Coexisting with Bicyclists, Motorists and Pedestrians… and Skateboarders

A week ago, we published the California Vehicle Codes that pertain to crosswalks following a two-day sting. With a police crackdown on skateboarders taking place this week in Santa Barbara, below is the related City Ordinance, Chapter 10.06:

SKATEBOARDING, ROLLER SKATING AND IN-LINE SKATING

Sections: 10.06.010

(a), PROHIBITION. No person shall ride a skateboard, roller skate, in-line skate or similar device upon any public street, or upon the following City sidewalks, City walkways, City boardwalks, or public ways owned or maintained by the City:

(1)Within the area of the downtown bounded by the following streets (including the perimeter streets): Sola Street on the north, Chapala Street on the west, Santa Barbara Street on the east and Cabrillo Boulevard on the south.
(2) The south sidewalk of Cabrillo Boulevard from Santa Barbara Street to Milpas Street.
(3) The sidewalks on either side of and along the entire length of Coast Village Road.
(4) On and along the following sidewalks, adjacent to the Santa Barbara Harbor: i) the sidewalks directly adjacent to the Harbor seawall, beginning at a point adjacent to the public launching ramps and extending to Harbor Way, and ii) the sidewalk along the southerly side of the Harbor beginning at the intersection with the sidewalk described in i) and continuing southerly and easterly to the most easterly point of the Breakwater.
(5) On the docks, floats and ramps in the Santa Barbara Harbor.
(6) Public parking facilities, public parking lots, or other public areas the entrances to which are posted with signs prohibiting skateboarding and roller skating.
(b) The Department of Public Works shall post appropriate signs as necessary to advise the public of the requirements of this Chapter.
(c) This Section shall not apply to any person skateboarding, in-line skating or roller skating on a public street while participating in an event that has been issued a special event permit by the Chief of Police specifically allowing skateboarding, in-line skating or roller skating on public streets. (Ord. 5159, 2000; Ord. 4954, 1996; Ord. 4910, 1995; Ord. 4622, 1990; Ord. 4439, 1986; Ord. 4133, 1982; Ord. 4016 §1, 1979; Ord. 3991, 1979.)

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How Are You Cutting Back During the Drought?

photoThe City of Santa Barbara is not watering lawns and even live public art installations have gone dry. Succulents are pretty hardy and will likely come back, but it begets the question—how are you cutting back water usage during the drought?

We have heard all kinds of conservation ideas like keeping a bucket in the shower and reusing it on plants. Some others are very granola-headed… so here is a chance to share your stories and tips:

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Out & About: The Santa Barbara Courthouse

Out and About with SBGirl – Santa Barbara Courthouse

I grew up in Texas but I now call the beautiful beach town of Santa Barbara home. I’m going to be a tourist in my own town and I invite you to come out and about with me. If you have requests or suggestions of other Santa Barbara Views I should check out, please add them to the comments. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy!
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IMG_0140The Santa Barbara Courthouse is arguably the most beautiful working government building in the United States. Not only is it home to Civil, Family Law, Juvenile, Probate, Appeals, Small Claims and Superior Court Administration, it is also a bastion for civic pride and celebration.

Occupying an entire city block, the Spanish Colonial Revival structure was built after the original, smaller Greek-Revival courthouse was damaged in the 1925 earthquake. The grounds contain a collection of palms and specimen trees from more than 25 countries and features the lovely Sunken Garden, built on the site of the original 1872 courthouse, where hundreds of special events and weddings take place every year.

IMG_0142Visitors can climb the stairs or ride an elevator to the 85-foot “El Mirador” clock tower for extraordinary 360 degree views of the city, coast and mountains. The Clock Room was recently lovingly restored by clock enthusiasts and historians who rebuilt one of few remaining Seth Thomas mechanically driven tower clocks and brought it back to its original glory. Other highlights of this impressive courthouse include the stunning Mural Room, boasting floor-to-ceiling Groesbeck murals depicting California’s early history, a glided and hand stenciled ceiling and 1,000 pound chandeliers, the “Spirit of the Ocean” fountain that was painstakingly hand carved from sandstone and replaced the original fountain that had been badly damaged from years of exposure, and striking tile and iron work throughout the building.

Docent lead tours occur daily (except Sunday) at 2pm beginning in the Mural Room and are free. Additional tours occur at 10:30am Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Special tours dates and times can be accommodated by request.

