News

City Council prepares to settle 'safe parking' dispute between church, neighbors

Critics demand more security, different location at First Congregational Church program for unhoused residents

Rev. Eileen Altman, right, and Wesley Chow, a member of First Congregational Church's outreach committee, left, discuss the church's safe parking program next to parking spaces that will be provided for vehicles to park in Palo Alto on Aug. 16, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The modest parking lot at the back of the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto looks like an unlikely setting for a neighborhood dispute.

Tucked behind a preschool building and screened by bushes from the nearest homes, the lot off Embarcadero Road includes a single row of parking spaces, a basketball hoop and a storage shed. If things go according to the church's plan, it will also soon function as a small but tangible solution to the city's homelessness problem. Four parking spaces in this area would be designated for residents who live in vehicles. They would be separated by empty spots that would create a buffer zone for occupants. A portable restroom would be installed next to the shed.

The First Congregational Church program is Palo Alto's latest "safe parking" proposal, which aims to provide secure parking, counseling and case management for unhoused individuals. Since the city created the safe parking program, two churches have signed up: Highway Community Church and the Unitarian Community Church of Palo Alto. First Congregational Church, which is located at 1985 Louis Road, is hoping to be the third. The Rev. David Howell, senior pastor at First Congregational, told the Weekly during a recent tour of the site, which he believes is well-suited for such a program.

"We really think once it starts, people will realize it's really not intrusive," Howell said. "The people in the program are quiet folks who just want to have a quiet place. We want to be sensitive to our neighbors, and we really want to work with them and do everything we can to make this as easy as possible for them."

The proposal, however, is facing a hurdle. More than two dozen neighborhood residents from 19 properties in the neighborhood have signed on to an appeal submitted by Todor Ganev, whose home is on Embarcadero Road, next to the church. In the appeal, Ganev argued that the "safe parking" spaces should be moved to the church's main lot, which fronts Louis Road. The appeal also suggested that the program doesn't do enough to screen its participants.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

"Our community members are entitled to a proactive approach to safety, with criminal background screening provided before problems occur. However, this is not what this program entails," Ganev wrote.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the residents' appeal at its Aug. 22 meeting. Because the item is on the council's "consent calendar," the appeal would be rejected unless three council members support pulling it from consent and scheduling a full hearing.

The Weekly reached out to Ganev and numerous other people who support the appeal. All of them refused requests for interviews, with Ganev saying that his busy schedule precludes him from making himself available. Instead, Ganev provided a written statement that strongly objected to the idea that he and others who signed on to the appeal are "fighting" the church's proposal.

A Tesla is parked near the spaces that would be provided for vehicles to park as part of the safe parking program at First Congregational Church in Palo Alto on Aug. 16, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

He and other concerned residents were "forced to resort to an appeal, because, unfortunately, even though we made tremendous efforts to discuss our concerns with the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto (FCCPA), they ignored our concerns and their response has been symbolic at best," Ganev wrote.

He brought up some of the issues that are highlighted in the appeal, including his objections to the church placing the four parking spots on the Embarcadero side of its property.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

"In short, FCCPA are expecting us, the existing neighbors, to be altruistic and assume risks in the name of the lofty program goal, but they themselves are not willing to make even a small compromise and accept even a small inconvenience (if any at all)," Ganev wrote.

Another church neighbor has also publicly raised alarm about the program, asking the City Council in an email earlier this month to "amend it to make it safe for residents."

"We want to be able to help the homeless but not feel we are compromising our sense of security and our children's sense of freedom," wrote Tilli Kalisky, stating that the program participants should undergo background checks.

Kalisky, who declined a request for an interview, had also written a letter to a Duveneck Elementary mailing list in July to warn others of the proposed program and urge them to voice their opposition.

Concerns about background checks of prospective residents in parking lots are far from new. Background checks also came up as an issue of contention last year, when the council was considering the Unitarian Universalist Church program. The application faced an appeal from Stevenson House, a senior residential community near the church. Critics of the program urged the church to require background checks for program participants. They ultimately opted to drop the appeal just before the council's scheduled review.

