or when the court dates arrive, it will by definition *become* adversarial when it gets to court.

Our City's laws need to fit together with each other on many levels. Passing new laws to reassure people who feel agrieved or gyped, without even clarifying and concretizing and not even testing them out and engaging with citizens in the process of hammering out legal jargon, together, makes mere criminals (and possibly expenses to County and Courts?). It also helps make people become ever-moreso dependent, and even socially and politically incompetent, as citizens and neighbors.

Is this the kind of people we want inhabiting our "built-out" yet still growing little City?
It seems ill planned, to me, to set college undergraduates up to have their first run-in with "Cops and Courts" over such an arbitrary, vague and complaint-driven law.

Also, the feedback and lifestyle information that could flow from a more open and less adversarial process would be like *gold* as the City and it's municipal neighbors strive forward together, with goals of higher-rise rental housing along "service rich" arterial avenues.

Linda's Hearth
note: *I feel ok about saying the B word, having been so accused and having to come to terms with this. I don't, however, appreciate when mens call womens bitches generally. So be nice!


  1. The party ordinance is one reason why I will never again live within the city limits of Santa Cruz. -- John Thielking

  2. Well-written, Linda.

    Too bad we don't have judges who strike down "unreasonably disturbing ordinances".

    Good luck with your upcoming "lodging" trial.


Please leave a comment. Comments which are abusive, libelous, threatening, or otherwise objectionable may be removed by the editor. Comments which remain posted may or may not reflect the views of the editor. I welcome your comments, suggestions, critiques, and updates.