Friday, May 13, 2005

Guerilla Drive-In To Challenge Rules Around Public Space


Guerilla Drive-In To Challenge Rules Around Public Space

Date: 13 May 2005
To: citycouncil@ci.santa-cruz.ca.us


Dear Honored Council Folk:

This will be the third summer that Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In will be entertaining folk for free in Santa Cruz and in the wider SF Bay Area. We have a fine summer series location on private property, but we'd like to bring free movies for the community to a wider downtown audience and open up the use of our public spaces. We request your help changing the rules governing park hours in our city.

Santa Cruz Guerilla Drive-In is an outdoor movie theatre under the stars that springs up unexpectedly in the fields and industrial wastelands. Beyond showing great movies and bringing a broad community together, part of our mission is helping reclaim public space and transforming our urban environment into the joyful playground it should be. We've showed films such as The Third Man, Cool Hand Luke, Dr. Strangelove, Nine to Five, Fight Club, and 1984. Like the last few years, the 2005 summer series features more than a dozen films -- a film every other Friday night.

All over the country, we are setting an example for do-it-yourself public nighttime entertainment. Guerilla Drive-Ins are springing up all over, in San Francisco, Berkeley, Dallas, LA, Portland, Sacramento, NYC, Florida, Pennsylvania, Minneapolis. And while we are not the first, we are dedicated to reclaiming outdoor space and showing others how to do the same. Our website gives a step by step how-to: www.thespoon.com/start-your-own.html

Last year, early in the summer we were showing our movies under the Soquel Avenue Bridge near the Royal Taj. Mid-summer, we were booted out of this location during the showing of The Third Man by a half dozen police officers. They informed us that we were in a city park area and were violating park hours.

In our fair city, a community focused on art and connection, there is no place to meet in public that is unmediated by commerce. All the parks, beaches, the wharf, the boardwalk, the levies, state parks, the University, and the Pogonip are all closed after dark. If you want to meet friends or strangers at night, your only option is to dive into the stream of commerce, bars, cafes, restaurants, or movies.

Naturally, we understand the reasons for closing public spaces at night -- drugs, homelessness, and crime. However, closing public spaces, doesn't solve the problem, only drives it underground, and in the process takes away our own ability to provide safe, legal nighttime alternatives to crime.

Only in America would we think to close public gathering places after dark. In other countries, public spaces are where people spend their evenings, hanging out with friends, flirting, playing, drinking, singing, dancing. A vital nightlife is the sign of a live and thriving community. From the point of view of merchants, having public places that draw people out of their homes at night is good for nighttime businesses as well. If we want to maintain a healthy connected community, we are going to have to draw people away from their televisions out of the malls into the night, to public places where people can talk and picnic and dance and look at the stars. I think ultimately in our community, if we want to have any public life at all, we are going to have to challenge laws that keep the public out of public spaces.

The benefits to opening public space are many. Consider just one nighttime use of public space, our movies under the Soquel Bridge. We provide outdoor public entertainment to everyone for free. We make the levy area safer when we are there. We leave the bridge location cleaner than when we find it. We bolster the relationship the Riverside neighbors have with their adjoining public space. Guerilla Drive-In draws people from all over the bay area to Santa Cruz.

We respectfully ask for a change to the rules governing nighttime city park use. Please open our public spaces for public use at night.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Rico Thunder
Guerilla Drive-In Collective

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