Palo Alto set to ban living in vehicles | August 2, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 2, 2013

Palo Alto set to ban living in vehicles

City Council prepares to rule on divisive proposal Monday night

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's emotional two-year debate over whether it should be illegal for people to sleep in vehicles could reach its conclusion Monday night, when the City Council is scheduled to vote on the controversial ban.

The ordinance would abolish Palo Alto's status as one of the few cities in the region that does not have any laws on the books barring vehicle habitation. Monte Sereno is currently the only city in Santa Clara County that does not have such a ban. In San Mateo County, only Colma, East Palo Alto and Portola Valley don't prohibit people from living in their cars.

The proposal follows years of complaints from residents of College Terrace and other neighborhoods about car dwellers parking their vehicles on residential streets for extended periods of time. At the same time, Cubberley Community Center, on the southern edge of the city, has recently become what City Manager James Keene described as a "de facto homeless shelter" at night. The number of complaints involving vehicle dwellers spiked from 10 in 2010 to 39 last year, according to Police Chief Dennis Burns. In early June, a homeless man was arrested in Cubberley for beating another man until the latter lost consciousness.

Some area residents have complained that the situation is becoming increasingly unsafe for their families. Mary Anne Deierlein, a resident of Parkside Drive near Cubberley, said she doesn't feel safe walking with her dog anymore because of "too many weird encounters with people in bushes and behind trees, and a strong urine stench with toilet paper strewn about." On several occasions, she said, she has been yelled at by two people regularly seen at Cubberley.

"We are being impacted," Deierlein wrote to the council in June. "Our daily lives as tax-paying citizens are being modified because of this unsafe situation. This is a significant character change for this site and the surrounding services, shops and residential areas."

At the same time, dozens have come out against the proposed ban, calling it inhumane and insensitive to some of the city's neediest residents. Many have equated it to an attempt to criminalize homelessness. Cybele LoVuolo-Bhushan urged the council in a letter to give the homeless community more time to find an alternative solution.

"It is terrible to ask people to 'just move on' when there is really no place for them to go and no real options for them to sustain their lives," LoVuolo-Bhushan wrote. "Please do not take any action yet to ban people (the poorest of the poor) from sleeping in their cars."

If the council adopts the ban, which has already been endorsed by its Policy and Services Committee, the decision will not have come lightly. Since 2011, officials and community members have explored other options, including the possibility of having churches provide parking for car campers, similar to a program in Eugene, Ore. Despite extensive outreach to the faith community, the proposal fizzled because of lack of interest. Staff has also been working with local nonprofits, most notably the Downtown Streets Team, to refer vehicle dwellers to social-service providers.

With little progress on the proposed alternatives, the council's Policy and Services Committee voted 3-0 on June 25 to endorse the ban. Councilman Larry Klein noted that the city is merely "plugging a hole" with this ordinance and argued that Palo Alto wouldn't be "striking into new territory" by banning vehicle habitation.

If the City Council follows suit, the ordinance would take effect in September — 31 days after a second, formal vote that would take place within 11 days of Monday's meeting. After this period, the city will conduct outreach for 60 days before enforcement begins. Even after this 60-day period, the city would give warnings for 30 additional days. After that, police would begin enforcing the ban primarily on a complaint basis, with citations issued "only as needed," according to a new report from the Planning and Community Environment Department.

The ordinance would not apply to mobile homes or guests of city residents who park adjacent to the resident's dwelling for up to 48 consecutive hours, according to the proposed ordinance.

"Recognizing the sensitivity of the issue, the proposed ordinance will be accompanied by enforcement procedures based on an outreach, social service, and incremental enforcement approach," the report states. "Staff is aware that for many individuals living in vehicles there may be extenuating economic, mental, or physical health issues that are difficult to overcome and that may be best addressed by one or more of the local social service providers."


What can be done to help people who live in their cars, and whose primary responsibility is it? Share your ideas on Town Square, the discussion forum on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

>> Mary Anne Deierlein, a resident of Parkside Drive, said she doesn't feel safe walking with her dog anymore because of "too many weird encounters with people in bushes and behind trees, and a strong urine stench with toilet paper strewn about."

I just do not think it is a good idea to pump up one or two people to provide unsubstantiated anecdotal problems and then change the whole city over something I don't think is much of a problem.

Yes, there are problems, but these are problem that there are existing laws and solutions for.

