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University Avenue

Original post made by Palo Alto resident on Sep 14, 2006

An open letter to a city interested in tax revenues and attracting people to downtown restaurants and events:
Last night I met my husband in an expensive restaraunt on University Avenue for a celebratory dinner. I parked in the garage on Bryant Street and, when I walked to the corner, found it inhabited by a group of 4-5 homeless people in various stages of inebriation. Walking along the street, I noticed that the sidewalks were dirty, and the entire area looked shabby and neglected. After finishing dinner at about 9:00 PM, my husband walked me back to the garage just in time to witness a woman from the same group on the corner step into a vestible, pull down her pants and urinate right in front of us. Not the ending I had envisioned for my evening and not an experience that makes returning to University Avenue, especially when there are so many attractive alternatives, one that I will consider again for a long time.
So, how about enforcing local ordinances against loitering and public intoxication/urination/defecation? How about washing down sidewalks and generally sprucing up downtown? How about installing portable rest-rooms? And what about increasing police presence so parking in a garage and walking down the street doesn't feel so ominous?

Comments (25)

Posted by Distraught Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 14, 2006 at 9:34 am

The problem you describe is wide spread throughout the city
in different forms.

Univesity Ave. is just a tentacle. Visit Eleanor Pardee Park or Rinconada park. It is fuuuulll of people from out of town.
If I have to celeberate my child's birthday I pick mt. view
park or a menlo park park.

Another example:
I wanted to rent some space in cubberly. Guess what it is always
booked for some thing or the other. There are almost no slots
for residents. We call it a "community" facility but the community
cannot rent the place - no available to locals - if you are
a business you can rent the place for 1 year. Holy CRAP.

Another example:
In summer getting the play Tennis is a problem. You cannot
go to your neighborhood tennis court and play - even if
you are willing to put yourself of the waiting slot.
Here is why: Folks from out of town come in large groups
to play tennis. everyone of them puts themselves on the waiting
slot. residents dont get a slot. Holy CRAP.

My suggestion: Make Frank Benest the city manager "Jesus Christ"
This city is run like a unwashed pig.


Posted by James, a resident of University South
on Sep 14, 2006 at 10:59 am

It is only going to get worse when the new homeless shelter opens up! Do cities like Mt. View and Sunnyvale have the same problems?


Posted by Jane, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2006 at 12:33 pm

RE: the new homeless shelter a/k/a the Opportunity Center. What happens to all the 'unhoused" after 5:00 p.m. when the day shelter closes? Where do they go? Town and Country, Paly, the Sheraton/Hyatt, the PA Clinic or do they cross in droves across dangerous Alma?? There is no sidewalk on the west sid to go to the east side of RR tracks. And what happens in the morning? I'll give it one month before some inebriated unhoused client gets hit on Alma Street going to the Opportunity Center from downtown. The Op Center may be a humanitarian idea - to which other areas gave generously (NIMBY), but it is in the wrong place.


Posted by Jane Doe, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2006 at 1:54 pm

Yes, we have made the homeless very welcome and comfortable, that's the Palo Alto way. Meanwhile we chase the good retail stores out of town because Palo Alto is too exclusive to have big box stores. Meanwhile, like many Palo Altans I shop and eat in Mountain View or Menlo Park, its cleaner, nicer and a lot more welcoming.


Posted by G, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2006 at 4:11 pm

There is another string on this site around all the homeless people and how, fof the most part, it ruins Palo Alto.
I wonder how many of the City Council members read these posts and how they feel about this issue that seems to only get bigger every year.

I hate going to downtown Palo Alto too, the place is dirty, stinks, and I'm sick of people trying to get change from me.

I recently saw Micahel Jordon on TV...he summed it (homeless people) up best when he said something like this...If a homeless person can say "Can you spare some change", they can easily say "welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order".

Stop building homeless shelters, stop giving your change to these people...we need to crack down and we need to do it now!


Posted by G, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2006 at 4:11 pm

There is another string on this site around all the homeless people and how, for the most part, it ruins Palo Alto.
I wonder how many of the City Council members read these posts and how they feel about this issue that seems to only get bigger every year.

I hate going to downtown Palo Alto too, the place is dirty, stinks, and I'm sick of people trying to get change from me.

I recently saw Micahel Jordon on TV...he summed it (homeless people) up best when he said something like this...If a homeless person can say "Can you spare some change", they can easily say "welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order".