It’s not every day that a local courthouse is on the “must-see” list for tourists and locals alike, but in Santa Barbara it is! What’s your favorite part or memory of the Santa Barbara Courthouse?
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This Date in History: Santa Barbara’s First Mass

crespiOn this date in local history, Santa Barbara’s first Christian religious service was held on the site now known as Campanil Crespi. The white bell tower, left, on a glorious Santa Barbara hilltop was built to commemorate Fr. Juan Crespi’s first Mass during the Portola Expedition on August 20, 1769.

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An Appreciation: Neighbors, Favors and Unexpected Rewards

By Cheri Rae

A pleasant-looking young man stood on the old front porch and knocked at the screen door. He introduced himself and I braced for the come-on. Typically, it’s someone from Los Angeles trying to sell magazine subscriptions; someone collecting money for an environmental cause playing the guilt card by showing me the pledges of support my neighbors have made; or even someone with one of those overly complicated, cockamamie stories claiming to need money for gas to get to some faraway destination.

This time it was different.

He began his story: “My name is Ben and I live a few blocks from here, where there is street cleaning. I need to park my car someplace where it won’t get towed while I visit my parents in Portland for a couple of weeks. You guys don’t have street cleaning here, so I was thinking it would work out.”

“Okay,” I replied, wondering what the gimmick was. “When do you leave?”

“My plane leaves in two hours,” he said sheepishly.

Before I could think, my critical parent voice responded: “And you just now thought about this?”

“Well, yes. It costs too much to leave the car at the airport, so I want to leave it here and I was just hoping that it would be okay with you if I put it here while I’m gone…” His voice trailed off, his eyes pleaded.

My heart softened; my nice mommy self jumped in and argued with my cynical self: He’s just a kid trying to be responsible and work things out. Why not help him? He could be one of your kids one day.

“You’re in luck,” I said, and showed him a place to park on the long parkway where it would have the least impact on the neighborhood. We would be the only residents affected, since there’s a vacation rental across the street with people coming and going all the time, and next door to that one, a neighbor who was off on vacation and never parks there anyway. This one car wouldn’t really make much difference, and no one would even notice, much less call it in for being there too long.

A few minutes later he parked the car; it sat there undisturbed, just getting dirtier day after day. And then one afternoon, I noticed it was gone. Ben must have returned home, I thought. Hoping he and his family had a nice visit, I pondered our own fast-approaching empty-nest syndrome and what it must be like for his parents to have him back home for awhile, and then to say good-bye again.

BENA couple days later, I opened the front door, and noticed a small envelope tucked in by the beveled glass. It was a Starbucks card with a handwritten note, “ Thank you for letting me park my car outside your house! Hope you enjoy Starbucks—Ben.”

I’ve always taught my kids to do more than is expected, and to express their appreciation. Obviously Ben’s parents taught him the same thing—a nice young man just making his way in life, in this Santa Barbara neighborhood, his home away from home, right where he belongs.

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Santa Barbara’s Chromatic Gate

First, thank you Loretta Redd! Loretta began writing columns for Santa Barbara View in October of 2011, and had produced some of the most informative, important and commented-on posts to date. More importantly, she is a wonderful person and a pillar of our Santa Barbara Community. The synchronicity among contributors at Santa Barbara View has always been unique and Loretta touches on a directional sway that is taking place—a renewed mission to find what’s good and right and wonderful in Santa Barbara. Moving forward, Santa Barbara View will focus on a positive approach to people, places and events around town that Santa Barbara should know about; hopefully making a positive difference by just by being positive.

One of the positive victories that Santa Barbara View is proud of is the restoration of Santa Barbara’s Chromatic Gate. Dan and others helped bring awareness to the once-dilapidated art installation by Herbert Bayer which pays tribute to art and artists who make the city unique. And what better image to use for SBView 3.0. “Sunday morning at the Chromatic Gate, the light was beautiful and the art had a bit of a glow,” writes Dan Seibert. “Some students making a short video added a few more colors.”

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So Many Monsters

Column by Loretta Redd

newswanThe swan has long been a symbol of tranquility and harmony, though ancient beliefs created the darker metaphorical phrase, “swan song,” about the Mute Swan, who is silent all of its life until moments before it dies, when it sings a beautiful melody.

I was listening to an old Annie Lennox song , “No More ‘I Love You’s,” and the lyrics on language and monsters seem to have taken up residence in my brain. Though she sings about broken hearts and broken dreams, I find there really ARE “sooo many monsters” these days. They reside nearby in Murrieta, California, or in Isla Vista, or Newtown, and in countries and on continents like Russia or Afghanistan, in Iraq, Israel, or across Africa.