The appeal from Ganev expresses some of these same concerns, at times in identical terms. A major section of his appeal that pertains to safety and that lists security measures undertaken by other cities with safe-parking programs is copied verbatim from the appeal that was submitted and withdrawn by Stevenson House residents.

Since then, those concerns have largely dissipated, according to Linda Henigin, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She said in an interview that neighbors have not expressed any issues about the program since it was implemented last October.

"We've had check-in meetings offered to them by the church and the city and Move Mountain View. They don't even attend the check-in meetings. They don't have any concerns," Henigin said in an interview.

To date, the county, Move Mountain View, the nonprofit that operates similar programs in Mountain View, and the city have all resisted calls for criminal background checks, arguing that requiring them would conflict with both state laws and their own policies. A new report from the city Department of Planning and Development Services notes that state regulations prohibit a "blanket ban" on individuals who have criminal records residing in housing.

"It can be argued that the need to have background checks performed for those living in their vehicles is based on a perception that these persons may be more likely to have perpetrated a crime and will be more likely to perpetrate a crime in the future," the report states.

City staff cited a report from the Council for the Homeless, which found that "a person who is homeless is no more likely to be a criminal than a person who is housed." The city report also notes that there have been "no calls that required police emergency response or that led to a police report being taken" in either of the existing programs.

Although background checks are not part of Palo Alto's program, all participants are vetted by Move Mountain View. Participants in the program, which is funded by Santa Clara County, are required to show a valid driver's license and insurance.

Henigin, who worked on setting up the Unitarian Universalist Church program, said that residents often have the false impression that anyone can just go to the parking lot and stay there. In fact, every participant goes through an interview with a case worker, who then uses the information to determine the most appropriate safe-parking site to place the participant based on their particular circumstances. Participants must also consent to the fact that Palo Alto police and security guards randomly patrol the lots at night. And they have regular appointments with caseworkers that they are required to keep or risk being removed from the program, she said.

"Why would a person go through that process and then commit a crime?" Henigin asked.

Rev. Eileen Altman discusses First Congregational Church's safe parking program in Palo Alto on Aug. 16, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The Rev. Eileen Altman, associate pastor at First Congregational Church, disputed the notion that background checks would make the program safer.

"There's a kind of a myth about background checks that it's sort of this magic tool that's going to prevent all problems. It's not," said Altman, who has been leading the church's effort to set up the safe parking program. "Being in relationships with people and really getting to know people and trying to figure out where they're coming from, how we can meet their needs and to be in an ongoing relationship with people is actually much more likely to be a safer approach to all human relationships."

Altman said the church has been thinking about safe parking ever since the city passed an ordinance allowing such programs in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed these plans. First Congregational Church is among the congregations that participate in Hotel de Zink, a homeless shelter that rotates among churches. It was, in fact, operating as a shelter in March 2020, when the pandemic began, and it kept its doors open to the unhoused for an extra month as the pandemic continued to spread in spring 2020. Altman said the congregation sees care for the unhoused as a natural extension of its mission.

Wesley Chow, a member of First Congregational Church's outreach committee, left, discusses the church's safe parking program in Palo Alto on Aug. 16, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In recent months, the church has also tried to accommodate the concerns of neighboring residents, said Wesley Chow, who lives near the church and who serves on its outreach board. It moved the safe-parking spaces to the relatively secluded back lot and it held numerous community meetings with area residents to discuss the program, he said.

Some remain unconvinced. Ganev argued in his appeal that placing the spaces in the back lot would have a health impact on residents who live in the area, particularly children who have asthma. The church pointed out that cars are only legally allowed to idle when temperatures fall below 40 degrees or above 85 degrees. Ganev countered that "even rare idling is a hazard to neighbors."

"FCCPA has refused to move the parking spots further away from the impacted neighbors and has offered no valid reasons why they are not willing to accept this very reasonable compromise," Ganev wrote in the appeal.

Church leaders argued that this is simply not the case. Placing the lots in the back makes the program less disruptive for both program participants and church visitors, they said in interviews. And in response to concerns over idling, they noted that participants will be provided with blankets for cold days. Chow also noted that when temperatures fall below 40 degrees, most residents will keep their windows closed, minimizing the alleged health hazards.

Chow also disagreed with the position of those who believe the program should screen out individuals with criminal backgrounds.