One thing I really do not like about this, and the already existing law ... as I understand it anyway ... is that a Palo Alto resident cannot even park an RV in front of their house or in their driveway ... even temporarily. This is not a housing development with CC&Rs ... this is a city that people pay a lot of money to live in and are denied the use of their own property and the street in front of it.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 9:47 am

I just heard a news spot about this on TV ... apparently there is supposed to be a demonstration or rally before the City Council Meeting for people to protest against what was called the "Criminalization Of The Homeless" ... can anyone confirm or deny or add more information to this?

Posted by it's about time, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2013 at 9:47 am

I'm relieved to hear that this sensible law will finally be passed. It's about time!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 9:59 am

Arbitrarily applying the word "sensible" to this to make people feel good does not really prove that this law is either "sensible" or necessary.

If you read the articles and comments about this "problem" when they come up here on Palo Alto Online, they are conflating all kinds of things, trying to keep throwing things on the wall in hopes that some of it sticks.

For instance, the homeless. The problem of the homeless is a different issue from the problem of "car camping".

The problem of car camping is overlapped somewhat with the problem that the very people who live here cannot use their own property how they want, and park an RV on their own property, or have friends visit them.

Nothing I have seen makes the case except for a lot of scary talk, unsubstantiated stories and sucking in problems that have nothing to do with "car camping".

Nowhere is there any interviews with police as to what their experiences have been. There is someone who printing ... from an unknown source ... a claim that police calls have gone up ... but I could get on the phone and make calls and have police come out and pop those numbers up to 2 or 3 time what they were.

There is no evidence that this is a problem, no evidence that this law with help the issues being brought up, and the people who are the most adamant who said they had the problem in the past - do not even have it now.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM. Don't we have enough problem with the City's solutions to Palo Alto problems ... parking, building permits, development ... why do we want them making laws here that they probably know just as little about as these other ongoing issues that are getting worse?

Posted by Yes!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:06 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Midtown guy, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:35 am

So two other gilt-edge cities nearby have no ordinance banning car camping--Portola Valley and Monte Sereno. Not bad alternatives!

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:43 am

@Crescent Park -- to say there is no evidence of a problem means you have not been reading the news articles, police blotters, and neighborhood complaints about safety, human waste on streets/in bushes/at Cubberly, and deterioration at Cubberly. In years past, those who slept in their cars appreciated the safety in Palo Alto and were considerate about noise, litter, and sanitary conditions. The population seems to have changed and there are now legitimate concerns that should not be ignored. Greenmeadow and Cubberly have always been safe places to walk -- even in the late evening. It is still true in much of Greenmeadow, but not so much if you are at Cubberly. I'm glad to see the ban passed and appreciate the way it will be implemented. Hopefully we can help those in need of assistance while also insuring safety.

Posted by Sadie, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

This ban is not going to solve the problem, just move it somewhere else.

I think that preventing people from using the Cubberley lot is probably a good idea and also preventing people from camping in streets is also a good idea.

However, the real problem is that there is no regional, state or even national method of helping homeless people.

I am not sure what the answer is, but by just banning them it is just pretending the problem doesn't exist.

Whether these people are homeless from circumstances or choice, whether it is mental health or laziness, these are still people and all human life is worth helping. Charities can only do so much, it has to be looked at from the top.

Mental health issues are not going away and expecting people with these issues to fend for themselves is not working as they don't or won't.

We do need to have some comprehensive plan as a society to deal with these individuals. Government handouts to subsidize low income people is only encouraging them to expect more handouts. Charities are to some extent enabling the homeless. Throwing money at individual or organized programs help some, but not all.

It is about time to rediscover institutionalized mental health programs to help those either unwilling or unable to made sensible decisions for themselves. Their families are unable to force them to look out for them either. All possible creative ideas must be looked into.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:13 am

> neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood

On the contrary, I have read very carefully, probably more than you, since you seem to jump right to the conclusion you are meant to when there it little indication or proof that the claims about car campers are true.

The fact is the homeless are not all car campers. Items found on the street or in front of people's houses have not been shown to be caused by car campers. Anyone who cannot find a bathroom is going to go in the great outdoors, again not necessarily a car camper.

Over and over I have read about the crimes, and the claims of those who proposed this car camping ban and they do not match up to the the size of a problem where the city has to change anything it is doing now. I don't hear a single police officer talking about what kind of problem he sees from the car campers, and what the overlap is between car camping and homeless. I don't see the city doing any studies ... they like to study everything, just reacting to a few complainers who admit they already solved their problem without this law.

