On the evening of September 17, we stopped here in Santa Clara Central Park in the city of Santa Clara, California. We spent half of the day walking south down the El Camino. When we approached the end of the day, I pulled out my smart phone and looked for a park which we could spend the night. Santa Clara Central Park was not far away so we proceeded to that park. We reached there at dark. We searched around and found a place (pictured) which was unmanicured, it was a rough area, it was a good place for a mule and a monk to stop, laydown on the ground and spend the night, so we did that.
Around 3 o’clock in the morning, two City of Santa Clara police officers came by and shined their lights upon us. We woke up and they wanted to know what we were doing in the park. We said we were sleeping. We came here because there was no place else for us to go. We could not sleep in the sidewalk that wouldn’t be practical. We could not go out into the street and sleep there either. So that left are the city park for us to safely lay down go to sleep.
The officer replied that was against the city ordinance of Santa Clara to be in the park after dark and that we were trespassing.
We once again replied that we had to go somewhere and go to sleep because there is no place else, the city park by default must assume the responsibility for providing anybody walking and traveling in transit from one point to the next, whether riding a horse, riding a bicycle or walking under their own power, with a place to stop and rest for the night. We did not require any fancy facilities. We did not require any benches, barbecues, none of that, just simply a bare piece of ground which we found to rest our heads and rest and sleep for the night.
The officer reasserted himself and repeated the claim the assertion that we were illegally in the park and we could not stay here.
And so we made the point once again there was no place else to sleep. Darkness was upon us and the alternative was the sidewalk or the city street or climbing in somebody’s backyard. None of the three would be acceptable and so by default to repeat ourselves, all city governments – state, county or city, must take responsibility and allow their parks to be used by anybody traveling by horse, bicycle, or foot, under their own power, to sleep at night when in transit from one point to the next, to stop and rest for the night.
The officer also stated that there was a city ordinance that did not allow any horse within 100 feet of any buildings in the city.
We responded that we have a constitutional right in this country to move in any one of all four directions when we choose and how we chose. It is in the constitution that is guaranteed to all citizens. These city ordinances prevent that and they’re illegal and they cannot stand against the Constitution of the United States.
The officers eventually decided they would relent and use their discretion and allow us to stay for the night, leave in the morning after we clean up after ourselves as we always do and proceed along our way.
After packing up in the morning, we left the park and made our way through the city streets south. Not too long after walking south on the city streets headed for San Diego, a plain clothes police officer from the Santa Clara Police Department stopped his pick up truck, got out, showed us his badge, and said he was curious as to what we were doing.
We told him about where we spent the night and our experience previously with the two officers from the Santa Clara Police Department.
We informed him that we do claim the right to use city, county, state parks when necessary to go to sleep for the night. We explained the reasons why we can’t sleep on the sidewalk, we can’t sleep in the street, we can’t climb over the fence and spend the night in somebody’s backyard.
That leaves city, county, and state parks. That’s what’s left for anybody traveling on a horse in transit from one place to the next across this country under their own power whether by horse, bicycle or foot. That is what’s left to sleep at night. It is certainly their constitutional right travel freely in this country – one in all four directions and inherent in that right is the absolute right go to sleep.
Sleep is the necessary function to keep living. If you don’t sleep you die. For any city, county, state, municipality government to outlaw the act of sleep is unconstitutional. It denies us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is totally illegal. We won’t obey them. We can’t obey them. To repeat ourselves, if you don’t sleep you die. Committing suicide is not on our agenda.
The City of Santa Clara has its quiver full of arrows ready to shoot anybody that stops in their city to sleep. To their credit, the two officers that found us sleeping in the city park decided not to cite us nor make us leave where we were, allowing us to stay the rest of the night. In the morning, we packed up, cleaned up after ourselves and were back on the road.
City of Santa Clara Municipal Codes:
6.15.040 Keeping of horses – Restrictions.
No horse shall be kept or maintained within the city except in an enclosure the outer limits of which shall be at least forty (40) feet from any inhabited or habitable dwelling. (Ord. 1879 § 1, 3-29-11).
6.05.075 Animals on City property.
No person having the control or care of any animal shall permit such animal to enter or remain on City property and/or in City-owned or City-managed buildings other than a building used for the purpose of care, detention, space control or treatment of animals, or areas designated as “dog parks” or “off-leash areas,” or a building used for training classes, shows or exhibitions. This section does not apply to persons who have a visual or auditory disability and who use dogs for guidance or to accommodate a disability, to service dogs in formal training programs, or dogs used in law enforcement by a governmental agency, or persons expressly authorized by the City Manager, upon finding that the animal will not be disruptive to the operations of the City, or a hazard to persons or property. (Ord. 1879 § 1, 3-29-11).
12.05.060 Hours of operation of public parks.
(a) The public parks in the City shall be open daily to the public between the hours of 6:00 A.M. to one-half hour after sunset (dusk), except:
(1) Where there is posted conspicuously a sign limiting the hours when such facility is open to the public; and
(2) Until 10:00 P.M. if and when the facility is lighted.
(b) Any such public park or portion thereof may be declared closed to the public by the Director of Parks and Recreation at any time and for any interval of time, either temporarily or at regular or stated intervals, as is deemed necessary in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of the various divisions of the Parks and Recreation Department as set forth in Chapter 2.100 SCCC. The Director of Parks and Recreation is hereby authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of this section.
(c) Every person other than City personnel conducting City business therein, who occupies or is present in any public park in the City during the hours in which the park is not open to the public, shall be deemed guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine of not more that two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00). (Ord. 1953 § 1, 4-5-16; Ord. 1371 § 1, 1-10-78. Formerly § 25-8.1).
12.50.010 Unpermitted camping and lodging prohibited.
(a) No person shall camp or lodge on a public street (including in a vehicle parked on a public street), on publicly owned property, and other prohibited public places; provided, that nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit camping in public campgrounds pursuant to a permit or license authorized under Federal, State or local statute or ordinance.
(b) “Camping” means residing in or using any public street, publicly owned property, public park, or other prohibited public place for living accommodation, lodging, or sleeping purposes, as exemplified by remaining for prolonged or repeated periods of time not associated with ordinary use of the street, property, or public place, with one’s possessions or while storing one’s possessions (including, but not limited to, clothing, sleeping bags, bed rolls, blankets, sheets, hammocks, or other sleeping implements, luggage, backpacks, kitchen utensils, cookware, and food or beverages), cooking or consuming meals, or lodging in a parked vehicle. These activities constitute camping when it reasonably appears, in light of all the circumstances, that a person is using the street, property, or place as a living, lodging, or sleeping accommodation regardless of his or her intent, or the nature of any other activities in which he or she might also be engaged.
(c) “Prohibited public places” means any public place not designated as a public campground pursuant to Federal, State, or local statute or ordinance and shall include the following:
(1) Public streets, sidewalks, alleyways, passageways, and rights-of-way;
(2) Publicly owned property;
(3) Public parks;
(4) Public parking lots, whether publicly owned or privately owned;
(5) Public landscaped areas, whether publicly owned or privately owned and maintained pursuant to a public landscape easement;
(6) Private property that is readily accessible to the general public, or is otherwise open to common or general use or view;
(7) Vacant lots;
(8) Drainage culverts and basins. (Ord. 1834 § 1, 4-15-08).