Seems like they’re everywhere, and proliferating.

People have always done despicable things to one another. Evil, like kindness, remains a part of our nature, so I’m not sure what combination recently pushed me over the edge. It could be having our brains filled with the darkest of images, the most heinous of crimes, the most insane of conflicts and boldest of lies delivered on a constant feed of cable channels, web sites and headlines.

Civility has become an anomaly.

My nephew and family visited recently from North Carolina. Over the eight days, I came to truly appreciate two things: first, just how hard it is to be a good parent and secondly, how difficult it is to protect a child’s innocence. My nephew is relatively religious, though not an ‘in-your-face’ sort of extreme; they choose to home school their four and seven year old, and are pretty vigilant about what television or computer images they get to watch.

The kids were well-behaved and rarely aggressive toward each other, but on those occasions, their mother responded with a simple question: “Did you do that with love in your heart?”

No preaching, no shaming, no reference to the bible- just a question for reflection which was surprisingly effective on them, as well as on me. Although my intention as a columnist has always been to stir thought and find solutions, I began to wonder if maybe the “monsters” hadn’t invaded my psyche after a decade of opinion pieces which criticized, judged and sometimes mocked others.

I want to appreciate those of you who have read and responded, whether from the early days of News Press, or columns in the Daily Sound, or here at the Santa Barbara View and Sentinel. You have challenged, informed and educated me over the years. But I find the ‘dark side’ of commentary is coloring my world. Continue Reading →

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John Peck Stearns

This date in Santa Barbara history… John Peck Stearns was born on August 18, 1828.

John Peck Stearns

In 1867 Stearns came to Santa Barbara with his wife Martha and purchased a property at the foot of State Street, where he opened a lumber yard on the beach.  But Santa Barbara lacked a wharf, which meant lumber schooners had to float cargoes ashore, causing damage to the lumber stocks.

Frustrated with Samuel Brinkerhoff’s little Chapala Street pier, Stearns decided to build his own wharf . Stearns borrowed $41,000 from the town’s leading capitalist, Colonel W.W. Hollister, repayable at $500 a month. Stearns imported a pile driver and crew from Port Hueneme and erected a 2,000-foot wharf which opened for business on September 16, 1872.

Stearns’ contributions to Santa Barbara went well beyond building the wharf, which became an economic boom to Santa Barbara.  He led the campaign to bring a railroad terminus to Santa Barbara, he was a major stockholder in the Santa Barbara College project, and he bought the Morning Press in the fall of 1880.  At the time of his death, from a stroke at the age of 74 on March 4, 1902, Stearns enjoyed the status of being one of Santa Barbara’s leading citizens.

Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, panorama 3D by Bill Heller.

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EcoFacts: Desalination

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

To be sure, desalination has been a hot topic in California and other drought stricken parts of the globe. Fresh water supplies are always limited to less than 1% of all water on the planet. Needs increase with the population while more droughts threaten existing resources. In the last 5 years, desalination capacity, globally, has increased 57%.

The Middle East could be a model for this, now and into the future. Home to 6.3% of humanity with only 1.4% of the water supply, they generate over half of the desal water available on the planet at the moment. But that water is costly, using more than ten times more energy (and their precious export resource, fossil fuels) than needed for pumping well water. A renewable energy company in Abu Dhabi is working on possible alternatives that could be a boon to a thirsty planet.

Closer to home, another model could be Santa Catalina Island, a popular tourist spot off the coast of LA, sort of a miniature California water wise, except they are not getting water diverted from other places. It all comes from their drying up reservoirs, wells and some desalination, 10%. All of their water is controlled by Edison. Residents and businesses pay more – 5 to 18 times more - than anywhere else in California. Few relaxed showers and little car washing goes on there. Their entire economy is severely threatened right now.

desalTo reactivate Santa Barbara’s decommissioned plant, completed at the end of the last serious drought in 1991 and used only briefly, would cost nearly $30 million, so no one is in a rush to do it. This coming rainy season will determine how quickly that goes forward. We are fortunate in that currently most of the area’s water supplies are gravity fed and so of low energy use. Desalination requires pumping the water from the ocean to the plant, high pressure pumping through reverse osmosis membranes and further processing.

Environmental challenges in the process are: a higher percentage of energy and associated emissions needed for water supplies; potential harm to sea life at the intake; treatment and disposal of the briney waste. Let’s hope that the plants of the future most certainly needed, will manage these well.

