SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Effectively immediately, overnight camping will no longer be allowed on Santa Cruz's famed Main Beach, according to city officials.
The city council voted Wednesday night to implement a curfew that essentially forces the homeless who had been living there to find a new place to sleep.
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"It's upsetting when anybody asks you to leave any particular spot that you're comfortable in," said Santa Cruz street performer Marty Mirabal, who pitched his tent nearly two weeks ago. "I feel more comfortable living outside. I like having more freedom in my life to go about doing the things I want to do."
For the next six months, the dry sand portion of Main Beach will be closed between midnight and one hour before sunrise. However, that section can still be used to access the wet sand area, which will remain open 24 hours a day to comply with mandates from the California Coastal Commission.
Some of the homeless believe they're being unfairly targeted.
"To try and say that those people who like to be here at night... that something's wrong with them?" questioned Noele Fisher, Mirabal's girlfriend. "There's nothing wrong with enjoying the nighttime, the moon, the stars, the sound of the ocean."
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In recent weeks, nearly two dozen tents have popped up near the wharf. Some say the increase could be connected to what used to be the old Ross Camp, a densely populated homeless community near Highways 1 and 17 that shut down in May.
City leaders decided to pass the ordinance citing concerns for public health and safety.
"There'll be outreach that'll take place over the next couple of days, and ample opportunity for them to move, plenty of notices for them to be plenty aware of the fact that what they're doing on the beach after hours is illegal," said Lt. Bernie Escalante of the Santa Cruz Police Department.
Santa Cruz County has long struggled to find solutions for its homeless population, which is now estimated at nearly 2,200 people.
"Circumstances are different for everybody, and some people just need help and they're too afraid to ask for it," said Mirabal.
Santa Cruz enacts curfew on famed 'Main Beach' near boardwalk