SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — Santa Cruz city council members found a way around the law to remove the tents on a homeless encampment on Main Beach near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk — at least overnight.

On Tuesday, they voted 6-1 to pass a public access policy that would prohibit people from using the dry beach of Main Beach from midnight to one hour before sunrise except to access the wet sand, which can still be used at all hours of the day.

The camp has grown significantly in size in the last month, and there’s nothing illegal about it. A court ruling last year made it legal to camp on public property.

“I think it’s a safety health issue,” said Santa Cruz resident Karl Anderle. “Kids go down on the beach, put two and two together, it could be a bad scene; we’ve found needles everywhere up and down this beach.”

According to a city report, there were five tents on Main Beach last month. There were nearly 40 on Wednesday. As the tents have multiplied, city leaders and residents have said so has the trash on the beach, including urine, feces, alcohol containers, drugs and needles. Main Beach has been deemed a public health and safety hazard by city officials.

But Jake Eitel, who lives in a tent on the beach, said the homeless help pick up the garbage.

“You ever see what the tourists on a Saturday or Sunday leave,” Eitel said. “I mean, this beach is trashed by the end of the weekend.”

During the council meeting Tuesday, a local hotel owner said that the occupancy has decreased this year.

“We have had employees threatened, we have had homeless sleep on the front porch, we have had homeless enter the hotel and try to use the microwave and the bathroom,” he told council members.

The policy will sunset several months after its implemented to allow city council members to discuss whether the policy is working. A city spokesperson said the plan isn’t to immediately remove the tents. Instead they’ll try to work with the homeless who live on Main Beach one-by-one to see if they can get them services.

Eitel said he’ll just find a place to sleep at night, and come back to Main Beach when it opens in the morning.

He said he sleeps on the beach not just because of the views, but also because it’s safe.

“A safe place, yeah, I’ve been robbed many times when I sleep,” he said. “It’s tough, the homeless is a tough community.”

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