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Remembering Julia Child on her Birthday

Julia Child was born on this day in 1912, and although she passed in 2004 just two days shy of her 92nd birthday, her legacy lives, especially in her adopted home town of Santa Barbara. Here’s how the chef, author, and television personality described the last few years of her life here. The article originally appeared in the April 2002 issue of Traveler:

I remember well my very first impression of Santa Barbara. I was awfully young–maybe three or four years old. My family would vacation in Santa Barbara in the summer from my hometown of Pasadena, about two hours away. I remember we were at the old Miramar Hotel, which is right on the beach, looking down at the water. I’d never seen the ocean before, and I was sure the sea would come up and engulf us, and I screamed and screamed. My family finally had to take me home, which must have been enraging for them, and confusing: Why is she screaming?

The city sits right on the coast, a narrow strip of land backed by beautiful mountains, about 2,000 feet high. Lots of eucalyptus and oak and flowers make the place verdant and lush. In addition to all the green, I love the warm, cream color of the Spanish-style houses and the red of their tile roofs, and the brightness of round oranges set against the dark-green, shiny leaves of citrus trees.

The climate and the atmosphere recall the French Riviera between Marseille and Nice, except that area of France has now become terribly touristy. Very often, being there on the Riviera, where we used to have a little house, I’d look at all the tourists and say, “Well, I’d just as soon be in Santa Barbara.”

When my husband and I were in the diplomatic service, we’d come to Santa Barbara during home leaves. So it was natural to end up here. I now live in a little pad in a lovely retirement community, having recently moved out of an enormous house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which I’d lived in for 40 years. Even though I resided near Boston all that time, I never became a New Englander, though I loved being there. I’m a true Californian: I don’t miss the change in seasons.

I always get up early, at six, and do all my exercises. Then I walk over to the dining room, where a group of friends and I have what we call “the octogenarian breakfast”–lots of bacon, every kind of egg you can think of, pancakes, waffles, you name it.

All kinds of people gather there, but the market can only sell things that are grown in California, and most items are from Santa Barbara County. Smaller versions of the market take place on different days and in different locales.

When I have visitors, I take them on my personal, quirky tour. We might start with breakfast on the pier, right out on the water. Or we’ll have lunch on the pier, because there’s a wonderful restaurant there where you can get fresh steamed crab or local lobster, and you can eat them outdoors with the pelicans and seagulls.

Or I might take them to lunch up in the hills at the El Encanto Hotel, which has been operating since the early 1900s. The hotel has an outdoor dining terrace overlooking the bay–one of the best vistas of the city I know.

Then we’ll go and view the “Big Tree”: the astounding and famous Moreton Bay fig, planted at the junction of Highway 101 and Chapala Street in 1877. It’s claimed to be the largest tree of its kind in the country.

Later, we’ll head up to the Old Mission Santa Barbara. In season, a splendid array of roses greets visitors. Then we might take a driving tour along the hills.

Dinner? Santa Barbara’s not a renowned restaurant town, but we have some perfectly nice ones. The Wine Cask is downtown. San Ysidro Ranch has a good, if rather noisy, dining room. Lucky’s, founded by the fellow behind Lucky Jeans, is very jolly. There’s Downey’s, where the atmosphere is somewhat subdued, but the food is delicious. And La Super-Rica Taqueria on North Milpas Street is one of the most authentic Mexican home-cooking restaurants around.

People just seem friendly and happy here. Who wouldn’t be, when it’s so beautiful and the climate is so nice? Just this morning I looked out on another sparkling day, and I said to my breakfast group, “Why live anywhere else?”

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Santa Barbara History: The Arlington Hotel Burns

On this date in Santa Barbara history… the palatial old Arlington Hotel was destroyed.

“From 1875 until 1909, the Arlington Hotel was the hub of Santa Barbara’s elite tourist society. The three-story, 90-room hotel was located on State Street between Victoria and Sola streets,” according to local historian Walker A. Tompkins.

The First Arlington Hotel: Photo Credit: J W Collinge. Solely for use on the Santa Barbara View.

At sundown, on August 15th, 1909 flames were seen sprouting from the Arlington’s triple-decked square tower. While guests frantically escaped the building, local Fire Chief, John Dugan, and his crew began striping the hotel of the vintage draperies, tapestries, chandeliers, silverware, and other valuables. The lift operator, Robert Klein, kept the elevator running up and down until he collapsed of a heart attack. The fire burned all night… and by daybreak, only a skeleton of towering chimneys remained!