It's kind of funny how the same kind of people who claim government cannot do anything right want to push through this law to solve a problem that is unproven to even exist on the scale claimed. The irony.

Plus the idea that the city should regulate what we can park in our driveways or who can visit us in what kind of vehicle is government intrusion ... demanded by the very people who go ballistic when they talk about government in other circumstances. This law is about as consistent as their behavior.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

There won't be any large scale (state) solution to homelessness, until it is criminalized. Giuliani demonstrated what can be done, in NYC, when the homeless are arrested and put into shelters, against their will.

However, the issue before us is car camping on our streets and public lots. Once this ban is passed, despite all the political theatre demonstrating against the ban, I will then personally notify the police about the one or two that are still left in College Terrace. I will stay with my complaints, until there are zero car campers in CT. I encourage any other residential neighborhoods to complain every time they see a car camper. It is long past time that this gets dealt with.

After the car campers are gone, then we can start with criminalizing (thus helping) the homeless street sleepers (those outside of cars).

This should be a unanimous vote by the city council, in favor of the ban.

Posted by Susie, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:44 am

I've never had any problem with car dwellers in my neighborhood. Always plenty of parking and no troubles with the people.

I would never call the police on them, as they're doing no harm.

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:50 am

Susie - I think that is one of the points of this ordinance, the police will only come if called so if people are "doing no harm" there won't be a problem. It does allow the police a way to get those who are causing trouble to move and hopefully to accept some help on the road to being housed.

CrescentParkAnon - contrary to your comments, "The ordinance would not apply to mobile homes or guests of city residents who park adjacent to the resident's dwelling for up to 48 consecutive hours, according to the proposed ordinance."

Posted by Illogical, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:59 am


Yes, arresting and criminalizing poverty is precisely what is needed! </sarcasm>

Giving out tickets and criminalizing cardwelling and homelessness is not going to make anything better. Odds are, if you can't afford a place to live, you can't pay the fine, and you're unemployed. Handing out criminal penalties, which will then have to be declared on job applications, is simply going to make it harder for the unemployed to find employment--especially those that already have other matters (illness or disability; dependents that need care; etc.) which make finding an income difficult.

We aren't holding city-wide parties in the Cubberley parking lot at night. I don't see why the city can't keep the bathrooms open--doublessly people would prefer to use that to the bushes. Palo Alto just wants to look squeaky clean by evicting the people who could use some genuine help--and criminalizing that isn't the issue. Transform Cubberley into a place that can provide job hunting support and the like--that would be helpful.

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Sadie - Palo Alto already has a "a place that can provide job hunting support and the like" - The Opportunity Center.

The point of this ordinance isn't to criminalize homelessness, it is to give the police a legal standpoint to require disruptive car dwellers to move. And to give them some help becoming housed again.

Posted by Greenmeadow Resident, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Just this month at Cubberley, a man was beaten until he was unconscious. This week a Cubberley "camper" took at swing at a police officer who approached him because he was publicly intoxicated (against the law). The incidence of these events has increased significantly as the homeless population at Cubberley has mushroomed in the last three years. More than half of citywide police service calls related to vehicle dwellers in 2012 were at Cubberley. The police need some tools to deal with this growing problem.

While some homeless people are just good folks who have had some very bad luck, many are psychologically unstable and substance addicted. Real public health and safety problems come with that. This isn't about criminalizing the homeless. If you read the staff report, the ordinance prioritizes connecting people appropriately to services to help them. The police (front line public safety staff) need a tool to help them to make that connection. That said, some of the homeless ARE wanted criminals. A car is a good place to hide if you don't want to be tracked. Police should connect those people with the justice system.

The vast majority of other cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara enacted bans and pushed their problem here, creating an acute situation in Palo Alto, and especially at Cubberley, that we no longer have adequate resources to address. Palo Alto cannot, by itself, solve a REGIONAL problem. Please ask the cities around us to engage in identifying and funding a REGIONAL solution instead of dumping their problem on us.

A Cubberley "camper" said this week that a Mountain View police officer directed him to Cubberley, telling him it was a "safe place" to be. Hmmmmm.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm

CPA - you keep denying other people's reality. Which is fine, but you obviously are not living in their homes, their neighborhoods or encountering the issues as discussed at Cubberly. So how do you really know what is going on? Asking the random police officer is hardly scientific nor is it going to yield any info since there is no ordinance on the books to measure against.

