Occupy OC-Santa Ana Faces Camping Challenge Tonight

UPDATE: Around midnight, the Santa Ana City Council rejected the request by the Occupy OC patriots to camp overnight in the Civic Center.

For some, the idea of allowing the OccupyOC patriots in Santa Ana the ability to camp overnight in the Civic Center should be a no-brainer for the City Council. After all, if Irvine can do it why can’t Santa Ana? As with most things civic, it’s not that simple. The matter has been placed on the council agenda for discussion tonight by Council Members David Benavides and Michele Martinez.

Back in 1992, in response to the problems created by a tent city erected in the Civic Center by homeless individuals the city enacted an ordinance to ban camping in public spaces. The law was subsequently affirmed by the California Supreme Court in 1995.

Sec. 10-402. – Unlawful camping.

It shall be unlawful for any person to camp, occupy camp facilities or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas, except as otherwise provided:

(a) Any street;

(b) Any public parking lot or public area, improved or unimproved.

To amend the law to allow a particular class of individuals such as the OccupyOC patriots to camp, while not allowing others would violate the rights of those not allowed (the homeless) equal protection under the law. If the City Council wishes to repeal the entire law and allow camping by anyone, that would be fair. The problem for the city is that the Civic Center is a magnet for many homeless individuals in central OC. The homeless have been occupying Santa Ana, and getting cited for it, for decades. OC Register reporter Andrew Galvin wrote last week:

Dwight Smith, who runs the Catholic Worker house in Santa Ana, which shelters homeless women and children, said he’s  grateful that the Occupy movement has brought the camping issue before the City Council.

Smith argues that the Civic Center camping ordinance criminalize homelessness, since it defines camping as sleeping for longer than a brief nap. The law is loosely enforced, he said.

“A lot of homeless people camp every night and get a ticket every month,” he said. “The homeless people never pay the tickets, the cost of incarceration — this is going directly to the taxpayer. … We can’t afford to enforce that law any more.”

Santa Ana City Hall

Santa Ana City Hall, Photo: Chris Prevatt

Adam Elmahrek of Voice of OC reported the following from city spokesman Jose Gonzalez:

“We explained that if the city allowed camping during this demonstration it would undercut its authority to enforce the law against other persons who violate the code. We emphasized that the city is only regulating conduct and not their First Amendment rights to demonstrate,” Gonzales said.

It would be great if the City Council were to seriously address the reality of homelessness in Santa Ana and recognize that homeless individuals are not criminals or squatters. The Council could amend the ordinance to permit camping during specific time periods, requiring “camps” to be dismantled between certain hours every day. Such a solution would allow camping by both the OccupyOC patriots, and homeless individuals. That would be equal protection under the law, and stop the practice of treating the homeless as criminals.

Unfortunately, I will be surprised if the city council is bold or creative enough to seriously consider such a solution. I get the feeling the Occupy patriots are merely being given lip service with the discussion scheduled for tonight.

  4 comments for “Occupy OC-Santa Ana Faces Camping Challenge Tonight

  1. cook
    November 7, 2011 at 10:51 am

    There are no camp sites at the civic center. There is not a camp ground either.

    The home hang out at the civic center during the day, napping, eating, visiting the library, playing chess and checkers and discussing the vital issues of the day. They don’t sleep there at night.

    Maybe the occupiers should rent some busses, that way at night time they can be bussed to Irvine to sleep at night, it would be like an even trade since Irvine busses their homeless to Santa Ana (any other cities).

    • November 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm


      You are right, there are no camping sights in Santa Ana Civic Center. But homeless do sleep in the area at night and are sometimes cited. Kill two birds at once, allow camping between nine at night and seven in the morning.

    • November 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      Cook —
      Irvine doesn’t bus the homeless to Santa Ana; Irvine police might drive homeless to Santa Ana because that’s where the nearest shelter/services can be found.


      from the story:
      “”Irvine police may drive the homeless to Santa Ana or give out bus passes so the homeless can get here themselves, but that’s because this is where the services are,” says Leia Smith, a homeless advocate who helps head up the Isaiah House.

      The motive behind transporting a generally undesirable and financially burdensome population from one city to another is questionable, but Medrano and Smith believe Irvine police officers are simply trying to point the needy in the direction of help.

      “And we’ve found that they really do care,” Medrano says.

      The Irvine city council has a different perspective. It’s more cost efficient for the city to fund organizations that already exist in Orange County, says Christina Shea, an Irvine councilwoman.

      “Around $250,000 of community block grant money is allocated to Irvine every year, and we use these local dollars to benefit all kinds of organizations throughout the county,” she says. “But the county is ultimately responsible for providing emergency shelter.”

  2. November 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Another overlooked issue on tonight’s Santa Ana City Council is a proclamation to the Fiestas Patrias Advisory Committee, including Alex Vega who at a recent council meeting repeatedly and loudly shouted ” NO CHINESE” at several Korean property owners in attendance at said meeting.

    Which councilmembers will walk out on these racist and xenophobic comments made by Alex Vega??

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