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Through a Door Darkly…California’s Con Game of Mental Health

Part I: Heard on the Street
By Sharon Byrne

I heard a man shouting the odds outside my bedroom window Tuesday morning.

Living close to the bar zone vibrant Night Life District, one gets attuned to noise on the street. It’s the noises that don’t belong that warrant investigation. These can turn out to be drunken carousing, domestic arguments that have moved outdoors, gang fights, etc.

Our man in the street was screaming about TV – don’t watch it! Don’t listen to the radio! Don’t read the news! It’s all lies and propaganda!

There are days when this view sadly approaches truth. But it’s one thing to question whether media outlets truly provide anything objective anymore in the way of news reporting, and another altogether to preach it wildly in the street to a silent choir of sidewalks, barrier fences, and trash bins.

He was disheveled, dirty, eyes darting back and forth, lips curled. Not. Tethered. To. Reality.

I wondered if I should call 911. But what can they do? Yeah, he’s disturbing the peace, but he’s clearly mentally ill. They can remove him from the neighborhood…but to where? Jail? That’s no answer. Ask Rodger Dodge of the Scanner Report – lots of 5150 calls come in daily. But last I checked, the police aren’t mental health workers. It’s really not their purview.

Except that increasingly, in California, it is. There are reams of news stories and studies declaring that within the ranks of the homeless, a significantly large number are mentally ill. Many of us have had the experience of encountering someone homeless nattering to themselves, gesticulating wildly. If you haven’t…well, you must not get out much.

Citizens and police get the first contact, and we’re little equipped to deal with them.

On the Milpas Outreach Project, where we’re working to help chronically homeless individuals leave life on the street, some team members felt strongly that a couple of our cases were seriously mentally ill. It seems intuitive – if you’ve become an addict living on the street, you might not have had the greatest mental health to start with. It’s probably gotten worse through addiction. But surprisingly, or maybe not, when one of them completely sobered, his repeat drunken violence dwindled to a small anger management issue. Alcoholism had acted as a massive amplifier for a very manageable mental health problem.

Advocates have been ratcheting up the call for mental health spending in this state, but maybe what we need is more funding to the counties for drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment. That could help make acute mental health issues associated with homelessness more manageable in each locality, where the problem is experienced.

Speaking of locality, back to our man in the street: so what should you do in a situation like this? Drunk or not, the guy is clearly not in a state where he’s functioning well. Why don’t we have something for people like this?

Prop 63 Logo TransparentTurns out we do. Thanks to those helpful online commenters who keep pointing me to Prop 63 – that was supposed to help with these problems.

The good people of California passed Prop 63, known as the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), in 2004. This tax on the wealthiest 0.1% of California taxpayers, about 30,000 people, is one of only four tax increase initiatives passed in this state. If you are one of these high earners, you pay an additional 1% tax on every dollar you make over the $1 million mark annually into the MHSA, billed as the way to transform California’s public mental health system, with a focus on promoting recovery-oriented programs. Some of the funds were supposed to go to providing direct services to severely mentally ill individuals, and provide new approaches and access to underserved communities. So here’s the help for our man on the street, right?

Er, no. A decade after passage, the state has raked in billions for mental health…and we still have seriously mentally ill homeless people wandering about, unable to get help. Our county’s ADMHS department recently had a rather large…pardon the pun….breakdown. Our sheriff is trying to allocate a wing of the new jail to deal with the fact we have a measly 16 beds in the entire county for acute mental health care. The police have little choice but to book serious cases into jail for a few days or hours to prevent them from being a danger to themselves or others. If we’re going to keep incarcerating the mentally ill, Sheriff Brown wants to at least try to plan adequately for it.

What the heck happened to the Mental Health Services Act??? Where did all the money for the seriously mentally ill from Prop 63 go?

The answer in Part II.

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Cracking Down on Gas Powered Leaf Blowers

The City of Santa Barbara is apparently ready to crack down on noise pollution, specifically gas powered leaf blowers. A ban on gas-powered leaf blowers passed by ballot initiative in 1997, but has largely been ignored. These devices are restricted within City limits because they generate excessive noise and air pollution. Electric leaf blowers, which are reportedly quieter and better for the environment, are permitted Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Illegal gas blower use can be reported to Police Dispatch, (805) 897-2300. Below is the City’s latest public awareness video:
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Coexisting with Bicyclists, Motorists and Pedestrians

crosswalk-298x300Last month, 144 motorists were cited in Santa Barbara and Goleta for not yielding to pedestrians during a two-day crosswalk sting. Some thought an enforcement using decoys was ambush policing, while others applauded the effort. But, what can be learned… did you know that a vehicle needs to yield the right of way for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk and within an unmarked crosswalk as well? Here are the California Vehicle Codes that pertain to crosswalks:

V C Section 21950 Right of Way at Crosswalks
Right-of-Way at Crosswalks

21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Amended Sec. 8, Ch. 833, Stats. 2000. Effective January 1, 2001.