Have an opinion. But I find that your thoughts (on this topic only) tend to imply that all of those who experience otherwise are either not telling the truth or are embellishing the truth. And you seem to be the only person who consistently doubts the problems documented by our neighbors. Hence the caustic reactions to your posts.

Lets put it this way - if a CT resident posted "I haven't experienced any overnight parking problems by the Newell Bridge. I don't think the Crescent Park people really have a problem. I don't think thenproblem is asmserious as they claim. There are no studies and i haven't overheard any police talking about it. There should be no such ban...and the bridge should be expanded to make it safer for everyone." How does that sit with you?

Posted by Solver, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:25 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Allen Edwards, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm

@ CrescentParkAnon

I have a 35 foot motorhome that I use for camping. There is a city ordinance that says that I cannot park it on the street at night. This is not enforced except if someone complains. We have had tickets I think 3 times in over 20 years. The tickets are warnings and don't have a fine. Funny story: We once had a neighbor who liked to complain about our motorhome. The police came by one day as we were unpacking from a trip. The neighbor had called in and complained that it had been there for days and was abandoned. The police saw that we were unpacking from a trip and had obviously gotten back that day. They put a note in the station to not listen to that particular neighbor. The point is, the city is understanding and uses their laws to do the right thing, not to harass its residents.

This proposed law has a 48 hour exception for residents who have visitors in RVs. That seems like a short time except that I assume would be 48 hours after someone complains. I often had visitors in an RV when our kids were young but like fish that stink after 3 days, our visitors only stayed for 3 days. I would assume that the new ordinance would not have been a problem. But it would be my preference to see that be 72 hours.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm

My in laws used to park their small RV in front of our house for 3-4 days...about 2x/year...never a complaint or police visit.

Posted by 2 bad, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by edward, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Allen Edwards
>> There is a city ordinance that says that I cannot park it on the street at night. This is not enforced except if someone complains.

That's kind of my point, we have a system that works now, and most of that leaves action the hands of citizens and the police - that is there is a lot of flexibility. Why do we need this law to do what already can be done within the existing legal and city framework?

People want to gang up and make a big thing with scary stories about excrement everywhere (that may not even be from people, and there is certainly more dog poop), bad smells, scary people, and there virtually is very little of that in Palo Alto, and even less that is actually documented and tied to "car camping" here. Sure there probably is some but does it need its own law and will that law do anything other than generate more court costs, more police costs? I seriously doubt it.

The group that wants this and is yelling so loud is like the like the neighbor Allen Edwards cites in his post who is just a "lying" busybody out to bully other people ... and the city should take the same tactic ... ignore this group.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The city council will enact a long overdue ordinance that is based on common sense and logic. Let me join the often overwhelming silent majority in applauding this move!

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm

For people visiting relatives and staying in RV's, it's easy to obtain a variance permit for extended street parking. Nominal fee. Should not be a problem.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm

> CPA - you keep denying other people's reality.

Please Crescent Park Dad ... I am not denying other people's reality, I am questioning the effectiveness of this law as the solution.

I live in Palo Alto, I know homeless people can be an unsightly pain in the neck. I do not deny some of the claims here may be true, just the intensity and frequency as well as the need for a law about this.

There is no connection to most of the complaints and stories to car camping.

If there are issues with certain people camping the street, why hasn't anyone bothered to interview some police officers who have been at the scene of some of these situations so they can enlighten us as to what is going on in their opinions.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm

>> And you seem to be the only person who consistently doubts the problems documented by our neighbors. Hence the caustic reactions to your posts.

Anyone who is not in groupthink always gets reactions like this, and the reactions are especially caustic the more right the individual is.

Certainly some of these stories are exaggerated.

CPD ... how about you. Have you have anyone car camping on your block. Forget stories you were told about, what specific problems have you had in this regard. Most of the people I know have not had any. That does not mean they do not exist in some places. I am sure they do, but is this a city wide problem that has no recourse and needs its own law? Probably not.

The current issue about parking in Crescent Park over by the Newell Bridge is one big one. I believe the permanent solution to that is to demolish the bridge or to disable it with a chain link fence, but they want to put an irritating parking permit system as the solution to the whole area.

I know I'm challenging people to think for themselves rather than just go along with the group and it hurts, but it's just a little bit.