"My personal belief is that people should be given a second chance," Chow said. "Just because they've done something, maybe that's what caused them to be in the situation they're in. We have to have compassion for those less fortunate. That's our belief in our church."

According to data from the Unitarian Universalist Church, it has had six participants in the program between Oct. 19, 2021 and June 3, 2022. Two have gone on to permanent housing. Two others went back to the streets, while the remaining two are still in the program.

Henigin suggested that calls for background checks display a "fundamental misunderstanding of what background checks are."

"They cost money and they take time. They keep people from getting help quickly and they don't actually give you the actual information that you think you're going to get," Henigin said.

Although a number of neighbors filed the appeal of the First Congregational program, others support the initiative. Bill Sundstrom, who lives on Louis Road, is among them.

"I acknowledge that some of my neighbors may have more heightened concerns about some of these issues than I do," Sundstrom said in an interview, recalling that he'd received an anonymous flyer with a list of talking points opposing the program, including allegations that it offers no safety, no security and no accountability.

"I come at it as someone who sees homelessness as a real serious concern that we all ought to take some responsibility for. And I think it's a very small and low-risk thing that the church had the good graces to reach out and do for some folks who are struggling in ways most of us are not."

Altman said the church has followed all the rules and guidelines that the council had established for safe parking programs and, as such, the church should be allowed to proceed. She noted that the program would only operate between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. to minimize encounters between students and program participants. (The city allows programs to operate from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.)

"If they expect faith communities to participate in the program, when the faith community is meeting the rules and expectations of the program, it should be that it's a no-brainer that it's approved," Altman said. "If every time it comes out it becomes a contentious, public, ugly thing, it discourages faith communities from participating in the program. Is that what the council wants?"

A Tesla is parked near the spaces that would be provided for vehicles to park as part of the safe parking program at First Congregational Church in Palo Alto on Aug. 16, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now
Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Get uninterrupted access to important local city government news. Become a member today.

City Council prepares to settle 'safe parking' dispute between church, neighbors

Critics demand more security, different location at First Congregational Church program for unhoused residents

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Aug 18, 2022, 9:18 am

The modest parking lot at the back of the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto looks like an unlikely setting for a neighborhood dispute.

Tucked behind a preschool building and screened by bushes from the nearest homes, the lot off Embarcadero Road includes a single row of parking spaces, a basketball hoop and a storage shed. If things go according to the church's plan, it will also soon function as a small but tangible solution to the city's homelessness problem. Four parking spaces in this area would be designated for residents who live in vehicles. They would be separated by empty spots that would create a buffer zone for occupants. A portable restroom would be installed next to the shed.

The First Congregational Church program is Palo Alto's latest "safe parking" proposal, which aims to provide secure parking, counseling and case management for unhoused individuals. Since the city created the safe parking program, two churches have signed up: Highway Community Church and the Unitarian Community Church of Palo Alto. First Congregational Church, which is located at 1985 Louis Road, is hoping to be the third. The Rev. David Howell, senior pastor at First Congregational, told the Weekly during a recent tour of the site, which he believes is well-suited for such a program.

"We really think once it starts, people will realize it's really not intrusive," Howell said. "The people in the program are quiet folks who just want to have a quiet place. We want to be sensitive to our neighbors, and we really want to work with them and do everything we can to make this as easy as possible for them."

The proposal, however, is facing a hurdle. More than two dozen neighborhood residents from 19 properties in the neighborhood have signed on to an appeal submitted by Todor Ganev, whose home is on Embarcadero Road, next to the church. In the appeal, Ganev argued that the "safe parking" spaces should be moved to the church's main lot, which fronts Louis Road. The appeal also suggested that the program doesn't do enough to screen its participants.

"Our community members are entitled to a proactive approach to safety, with criminal background screening provided before problems occur. However, this is not what this program entails," Ganev wrote.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the residents' appeal at its Aug. 22 meeting. Because the item is on the council's "consent calendar," the appeal would be rejected unless three council members support pulling it from consent and scheduling a full hearing.

The Weekly reached out to Ganev and numerous other people who support the appeal. All of them refused requests for interviews, with Ganev saying that his busy schedule precludes him from making himself available. Instead, Ganev provided a written statement that strongly objected to the idea that he and others who signed on to the appeal are "fighting" the church's proposal.