V C Section 275 Crosswalk
Crosswalk

275. “Crosswalk” is either:

(a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersection where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.

(b) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, there shall not be a crosswalk where local authorities have placed signs indicating no crossing.

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Broken Window Breaks Code of Silence In West Downtown

By Sharon Byrne

In the course of working on improving neighborhoods, I continually run into hesitation around involving the police. The communities I work in are predominantly Hispanic, where there is understandably some fear regarding exposure of citizenship status. A code of silence regarding police is the norm, egging on criminal activity. No need for would-be perpetrators to sweat because engaging the police might actually turn out worse for crime victims than being robbed, for example. At least, that’s the thinking…

My best friend is first-generation American, as am I. His parents are Mexican. Mine are British. As children, we both experienced our parents’ heightened concern over engaging with US authority figures, like police. When you are an immigrant seeking citizenship, you never want to bring negative attention to yourself because you can be deported. His parents entered the country illegally in the 1970’s. They’re citizens now. Mine came here in 1967. It took 8 long years to get their citizenship, and they prize it. My father jokes he’s more American than I’ll ever be because he sought US citizenship, while mine is just a happy accident of birth.

sbpdMy friend was taught to keep his head down and his mouth shut. Never call the police – we could get deported. Never throw rat (by reporting crime). The perpetrator might live nearby, or know who your family is. When the police let him go, he’ll pay you back. Sometimes when my friend sees me engage in neighborhood watch activities, he experiences notable consternation.

On the closing day of Fiesta, we decided to go see a movie at Metro 4. Walking down Haley towards State, I saw a young teen, jerking a bit as he walked past the Holiday Inn, shouting randomly. I watched as he paused before a car parked on the street, and proceeded to kick in the passenger window, in broad daylight.

My friend turned, hearing the explosion of glass, and yelped, ‘what was that?!?!’

I shouted, “STOP! Citizens’ arrest!”

“Fuck you!” the kid yelled, booking down Haley, turning south on Chapala.

I whipped out my phone. My friend said, “you’re not going to call the police!’ Then he groaned. “We’ll miss the movie.”

I stared at him. Hard.

He sighed. He knows me.

The Holiday Inn valet hurried over and asked if we’d seen what happened. I gave the police the kids’ description, the direction he was headed, and my location. Dispatch asked me to wait there for an officer.

My friend sighed loudly, frustrated, and then his eyes widened. He said, “what if he’s headed to our neighborhood?!?” Our area, at the dead-end of De La Vina and Gutierrez, has encampments used often by the young transient set. This kid was clearly jacked on something. My friend wondered if he should tail him, in case the kid busts out more windows on his rampage?

Wow. He instantly moved from ‘don’t call the cops’ to ‘I’m going to go keep eyes on him until they get here.’ Very cool.

The next 10 minutes passed in a flurry of phone calls with dispatch, the responding officer, and my friend, who tracked the kid as he busily continued his vandalism spree. When he saw my friend on the phone, he started threatening, so my friend backed away. He took off near Lily’s Tacos, and my friend lost sight of him. He asked people on the street if they’d seen him. Not everyone wanted to be a good citizen, but when he told a group of Hispanic men in Spanish that the kid was busting out car windows, they pointed down an alley. The kid jumped the fence to the freeway, but came back over into the parking area by the Roasting Company.

Two female officers arrested him while he shrieked epithets and resisted fiercely. My friend watched to make sure the officers had him safely because, you know…they were lady cops and all.

I suspect he secretly wanted to be their back-up.

Our neighbors saw us giving the police our statements, and one chided my friend in Spanish about being a rat. My friend let him have it, long overdue, as this neighbor is not a particularly stellar guest of the US. What if it had been his windows that got smashed? Would he want us to protect the perpetrator from police then?

Doubt it.

My friend shredded the old code of silence – a welcome turn of events. I hugged him for it.

A democratic society depends on its citizens to help determine its laws, and assist in ensuring that they are upheld. See criminal behavior? Report it. You know you’d want your fellow citizens to stand up and do it, if you were the victim.

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