Posted by BillB, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I suppose this new ordinance will pass on Monday night, but it is a sad mark on our current council members. I worry about ordinance creep. Today we outlaw people sleeping in cars overnight in our neighborhoods. Tomorrow the ordinance gets amended to include people who have loud parties in their backyards, then people who have too much "trash" that shows, etc. Seems to me that we have laws and ordinances on the books that take care of most of the problems that have been mentioned without needing yet another ordinance. Fighting at Cubberly and public urination are already covered and the police can take action. I would feel much better if the City made some efforts to accommodate car dwellers.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2013 at 3:08 pm

We've been round and round this problem for a long time. Ban car camping and remove the homeless/vagrants from Cubberley. Reasonable use of public space for all, including children, is appropriate with reasonable expectation of safety, cleanliness and access. "hanging out" overnight with periodic criminal acts, public health threats such as public urination/defecation, and pandhandling are not reasonably to be expected in front of residential homes or our central community center. Yes, homeless folks deserve attention and offers of support, which they are given. When they choose to avoid those, then IF their behavior is a problem in the manner described above, enough is enough and they should be cited/removed and have possible further action. I thought we were lectured the Opportunity Center would solve all problems, that's why it was needed here.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm

The closest car campers to our neighborhood were in the art center / library parking lots before the remodel. They have had to move due to the construction. By description, those vehicles are now camping at Cubberly.

The other areas where I've seen camping in neighborhoods close to CP are the ones where I ride my bike on the way over to Stanford. Professorville along Kingsley and sometimes Lincoln. Sometimes on Homer by Heritage Park. There are always campers on Alma by North Face. Now and then you'll find them in the athletics parking lot at Stanford...they try to sneak into the athletics locker rooms during morning water polo and/or swim practice. Not a lot fun when those confrontations come up.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 3:32 pm

BTW - I'm not against the Newell Bridge issues...just trying to make a point that every neighborhood has its issues and my POV is to support our neighbors when it comes to quality of life problems. I believe you about the bridge parking problems. And I also believe the folks who have issues with car campers.

Posted by Poor Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm

How come there are four and sometimes five large champers parked at Cubberley with whirring generators and multiple antennas on top? Sorry but I don't buy it that these people are poor. It's time the City of Palo Alto charged them a fee for the space they take up on valuable Silicon Valley land at Cubberley.

Posted by Trainspotting, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Crescent Park Anon - when was the last time you walked through Cubberley? I can count at least 4 RV campers plus many other vehicles, e.g. SUV's, compact cars, etc. on any given day (M-Su).

Here's a recent article (Jun 21) about the homeless problem in the area. Web Link

I welcome this vote because it's long overdue. Cubberley has become a haven for the homeless and car campers. What bothers me the most is there are many health hazards around the parked cars, i.e. the infamous yellow van with overflowing trash next to the passenger door against the fence.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm

"Trainspotting", I don't go to Cubberly, though I drive by and go to the market adjacent. I semi-yearly drop off old books at the book recycle center down at the end of the drive.

I have never noticed anything, but I'm not claiming there is not. In the case of Cubberly, why not solve that problem separately from the rest of the city. Most of the complaints specific to Cubberly are being used as an excuse for the rest of the city.

Maybe you did not read your own link but there are several comments by me on this SINGLE ISSUE. Yes, there was one assault at Cubberly. There was also ONE person who claimed they found human "leavings" once in a field there, though their complaint was worded like it was the worst experience of their life. You seems to be proving my point that this is not the chronic and frequent problem that is being claimed.
CPD, just to be clear, I am not affected by those who park off Newell by the bridge myself, but I do see a chronic and real problem there that needs to be addressed as it is only getting worse. I don't think this supposed car camping issue is anything like that. Mostly the car camping thing seems to be centered around Cubberly, and one persons past problems in College Terrace. I am not against acknowledging and solving people's problems at all ... I am not convinced from the information put forth that this situation is about that.

The RVs camping on Alma near North Face have been there a while. I don't know why, but they do not bother me and don't seem to be bothering anyone else. I could be wrong, but I think the police and concerned local residents could handle that if they choose without a city-wide law.

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 1, 2013 at 5:15 pm

CrescentParkAnon - the car dwelling problem exists for more than "one person" in College Terrace and Cubberly. There are problems in Professorville, College Terrace, near California Ave, near Heritage Park, on El Camino etc. The police can not "handle this if they choose" because they can not ask a person to move their vehicle under current law.