He and other concerned residents were "forced to resort to an appeal, because, unfortunately, even though we made tremendous efforts to discuss our concerns with the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto (FCCPA), they ignored our concerns and their response has been symbolic at best," Ganev wrote.

He brought up some of the issues that are highlighted in the appeal, including his objections to the church placing the four parking spots on the Embarcadero side of its property.

"In short, FCCPA are expecting us, the existing neighbors, to be altruistic and assume risks in the name of the lofty program goal, but they themselves are not willing to make even a small compromise and accept even a small inconvenience (if any at all)," Ganev wrote.

Another church neighbor has also publicly raised alarm about the program, asking the City Council in an email earlier this month to "amend it to make it safe for residents."

"We want to be able to help the homeless but not feel we are compromising our sense of security and our children's sense of freedom," wrote Tilli Kalisky, stating that the program participants should undergo background checks.

Kalisky, who declined a request for an interview, had also written a letter to a Duveneck Elementary mailing list in July to warn others of the proposed program and urge them to voice their opposition.

Concerns about background checks of prospective residents in parking lots are far from new. Background checks also came up as an issue of contention last year, when the council was considering the Unitarian Universalist Church program. The application faced an appeal from Stevenson House, a senior residential community near the church. Critics of the program urged the church to require background checks for program participants. They ultimately opted to drop the appeal just before the council's scheduled review.

The appeal from Ganev expresses some of these same concerns, at times in identical terms. A major section of his appeal that pertains to safety and that lists security measures undertaken by other cities with safe-parking programs is copied verbatim from the appeal that was submitted and withdrawn by Stevenson House residents.

Since then, those concerns have largely dissipated, according to Linda Henigin, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She said in an interview that neighbors have not expressed any issues about the program since it was implemented last October.

"We've had check-in meetings offered to them by the church and the city and Move Mountain View. They don't even attend the check-in meetings. They don't have any concerns," Henigin said in an interview.

To date, the county, Move Mountain View, the nonprofit that operates similar programs in Mountain View, and the city have all resisted calls for criminal background checks, arguing that requiring them would conflict with both state laws and their own policies. A new report from the city Department of Planning and Development Services notes that state regulations prohibit a "blanket ban" on individuals who have criminal records residing in housing.

"It can be argued that the need to have background checks performed for those living in their vehicles is based on a perception that these persons may be more likely to have perpetrated a crime and will be more likely to perpetrate a crime in the future," the report states.

City staff cited a report from the Council for the Homeless, which found that "a person who is homeless is no more likely to be a criminal than a person who is housed." The city report also notes that there have been "no calls that required police emergency response or that led to a police report being taken" in either of the existing programs.

Although background checks are not part of Palo Alto's program, all participants are vetted by Move Mountain View. Participants in the program, which is funded by Santa Clara County, are required to show a valid driver's license and insurance.

Henigin, who worked on setting up the Unitarian Universalist Church program, said that residents often have the false impression that anyone can just go to the parking lot and stay there. In fact, every participant goes through an interview with a case worker, who then uses the information to determine the most appropriate safe-parking site to place the participant based on their particular circumstances. Participants must also consent to the fact that Palo Alto police and security guards randomly patrol the lots at night. And they have regular appointments with caseworkers that they are required to keep or risk being removed from the program, she said.

"Why would a person go through that process and then commit a crime?" Henigin asked.

The Rev. Eileen Altman, associate pastor at First Congregational Church, disputed the notion that background checks would make the program safer.

"There's a kind of a myth about background checks that it's sort of this magic tool that's going to prevent all problems. It's not," said Altman, who has been leading the church's effort to set up the safe parking program. "Being in relationships with people and really getting to know people and trying to figure out where they're coming from, how we can meet their needs and to be in an ongoing relationship with people is actually much more likely to be a safer approach to all human relationships."

Altman said the church has been thinking about safe parking ever since the city passed an ordinance allowing such programs in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed these plans. First Congregational Church is among the congregations that participate in Hotel de Zink, a homeless shelter that rotates among churches. It was, in fact, operating as a shelter in March 2020, when the pandemic began, and it kept its doors open to the unhoused for an extra month as the pandemic continued to spread in spring 2020. Altman said the congregation sees care for the unhoused as a natural extension of its mission.

