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Eileen Cross, Main media contact and Water Department (831) 420-5213
Joyce Blaschke, Santa Cruz Police Department (831) 420-5844
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SANTA CRUZ TO IMPLEMENT HEALTH AND SAFETY PLAN AT GATEWAY ENCAMPMENT

Post Date:04/19/2019 11:37 AM

OFFICE OF THE CITY MANAGER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Eileen Cross, Community Relations Specialist, 831.676.7090 

SANTA CRUZ TO IMPLEMENT HEALTH AND SAFETY PLAN AT GATEWAY ENCAMPMENT 

Santa Cruz (April 19, 2019) - Following direction from the City Council to implement a health and safety management plan at the homeless encampment behind the Gateway Center, the Santa Cruz Fire Department today provided notice to campers to vacate the camp early next week.

After hearing of urgent, dangerous conditions that threaten both health and safety at the camp, the Council agreed unanimously at their April 9 meeting to have the city’s Fire Chief create and implement a plan that will reduce life-threatening conditions at the camp. Conditions cited were the close proximity of tents; power, heat and flame sources used within tents; the number of flammable materials in the camp; unsanitary human waste; an influx of rodents prone to carry and transmit diseases.

At the April 9 Council meeting, Council agreed that while there was an urgent need to remedy conditions at the camp, there was also a need for City staff to use a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during the process of vacating the camp. Some of the SOPs approved by Council: determining the availability of alternative low-barrier shelter; that the conditions in the camp that constitute a public nuisance be thoroughly documented; that outreach staff provide appropriate notice of the need to vacate the camp and that assistance is offered to coordinate transportation for campers to alternative shelter; that after the camp is vacated staff both dispose of and store items appropriately; that after the camp is vacated that staff ensure any remaining nuisance conditions are properly removed and abated.

The date for the clean-up closure has not been set, but is expected to occur early next week. The Fire Department is required to provide at least 72 hours’ notice to campers to vacate the camp, so camp clean-up efforts are expected to start early next week. Campers will be directed to temporary, managed camp sites at San Lorenzo River Benchlands while the clean-up of the Gateway encampment occurs.

As part of the efforts to proceed with the health and safety management plan, the City has requested an ex parte hearing. The hearing will take place at the County Courthouse on Monday, April 22. While the hearing is not required for the camp closure and remediation, because of the many interests involved in the current Gateway encampment the City is taking the extra step to further transparency and due process for the Gateway encampment residents and obtain Court review. “We know that there is a heightened awareness of what we are doing with regard to managing conditions at the Gateway encampment,” said City Manager Martín Bernal. “With that in mind, we felt that taking the extra step of providing an opportunity for all sides to be heard was in the best interest of the campers, the City, and the community.”

During next Tuesday’s Council meeting, the Council will revisit the decision to close the Gateway location and redirect campers to a temporary camp at 1220 River Street, location of last year’s temporary managed camp. The Salvation Army is poised to open and manage the 1220 River Street camp location should the Council decide to close the Gateway camp. Regardless of the Council’s decision to close or allow reopening the Gateway camp after the clean-up, the Fire Chief cited the increasing warmer, drier conditions at the camp as an urgent need to vacate and remediate the camp immediately.

The City of Santa Cruz is the county seat and largest city in Santa Cruz County. The City serves over 63,000 residents with full services including police, utility, waste, recreation, and library programs. Santa Cruz is a Charter City governed by a seven-member Council.

 

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