Posted by Not aN issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm

This is another poorly written headline by ace reporter gennady. The initial sentence states that this issue MAY reach a conclusion on Monday. Yet the headline makes it sound like its a done deal. What gives? Is gennady privy to information about what the council will decide? Has the coun cil told him how they will vote? We all know about the relationship between the weekly and the council members.
Fortunately gennady will remain with the weekly for years to come!!!!

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2013 at 6:15 pm

> makes it sound like its a done deal.

It had better be a done deal, otherwise there will a big eruption. This ban should have been done decades ago. No more excuses!

PA residential neighborhoods need to take back their turf.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm

[Portion removed.]
It actually better not be a done deal -- that would suggest a potential violation of the brown act . even if the council decides on a ban, we need to bring it to a vote -- neighborhood by neighborhood.

Posted by Dean, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a former Midtown resident.

As a Cubberley graduate, I suppose I never thought the campus would be used the way you describe (in the 60s kids "necking" out by the baseball diamond, was the most the neighboring residents had to complain about).

Yes, times have changed.

Given the sheer number of the homeless and those living in cars, I suppose the best hope would be some sort of civil accomodation.

Is there nowhere (out close to the Bayshore Freeway?) where some blank land is available for a homeless shelter (for those who prefer to come inside at night)that permits a reasonable amount of on-street overnight parking adjacent to the site?

Living in a large Southwesten city that has a well planned "Shelter Services" campus owned by several non-profits that offers mid-day meals every day (no hungry folks here), medical services, job referrals, and is far enough from downtown and neighborhoods so as not to offend many folks (it's in a low grade commercial/industrial area), I know it's possible if the citizenry has the desire.

I suppose the difference is the city where I live is more heterogenous in terms of racial composition and incomet relatively than Palo Alto and has a history of accomodation of the homeless.

That does not sound like a description of Palo Alto today. Maybe if less accomodation of developers by City Council and the Planning Board occured, then Palo Alto could be a model for progressive thought and action in matters such as these....

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Midtown Dean,

You state that our Palo Alto could be a model for progressive thought and action in matters such as these. I would argue that Palo Alto is already a model in matters such as these, and in fact, does more in terms of homeless outreach than any other city in our region if not the greater bay area. Palo Altans have nothing to feel guilty about in this regard, nor should we question whether or not we're doing enough.

Palo Alto plays host to and publicly supports numerous homeless outreach programs. We are home to the Opportunity Center, one of the largest homeless outreach facilities of its kind in the bay area. Palo Alto tax payers support the OP through an annual tax expenditure in the six-figure range. Prior to that, the Urban Ministry operated a similar but scaled down version of this program near the downtown train station for nearly gour decades.

Additionally, Palo Alto also provides homeless services and programs that assist the less fortunate in the form of the Downtown Food Closet, Hotel DeZink Temporary Shelter, Downtown Streets Program, Another Way Fund, and other programs and services. We provide this in an environment which has been both generous and tolerant. Again, no other city or community in our region even comes close to Palo Alto's track record when it comes to dealing with this difficult issue.

Palo Alto has every right to preserve some quality of life expectations that this local ordinance would provide. Our generosity and tolerance cannot be taken advantage of, nor should we be made to feel guilty about doing enough. We do more than most cities do already, which is precisely why we need to pass this law.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2013 at 10:11 pm

And to our esteemed city council, please do not allow yourselves to be shouted down by yet another vocal minority. Let logic and common sense prevail, and remember the multitude of contributions that we Palo Altans make in this arena already.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Phil, you "try" to make some interesting points.

You said Palo Alto has nothing to be ashamed about in how it handles the homeless, and yet you apparently want to change that ... how - to where we do have something be ashamed about ... I'm confused. Is being proud or someone else's achievements helping the homeless in the past good enough? If we are doing OK then why the propaganda push to change things ... AND are we talking the homeless or people who live in their cars?

Is there a distinction between homeless people and people who live in their cars. Since this is about car camping, what is the connection to the homeless?

Can you explain what is going to change with this ordinance, and what is going to be different about our quality of life? Sounds great, how about some real specifics? How does it work. What can I do to come down on a homeless person invading my neighborhood? How fast can I get them out of there and where are they going to go?

Mostly though, when you say "WE" ... Palo Alto ... does more for the homeless than anyone else ... who are you talking about?

So, is anyone from the "WE" who do so much for the homeless in Palo Alto commenting on this ordinance? I might even change my mind and be for this if there were not so many unknowns and vague claims.

Are you one of those that is working for the homeless? If so, how is this ordinance going to help the homeless and help Palo Altans significantly enough to justify passing a local law and devoting the resources to enforce it better that what we already have?