In recent months, the church has also tried to accommodate the concerns of neighboring residents, said Wesley Chow, who lives near the church and who serves on its outreach board. It moved the safe-parking spaces to the relatively secluded back lot and it held numerous community meetings with area residents to discuss the program, he said.

Some remain unconvinced. Ganev argued in his appeal that placing the spaces in the back lot would have a health impact on residents who live in the area, particularly children who have asthma. The church pointed out that cars are only legally allowed to idle when temperatures fall below 40 degrees or above 85 degrees. Ganev countered that "even rare idling is a hazard to neighbors."

"FCCPA has refused to move the parking spots further away from the impacted neighbors and has offered no valid reasons why they are not willing to accept this very reasonable compromise," Ganev wrote in the appeal.

Church leaders argued that this is simply not the case. Placing the lots in the back makes the program less disruptive for both program participants and church visitors, they said in interviews. And in response to concerns over idling, they noted that participants will be provided with blankets for cold days. Chow also noted that when temperatures fall below 40 degrees, most residents will keep their windows closed, minimizing the alleged health hazards.

Chow also disagreed with the position of those who believe the program should screen out individuals with criminal backgrounds.

"My personal belief is that people should be given a second chance," Chow said. "Just because they've done something, maybe that's what caused them to be in the situation they're in. We have to have compassion for those less fortunate. That's our belief in our church."

According to data from the Unitarian Universalist Church, it has had six participants in the program between Oct. 19, 2021 and June 3, 2022. Two have gone on to permanent housing. Two others went back to the streets, while the remaining two are still in the program.

Henigin suggested that calls for background checks display a "fundamental misunderstanding of what background checks are."

"They cost money and they take time. They keep people from getting help quickly and they don't actually give you the actual information that you think you're going to get," Henigin said.

Although a number of neighbors filed the appeal of the First Congregational program, others support the initiative. Bill Sundstrom, who lives on Louis Road, is among them.

"I acknowledge that some of my neighbors may have more heightened concerns about some of these issues than I do," Sundstrom said in an interview, recalling that he'd received an anonymous flyer with a list of talking points opposing the program, including allegations that it offers no safety, no security and no accountability.

"I come at it as someone who sees homelessness as a real serious concern that we all ought to take some responsibility for. And I think it's a very small and low-risk thing that the church had the good graces to reach out and do for some folks who are struggling in ways most of us are not."

Altman said the church has followed all the rules and guidelines that the council had established for safe parking programs and, as such, the church should be allowed to proceed. She noted that the program would only operate between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. to minimize encounters between students and program participants. (The city allows programs to operate from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.)

"If they expect faith communities to participate in the program, when the faith community is meeting the rules and expectations of the program, it should be that it's a no-brainer that it's approved," Altman said. "If every time it comes out it becomes a contentious, public, ugly thing, it discourages faith communities from participating in the program. Is that what the council wants?"

Comments

felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:29 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:29 am

Thank you Congregational Church for persisting. Thank you Move MV for reasonable, rational program policies that have proven safe for all over time. And thank you UU Church for sharing your history and positive experience with hosting parkers.

This should reassure reasonable people that this program provides for neighbor safety.

That some persist in pushing their irrational fear that folks with less resources are per se a threat should now be rebuffed.

This is a dangerous mindset and the City must not cater to its prejudice.


birdie
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:34 am
birdie, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:34 am

I think cities and other establishments should not support or encourage people to live in RVs or cars. This is not the answer. Don't fool yourself into thinking it is temporary. It might temporary for a particular individual, but the city will see a flow of individuals in-and-out, making the total number of vehicle inhabitants constant or increasing. What do you imagine in 10 years?


Donya
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:37 am
Donya, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:37 am

I sympathize with the neighbors. There should be some form of screening. Many homeless people do have crime in their background.


Michelledb
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:43 am
Michelledb, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:43 am

I am so sad that neighbors are making such a crazy fuss over 4 cars. My guess is that if you did background checks on your neighbors you would find that many have records. People deserve a second chance and dignity. I wish people were better.