Stop building homeless shelters, stop giving your change to these people...we need to crack down and we need to do it now!


Posted by Marianne, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 14, 2006 at 4:40 pm

Wow, my fellow Palo Altans. Have some compassion for the unfortunate among us. You think you or yours would never be in this position. But that's not true. Mental problems, job loss, or tragedy can bring people down. You may need compassion and help some day yourself.


Posted by Rebecca, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 14, 2006 at 5:06 pm

I say be a part of the answer, don't just complain about it. What have you personally done to try to effect change? If you find that the state of the city is unexceptable to you in any way - get involved. Attend commission meetings - make it a point to seek out your City Council and share with them your thoughts and ideas. Think creatively about how WE as a community can help solve the myriad of problems we deal with each day. Folks, the homeless are here and they are part of our community even if they don't have a shelter at night. The Opportunity Center is an attempt to actively address the issue because the "not in my backyard" philosphy does not apply here - they are in our backyard and they are here for the duration. Let's put our energy towards helping them get back on their feet which will improve their quality of life right along with the rest of Palo Alto.


Posted by Palo Alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 14, 2006 at 7:22 pm

A response to Rebecca: it's naive and pollyanna-ish sentiments like yours that have contributed to Palo Alto becoming the destination of choice of so many homeless people. This is a huge and largely intractable problem that can overtax the patience and resources of a more tolerant community, while making all the surroundng communities immune to the increasing urban decay and offensive behavior we're supposed to tolerate.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 14, 2006 at 9:17 pm

Marianne,
Have some compassion for the RESIDENTS/TAX PAYERS OF PALO ALTO !!!


Posted by Andrew, a resident of University South
on Sep 14, 2006 at 10:17 pm

I have lived in Palo Alto for 26 years. Do you want to know how bad the homeless problem has become? Palo Alto Fire Dept. and Police response to so many calls involving the homeless, that they know most of them by their first name! Most of the 911 calls are for sleeping in public places, fights and loitering. Don't believe me- just ask the Police and Fire Dept. some time. What a waste of resources!


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 15, 2006 at 1:53 am

Install surveillance cameras. They work!

Why aren't we doing this?

If people know they're being watched, they will be less inclined to break certain laws, and if they do, there's a better chance of apprehending them after the fact.


Posted by long enough, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2006 at 6:30 am

Install cameras to view people pee-ing. PRIVACY LAWS????
You could know the length of ....


Posted by Rebecca, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2006 at 8:41 am

Admittedly I tend to be a glass half-full type person but don't mistake that for naivety. What I respectfully request is for the community to ACT not just complain. If you have ideas on how to address the issue then work towards making them happen. Whatever our personal beliefs or politics the state of the City will not change unless we as individuals take ACTION.


Posted by Suzie, a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2006 at 11:19 am

We moved to Palo Alto in 1964. It was a very nice college town. University Avenue was clean, sidewalks were clean.
What has happened to Palo Alto is disgusting.
I don't live in Palo Alto now, but I work there. I shop in Los Altos or Menlo Park or Mountain View because walking down University Avenue is a very unpleasant, smelly and scary experience.


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 15, 2006 at 12:35 pm

I have to laugh when I hear people scream "privacy laws" when mention is made of installing security cameras to prevent or deter unseemly and/or criminal behavior.

What does someone who obeys the very simple laws and follows basic community standards have to worry about? What's the fuss?


Posted by bikes2work, a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2006 at 1:11 pm

I have just one tidbit of information. I haven't seen him lately, but the guy who regularly pan-handles outside Whole Foods on Homer comes to town daily on the Dumbarton Express from the East Bay. A woman that I work with told me this because she takes the DE everyday and sees him on it.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 15, 2006 at 5:46 pm

Rebecca,
I dont seem to understand your argument about "we should act and not complain". Please be specific as to what should we do. The problem of "pee" on university is WELL KNOWN to all and the CITY.
Do you suggest we as residents bring/pour buckets of water to clean up the mess. Should we howl and people while they are in the act of urinating.
PLEASE BE SPECIFIC. THE PROBLEM IS WELL KNOWN TO ALL.