I ask questions and all I seem to get in reply is insults on the one hand and hand-waving on the other. It reminds me of what happened before the Iraq War or the Financial Bailout, a bunch of fast talkers coming in and saying we need to do this or we will face disaster.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Dean, your comments and suggestions sound interesting ... can you tell us what city you are talking about and maybe some more about this program or a link to some info? I have mentioned the Bay Lands before in this regard. If the city is not going to do anything to make it more habitable to the residents maybe making a place for the homeless is a reasonable alternative.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2013 at 12:10 am

It's nice to see the City Council do something right. I just hope enforcement works out better than the leaf blower ban. Even if this passes, my prediction is that 6 months from now, Cubberly campers will still be there.

Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2013 at 5:56 am

This ban is a waste of time because it will not be enforced, just like the leaf blower ban isn't enforced. 99 percent of the gardeners keep using gasoline powered leaf blowers with impunity, and 99 percent of present car dwellers will continue to live in their cars.

Posted by alex, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2013 at 7:06 am

I propose taxing those with houses worth more than 3 million dollars and an income of more than 1 million a year. That tax should be in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $100,000 per year. It could be in the form of a property tax or some other kind of tax.

The income gap has gotten far too wide between the rich and the middle class. It is untenable at this point. As I've stated before, you rich should be lobbying lawmakers to raise your taxes because it would be to your advantage in the long run.

You should already be embarrassed driving obscenely expensive cars around town. In general, you should feel bad about taking advantage of an inequitable tax system. If I were in your position I would be deeply embarrassed.

In conclusion, it would behoove the rich to facilitate changes in our local, state, and federal tax structure. This, in the long run, cannot end well for them.

Posted by anon333, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2013 at 7:21 am

Imagine the police knocking on your door at 4am, not only telling you to get out but detaining you long enough to write you a ticket and do a computer check on you.

What comes to mind is the phrase 'equal protection of law'.

Posted by Dean, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2013 at 7:35 am

Crescent Park Anon.

The city is Phoenix and the project is "Huuman Services Campus" (

This is the largest project of its kind in the US and the thing I'm most proud of as a Phoenician.

As you can see on the link, five non-profits run it, not the city or county.

It truly gives dignity to the least of our brothers and sisters. I'd recommend the city council and mayor and planning board make a visit to see how a model like this operates.

Steve Zabilski is the Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul ("serving meals every day 365 days a years since 1953")and a personal friend.

Posted by steve, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2013 at 8:07 am

To crescentpark anon. Shut up already. Take a stroll thru Cubberley some night and get a clue. Obviously you are not knowledgeable on this subject so shut your mouth finally.

Posted by Alice Smith, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 2, 2013 at 10:48 am

Two California cities who have offered a sensible solution : Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo: they are university towns and their city council has worked with homeless advocates to allocate parking lots at night to homeless vehicles: one is for women with children, I believe another just for women, one for couples and families and one for men only.

This is organized with rules and limits. I understand from the PA Staff reports that this has been substantially successful and has resolved the problems the woman at Parkside has opined about.

This is humane: criminalizing being homeless in this rich, affluent town is insidious.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2013 at 11:01 am

>criminalizing being homeless in this rich, affluent town is insidious.

Homelessness MUST be criminalized, if there is to be any hope for a solution. It is insidious to use the liberal guilt trip, which only acts to perpetuate the problem.

Posted by steve, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2013 at 11:46 am

Thank you Craig!

The homeless flock to our town now that we have the homeless housing. Every time I go to Town and Country I see all the homeless bums from the shelter buying alcohol at CVS! Unbelievable. This town has really changed now that we cater to the homeless.

Posted by Midtown resident, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2013 at 11:58 am

Excepting the mentally ill and handicapped ( who should be in shelters),
aren't many car campers drawn to Palo Alto for its ease of having acceptable excuses not to work, because they are freeloaders who think the world owes them a free ride?
You CAN live well "on the street" with minimum resources if you are a free spiritdune use your time taking advantage of others' giving, , writing to the editor as if you were a human rights advocate, cloaking yourself as a protector of the defenseless, while doing nothing to earn a living. Many people today make a lifestyle of sponging off undiscriminating bleeding hearts. If you ask a freeloading homeless able bodied vocal critic of the homeless ordinance to use his talents to support himself, as, for example, guest workers seem able to do with no problem, his objection will be that he is too good for that, or he will invoke "free will," or the oppression of the 1 %", or human rights, but not personal responsibility. We need the ordinance to protect us from the cheaters and direct the needy into appropriate social services that measure outcomes and produce change.