Old teacher
Registered user
Community Center
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:38 am
Old teacher, Community Center
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:38 am

Once again, I'm reminded that we live in Shallow Alto, a place where compassion and generosity are sadly lacking for the 4 cars of homeless people who might park safely overnight at the church parking lot. Come on, neighbors: whether we know it or not, many homeless are parking in neighborhoods anyway. Four spaces are so few, and the hours are restricted. Please soften, Palo Alto, and find some generosity in your hearts.


Tyler Hagen
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:48 am
Tyler Hagen, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:48 am

This is a conflict/dispute between residents concerned about safety and neighborhood appearances VS a humanitarian effort on the part of a church.

Both arguments are valid and the PACC is not exactly the best avenue for settling this debate.

It should be left up to the courts to decide which will involve a financial outlay on the part of both pro/con advocates in the way of lawyer fees.

On the other hand, those who do not reside in the immediate proximity of this issue have nothing to say because it does not directly impact them.

[Portion removed.]


Stephen Harrison
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:18 pm
Stephen Harrison, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:18 pm

I own a home a couple of blocks from the First Congregational Church, and I am entirely in favor of the church’s plans to provide these parking spaces to the homeless. Any doubts I had were dispelled by the description in the article describing the extensive process for qualifying to park in the allotted spaces. I hope those who have voiced their concerns will feel similarly secure and be grateful to First Congregational for spreading empathy in our community.


ndn
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:47 pm
ndn, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:47 pm

What will the "neighbors" think of next? What irrational excuses will they entertain for their cruel thoughts on people who for whatever reason fell in bad times and have to live out of a vehicle? [Portion removed.]
There is no reason for denying those parking spaces a useful purpose at all times. The city should not entertain irrational arguments, insults of unfounded criminality and improbable negative assumptions. 4 Parking Spaces not an extra terrestrial invasion !!!!


Resident11
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:54 pm
Resident11, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:54 pm

I am sympathetic with the nearby residents' concerns about exhaust from vehicles that will idle for long periods of time on hot and cold days. IMO the church should invest in some outdoor air quality sensors so they can monitor the impact and make adjustments to the program as needed. I wouldn't want to host a BBQ or have my kids playing in a backyard adjacent to several idling cars. Plus these vehicles are probably not the newest with the cleanest-burning engines.


Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Aug 18, 2022 at 2:10 pm
Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 2:10 pm

As noted in the article, the Unitarian Universalist Church, of which I am one of the ministers, initially faced objections from our housed neighbors. With wisdom and generosity, they withdrew them after they came to understand the details of the program, and we have had not a single problem since we began welcoming vehicle dwelling neighbors to our parking lot.

Reverend Altman is a leader for justice among the interfaith community. I am continually inspired by her because--although she is too modest to ever say so--her actions seem to be guided always by the question, What would Jesus do? I think we all know what Jesus would do if people in his community had nowhere to go.

I hope that those who are dismayed by vehicle dwelling and homelessness press for the fundamental changes to our economy that we need in order for adequate shelter to be treated as the necessity it is, rather than a luxury out of reach for so many. We want to address the causes of the problem. But in the meantime, we are glad to be able to alleviate some of its symptoms.


DuveneckNeighbor
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 18, 2022 at 3:15 pm
DuveneckNeighbor, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 3:15 pm

As a very nearby neighbor, I hope to see Move MV and the church prevail. The rejection of this program seems like the knee-jerk NIMBYism that prevents cities from solving real problems because too many residents are clinging tightly to preventing any change that they could imagine having any negative outcome no matter how small. While maybe the church could have put more time doing Comms for defending the specifics of their generosity, it seems the bar for altruism the community is willing to accept is far too high.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 18, 2022 at 4:37 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 4:37 pm

[Portion removed.]
[I]ndividuals in vehicles need serious screening and immediate direction to official government intervention, structured government services and other social services, charitable services.
On balance, Public Safety and Public Health must be prioritized over random ad-hoc schemes of unknown transient persons.
[Portion removed.]


