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The California Public Records Act

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The California Public Records Act

The purpose of the California Public Records Act is to provide the public with greater access to information about how the City of Santa Cruz (“City”) conducts its public business. Any person may request public records and it does not matter who you are or why you want the records. The following guidelines are made available to ensure the public fully understands how to exercise their right to inspect or collect disclosable public records.

In accordance with the California Public Records Act (“Act”), Government Code §6250 et. seq., the City provides access to public records, except those exempt from disclosure by law. Under the Act you are entitled to copies of identifiable, non-exempt public records (Government Code §6253). Please note that the Act requires the City to provide access to, or copies of, records responsive to your request that are in its possession, subject to certain exceptions. The Act does not require the City to provide information, answer questions, or create records that do not exist.

Because the Act was modeled after the federal Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. Section 552 et. seq., courts may look to case law under FOIA in construing the Act.  Click here to be linked to the FOIA

To the extent that any of the records you seek are attorney-client communications under the attorney-client privilege or are otherwise attorney-client privileged records, such records are exempt from disclosure under the Act pursuant to Government Code §6254(k).

In addition to the extent that any of the records you seek are drafts and notes that are not kept in the ordinary course of business for the City and which the City has determined that the public interest in withholding the record clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure due to the particular details and nature of the records, such records are exempt from disclosure under the Act pursuant to Government Code §6254(a). Also given the particular details and nature of certain records that you seek, to the extent that such records involve communications to decision makers within the City for which final decisions have not yet been made and final actions have not yet been taken and/or the City has determined that the public interest in withholding the record clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure, such records are exempt from disclosure under the Act pursuant to Government Code §6255.

Click here for A Pocket Guide to the California Public Records Act provided by The First Amendment Project Society of Professional Journalists (Nor. Cal.).

Click here to be linked to the League of California Cities "The People’s Business: A Guide to the California Public Records Act."

Click below to be linked to the California Government Code Chapter 3.5: Inspection of Public Records

Article 1: General Provisions: § 6250 - § 6270.

Article 2: Other Exemptions from Disclosure: § 6275 - § 6276.48.

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What are Disclosable “Public Records?”

Disclosable public records might include all communications related to public business "regardless of physical form or characteristics, including any writing, picture, sound, or symbol, whether paper, magnetic, or other media," prepared, owned, used or held by the City, regardless of how the record has been stored.

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How Do I Request Public Records?

You may request public records either in person by filling out the Public Records Request form via this website, over the phone, by email, or by written request via US mail. Please contact the City Clerk’s Division at (831) 420-5030, 809 Center Street, Room 9, Santa Cruz, CA, 95060 for more information about how to make a request or to submit a request. A written request is not required; however, a written request does streamline the response process as well allows City staff to accurately identify the disclosable public records that you seek. A clear description of the records you seek including dates, subjects, and titles may help City staff quickly respond to your request. Also not required is your contact information; however, providing your name, address, telephone number, and/or an email address may enable City staff to better reach you to clarify your request. Any persons with disabilities who require alternative access accommodations must provide the City Clerk’s Division with any accommodation needs as soon as possible upon submitting their request.

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Inspection or Collection of Records

Pursuant to the Act, the City has 10 calendar days from receipt of the request to determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the City’s possession and to notify the requestor of that determination. If the request was received after business hours, on a weekend, or holiday, the 10-day response period will begin on the next business day. On or before the 10th calendar day, the City must: 1) provide an explanation of what documents will be provided; 2) if no documents exist (and why); or 3) if a 14-day extension is required due to further research or need to produce voluminous records. In unusual circumstances, the 10-day time limit may be extended by up to 14 calendar days by written notice from the City Clerk’s Division to the requestor, setting forth the reason for the time extension as required by the Act (Government Code §6253).

If the City determines disclosable public records exist, the records would be made available promptly and as reasonably practicable during business hours. Records may be reviewed at City Hall during business hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday thru Thursday. The City Clerk’s Division is closed from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday thru Thursday. City Hall is closed on Fridays due to furlough, and federal holidays. Records may be inspected on a walk-in basis or by appointment (recommended) at no additional cost.

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Cost to Request Records

The cost for photocopies (including copies generated by microfilm) of identifiable public records must not only be agreed upon between the requestor and the City prior to duplication but also be accompanied by the payment of fees to cover the direct costs of duplication. Payment may be received by either cash or submit a check or money order made payable to the City of Santa Cruz. The City’s copying cost is $0.25 per page. Alternatively, records may be emailed to the requestor in a .PDF format or other desired format (if available) at no additional cost. A CD of disclosable documents may be mailed or picked up at Will Call in the City Clerk’s Division for a flat rate of $1.00 per disc. Disclosable documents may also be faxed at no extra charge unless copies of microfilm are required to satisfy request. A deposit may be required if hard copies of microfilm documents are to be copied and the deposit amount must be agreed upon by both the requestor and the City prior to production. Under Government Code §6253(e) local agencies are under no obligation to create records that do not already exist at the time of the request.

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Identifiable Public Records

Requests for easily identifiable public records may be made in person with a respective department(s) that maintains records that may be responsive to the request. Upon which the copies will be made available, in a reasonable amount of time, for a nominal fee if obtaining photocopies; however, more complex requests are recommended to be submitted in writing to the City Clerk Division, 809 Center Street, Room 9.

The City Clerk’s Division may hold any responsive records subject to a received public records request for up to 30 calendar days. Any requestor who is unable to inspect or collect copies of disclosable records within the 30-day period may contact the City Clerk’s Division to make an appointment to either inspect or collect records at a later date. However, if no arrangements have been made to inspect or collect documents within 30 days from receipt of the request, the records may be returned to their appropriate file and/or storage area, and the requestor must resubmit a new Public Records Request to obtain the desired disclosable records. Consequently, the new request will generate another 10-day response period.

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