Posted by C me around in Mayfield, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 15, 2006 at 11:21 pm

AGNEW should have never been closed...they let the truly needy and the mentally challenged people fin for themselves on the streets after closing the facility...
There are far too many homeless veterans on the streets of Palo Alto who have needs to be addressed...many are suffering from the military service they had served in....many have severe drinking problems due to that patrotic duty they had endured..........Many have teeth that are rotting out of their mouths....due to neglect, not being able to get proper medical and dental help....VERY SAD...

RE: the previous comment made about working at MeDonald's.........HOW CAN YOU WORK AT MCDONALD'S PRESENTING YOURSELF WITH YOUR TEETH ROTTING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH? .........
Possibly 9 out of 10 persons living the homeless life have severe mental problems..most should be on medication and or in therape.

The government needs to change it's practice and help these people get off the streets...give them a place to urinate instead of making a public spectical out of themselves.
We not only needed a community place for them to gather, we need to be able to direct them to safety where they can become part of the community in a positive way. THAT involves more than merely turning ones nose up in the air..more than a deaf ear to the situation. More than shriking "disgusting" or " I'll just go to Menlo Park or Mountain View....guess what? They have homeless people there, too.
Time to put heads together and try to aleviate homeless and drunkness in our community. We in Palo Alto have been open to being the first.....but we need more than just one lone voice out here...
Please give it some SERIOUS thought and take suggestions to the City, County and State people who have the power to help out.
You never know, someday your own son or daughter may need the help when you are gone..............
































































Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2006 at 3:18 am

What's amusing here is that a large part of the problem that we encounter from people relieving themselves in public comes from customers of many of the chic and not-so-chic clubs in twn that close at 2:00AM. I understand it's pretty well documented that some of these people find thier way to doorways and bushes to "do their business".

So, please, let's not hang all this on the homeless. There, but for the grace of god go any one of us.


Posted by JRF, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 16, 2006 at 10:40 am

J.L.,

So are you suggesting the "chic and not-so-chic" placees
in touwn don't have restrooms ????

You kid me NOT !!


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2006 at 4:09 pm

JRF, No, I'm not kidding - settle down. :)

I talking about *after* those places close. Patrons from those bars often find a way to "relieve themselves" on the way to their car, or on walking to wherever their destination is.

If you don't believe me, go ask the police. It's a commonly known fact that this is the case downtown, and it was also a problem on California Ave. when the Edge was there.

It's not just a homeless problem.


Posted by another Paly mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2006 at 8:38 pm


I live in Palo Alto but do most of my shopping in Mountain View - I am not especially attracted to downtown P.A. and one issue is the dirt and the homeless. I'm sure there is word of mouth and that more homeless gravitate to certain cities, like P.A. - I see more here than in other local cities.

Another example is there are major homeless issues over on crowded Oahu, with people living in awful situations, taking over beach parks, and from what I've read, these aren't necessarily local people down on their luck, but people who've been attracted to the pleasant climate and casual environment. Sure, this is sad. The newspapers have covered how the politicans and local residents are trying to grapple with this challenge - the locals say now it's unsafe to go to the beach parks as there are health and safety issues!

I think there sometimes can be an element of danger related to homeless out on the streets with mental illness, criminal background, etc. Professionals (police/medical/mental health) should be assisting these people not the general public who find themselves facing pandhandlers. I was threated some years ago on California Ave. by a tall, healthy, aggressive panhandler when I was out with my young daughter (therefore, in a vulnerable situation) in broad daylight, and I didn't appreciate it. This was worse than I've seen in several big cities, by the way. I don't know if this person was homeless, but he was working the streets, so to speak.


Posted by Emma, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 20, 2006 at 5:45 pm

There are lots of problems concerning homeless people, but what are we going to do about them? They have to go somewhere. for homeless people with temporary issues, there are options. But what about those people whom are insane beyond becoming functional? who's going to pay for therapy, medication, and housing? Are there any public mental health institutes near here where these people can go?

I visit downtown palo alto quite often, as late as 11:00. The homeless people are, for the most part, feel like more of an annoyance then a threat to me.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 11, 2006 at 5:12 pm

There is a certain irony in the fact that as our community has simultaneously become an enclave for both the richest and the poorest among us. Just 30 years ago—a time when we had a much more equal distribution of income—there was scarcely an unhoused person in the whole of the town.

We can address the symptoms of homelessness by hosing down University and turning it into a mini police state—moving problem either up or down the Embarcadero—or we can begin to build a society that insures the successful participation of all its participants.


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