Mondoman
Registered user
Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:13 pm
Mondoman, Green Acres
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:13 pm

I'm puzzled by the seemingly silly claim that the law doesn't allow background checks here. From the reporting in this article, it seems that performing a background check for specific classes of past crimes is indeed permitted. I would think most would agree that certain folks, such as sex offenders deemed more likely to re-offend, or drug dealers, would pose a threat to the surrounding community, while others would not. Why not follow this reasonable approach?


Gary Locke
Registered user
another community
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:17 pm
Gary Locke, another community
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:17 pm

To appease the surrounding residents, the church could consider procuring a liabity bond which would cover any and all damages attributable to the parking lot tenants.


birdie
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:53 pm
birdie, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:53 pm

This is not a transient situation. Let the vehicle dwellers in now and we’ll still have them here in 2032.


It.is.what.it.is
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:04 pm
It.is.what.it.is, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:04 pm

I would not want vehicular dwellers next to my house. People who favor this won't have to live right next to them, therefore they support it. We already have the supervised vehicular dweller situation at the Baylands so the city is helping 15-20 cars already. [Portion removed.] The Louis Road side has an area where the cars may park. Why won't the church compromise?

Moreover, there is a law against idling cars:
"The City of Palo Alto passed an anti-idling ordinance requiring drivers to shut off their engines after two or three minutes if they are not in active traffic." Web Link


Frank Morales
Registered user
another community
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:19 am
Frank Morales, another community
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:19 am

The church is conveying a Christian gesture by helping one's fellow man in times of trouble.

The disgruntled neighborhood residents are conveying the opposite and the various posters who reside outside of the church vicinity are merely kibbitzing as it does not directly impact their lives.


Paul Brophy
Registered user
Professorville
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:25 am
Paul Brophy, Professorville
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:25 am

Based on what I've read at the Weekly, I would probably support the church's proposal to allow a limited number of vehicles on their lot under a supervised program. What bothers me is the city staff's efforts to ram this through on the consent calendar, despite knowing that a couple dozen neighbors objected to the proposal.

The purpose of a consent calendar is to administratively process matters that have no controversy associated with them. It's purpose is not to quash discussion on matters that the staff (and maybe council members) would rather not have to deal with. Let the proponents speak out in public and also let the critics and skeptics have their say.


Dolores Campo
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2022 at 9:28 am
Dolores Campo, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 9:28 am

As long as the overnight tenants are not creating public health/safety issues and not disturbing the peace, why are some residents (especially the ones who do not even reside near the church) so adamantly against this proposal?

And some even call themselves Christians.


JH
Registered user
Triple El
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:31 am
JH, Triple El
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:31 am

I'd like to suggest that everyone take the time to read and study the application and the appeal
that have been filed. I think you'll find that the neighbors have reasonable concerns about the
vetting process, health, and safety. The Church also has a thoughtful approach and responses to
these concerns.

The "it's just four parking spaces" argument is a classic example of the logical fallacy of
oversimplification.

Using words like "NIMBY", "irrational", and "disgruntled" are... well... "knee-jerk" reactions,
if you know what I mean. This is the heart of what's wrong with the US today.

This is a more complicated issue than the pervasive "us vs. them" mentality. It seems to me that
a compromise can be reached here.


Gerry Horowitz
Registered user
another community
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:39 am
Gerry Horowitz, another community
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:39 am

Safe for whom?

The residents or the overnight parkers?

This issue should be settled between the church and the adjacent residents, not the PACC or any of the posters who do not even reside in the disputed area.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Aug 19, 2022 at 12:27 pm
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Who's doing the background check for all of the houseless folks all up and down El Camino Real living in their cars, parked next to schools, churches, a college, day care centers and bus stops? If we are going to demand every homeless person submit to a background check, I guarantee that each one of them has an economic problem -- not a mental problem and not a criminal history problem. What's the solution? Letting less than 25 "neighbors" dictate how a church should perform their ministry? All the NIMBY's must never have heard the phrase "There but for the grace of God, go I". Some day they may be homeless too. In fact I wish everyone with privilege could live on the streets for one week, to see how they fare. The solution to me seems to be convert all of the now-almost-vacant office and other withering businesses on California Ave to housing. The residents could all get jobs at the street eateries. Win/win.


Alan Parker
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2022 at 2:04 pm
Alan Parker, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 2:04 pm

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.