The SF Chronicle Homeless Hit Campaign Continues…..

root - Posted on 05 February 2002

An Open Letter to Maria Gaura, writer for the San Francisco Chronicle
Re Media Coverage of Camp Paradise, in Santa Cruz, Ca.

by Becky Johnson

Dear Ms. Gaura,

In your article today about Camp Paradise, you state the following: Critics warn that previous attempts to create legal camping for the homeless in Santa Cruz, including a tent city and car camping zones, have failed dramatically.

Which critics are you quoting? Why don't these critics have names and quotes? Regarding the previous attempts at a car camping zone, which "failed dramatically" as you put it, could you elaborate? Wasn’t that when a previous City Council voted on a first reading to set up safe zones in the industrial area, leading you to write in a Chronicle article that the City of Santa Cruz had repealed its entire camping ordinance?

Have you ever corrected that completely false information you published then? Do you have any information at all on the "failure" of those car camping zones? How could they fail when they were never opened? I notice there is no such information in your article today.

I find it appalling that you write today of the past "dramatic failure" of those car camping zones when it was your misinformation published prominently in the SF Chronicle that led to the defection of Council member Katherine Beiers on the 2nd reading of the ordinance. The ordinance, if it had passed, would have legalized sleeping in the two industrial zones of Santa Cruz, but not repealed the entire camping ordinance as you reported at the time.

As for the failure of the Coral Street Open Air Shelter, in December of 1995, a topic I'm sure you know nothing about as well, it "failed" when City Council members Scott Kennedy and Mike Rotkin came down and closed the campground and threatened anyone who stayed with arrest. Upwards of 225 homeless people were dislocated and several deaths were reported as a direct result of the closure of that facility. If that's a failure, it belongs to the City of Santa Cruz and does not belong with either the campground or the homeless people who took refuge there.

You report of some mysterious "magnet syndrome" but provide no statistics to support your contention. You report of "tons of trash" and "environmental damage" caused by homeless people but you provide no evidence of this damage nor have you explained how the City could differentiate the trash of 1000 homeless people from the trash left by 2.3 million tourists to the Boardwalk each year.

Your anti-homeless bias is showing. If you can't report straight facts when it comes to homeless issues, perhaps you should switch to the garden report. That way your tainted reporting with its underlying bias will only threaten the marigolds and not threaten the health and safety of the human beings involved.

Becky Johnson

Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom

Santa Cruz, Ca.


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