Santa Cruz, CA

Cops move in to clear homeless encampment that has taken over popular California beach

Golden Gate Media

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Police also cited a food vendor who turned the beach into an open-air makeshift kitchen over the July 4th weekend.Santa Cruz Police

Police have ordered dozens of people to clear a popular California beach that has turned into a major campsite for the homeless.

Santa Cruz's beaches have always been an inviting and enticing draw for Bay Area residents and tourists, but lately, many of the city's sandy stretches have turned into homeless encampments.

Earlier this month, police cleared several campsites, ordering occupants to vacate the beach and find shelter elsewhere.

"Last night, they contacted and removed several campsites on the beach after hours and issued a 24-hour order to vacate," Santa Cruz Police stated in a July 9 Facebook post. "Per the MUNI CODE 13.08.100, the 24-hour order to vacate means they have to leave for 24 hours, NOT the amount of time they have before they must leave. Officers address homeless encampments on the beach every single night with limited tools to mitigate them. Illegal beach camping citations come with a 24-hour requirement to vacate. Officers are often back to square one dealing with the same person and problem after the second day. A workable solution includes not only a strong and clear ordinance in place, but committed assistance from county mental health staff, addiction resources, social workers, and designated campsites elsewhere. Officers found the area filled with a sofa, trash, drug debris, among other biohazards that pollute the environment.”

Santa Cruz has always been a popular draw for homeless and drifters, but the crisis has worsened over the last year. Police are stepping in to prevent it from getting any worse. The city draws many visitors from San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose looking for a quick day trip out of town.

"The clean-up of trash is not our primary job, but we go the extra mile for our community to eliminate the blight," the department also stated. "This proactive measure is another way our neighborhood policing unit works in the community to reduce criminal activity and increase police presence.”

Over the July 4th holiday weekend, Santa Cruz officers also conducted another enforcement operation targeting mobile food vendors that had unlawfully transformed the beach into an open-air kitchen. 

“Last night, SCPD responded to the area of Beach Street near the volleyball courts to reports of a large amount of property remaining from the Beach Street food vendors,” police stated in a July 5 post. “SCPD found the vendor’s gear and food stored on the sidewalk along the railing and in several pop-up canopies filled with coolers, cooking devices, beverage jugs, and large battery-powered wagons. Officers found that food was left out and beverage jugs were open. Officers found a subject in one of the pop-up canopies near the beach watching over more property than our entire team could haul away."

Many of the food vendors had sold their products to tourists over the holiday weekend. They hoped to sell more the next day before police intervened. 

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A food vendor was cited for using the beach as an open-air mobile kitchen.Santa Cruz Police

"SCPD also discovered the owners of this food vending operation camping on the beach," officers stated. "As per the city ordinance, Officers cited all three people from Antioch for remaining on the beach after hours and issued a 24-hour order to vacate. (This means they must leave / be gone for 24 hours.) Officers instructed the trio to immediately remove their property and vacate the beach. SCPD returned later and found one person with left out food from the vending group still there. Officers then cited him for the misdemeanor and revised the order to vacate to a week. (This means they must leave / be gone for 7 days.)”

Police also took action to deal with the potential violation of safe food handling. Photos released by police showed fruit juices and other items left out without proper refrigeration.

"SCPD immediately contacted the County Health Department. Santa Cruz County public health agency is responsible for enforcing the sanitation of food vendors," police stated. "SCPD can’t do everything. SCPD is giving you the heads up to what’s going on. Direct your complaints to the County Public Health Department."

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