Posted by Alice Smith, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Clearly the last commenters did not attend the Policy and Services Committee where some of the vehicular homeless were described: the Google employee whose dental work was so expensive that she became homeless and uses her car as her home, the YMCA as her night showering and exercise place and Cubberley as a safe place to park, or the family who lived in PA until their home was taken back by the bank when he lost his high-powered job, so the family continues to remain in the PAUSD school district whilst he looks for a job and live in their home; or the homeless who are veterans who have lost limbs for our country (NOT BUMS: how dare you be so narrow-minded) and are at the VA facilities but whose housing vouchers are not accepted by the landlords of housing in PA. If this is 'liberal' thinking, then that shows good sense and breeding on my part, to support those who haven't been lucky enough to work and retire with some assets.

I am ashamed of the vituperative tone of those who stigmatize people because of their situations. What happened to empathy and helpfulness.

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Alice Smith - the City tried to get churches to offer their parking lots at night for the use of car dwellers, I believe only one church was willing. Most of our churches are in residential neighborhoods and the neighbors did not want them.

Palo Alto has been allowing a similar program to the ones you describe in Santa Barbara and SLO at Cubberly. This has resulted in trash, fights and the residents that frequent Cubberly being afraid to go there.

One of the intents of this law is to get people to the right services that can assist them.

Midtown resident - I actually don't think that most "car dwellers" are here because it is an acceptable reason for them not to work. I think they are here because we allow them to be. Many of them work or are looking for work.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm

If the liberal guilt trippers want to do something helpful, consistent with their beliefs, they can open up their own homes and take in a homeless person or two. Care to lead the charge, Alice?

Posted by Tom Goodwin, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Mr. Laughton,

You don't own the public streets. The streets belong to everybody. If you don't want to be around poor people then I suggest you go buy 10 acres in los altos hills and plop your house down in the middle of it. If you cannot afford that then you don't make enough money to avoid rubbing elbows with the poor, ethnic minorities.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm

>The streets belong to everybody

Not exactly, Mr. Goodwin. The streets can be regulated to prevent long-term parking, without permits, and car camping. No need for me to move up the hill...I prefer to regulate our streets to maximize residential life styles and property values in Palo Alto.

Posted by Tom Goodwin, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm

That is correct, the people's representatives have the right to regulate the use of streets. There is just one significant problem with your position and the proposed ordinance, it doesn't prevent you from habitating your car; from eating in your car; from resting in your car as often and as long as you like. The ordinance only prohibits homeless people from doing the very same things you are doing. That is called discrimination and is a violation of the Constitution.

Web Link

Web Link

You and the city would have a better argument if you said, "it shall be illegal for Anyone to sleep in their vehicle between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, but that is not what the ordinance states.

Web Link

Posted by Karma is a b...., a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm

"Homelessness MUST be criminalized,"
In all cases. What if a homeless person living in Menlo PArk comes into Palo Alto--is he a criminal? Ridiculous, but expected, statement from Craig

"hey can open up their own homes and take in a homeless person or two."
I was wondering when Craig would repeat this line.

Actually if you read the proposed ordinance it states, it states that car camping is okay for 48 hours when parked adjacent to a resident's dwelling. So people do not need to open up their homes, they can just okay them parking near them.
Would be funny if Craig's neighbors in CT invited car campers to park adjacent to their homes!!!

Todays Daily Post has an Op-ed against this ordinance by ARam James. He states that the leader of this push is Liz Kniss and he states that her push is "on steroids". Very funny and very apt--Liz always hitches her wagon to a topic that will get her maximum press and exposure, while appearing to be caring and listening to her constituents.
Of course some of us remember her behavior during the original eruv debate--she was gung ho about it, until a small, vocal minority complained. Then she switched sides.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm

>That is called discrimination and is a violation of the Constitution.

Not really. Residential parking permits, for example, have been allowed for decades, despite many court challenges. Our surrounding cities have prohibited car camping, directly or indirectly. ...have they been found to be in violation of the Constitution?

Try a new angle, if you wish, Mr. Goodwin. Your current one doesn't tread water.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm

No, the Palo Alto Baylands are unsuitable as a residence for the homeless/vagrants.
We are talking about restored parkland near San Francisco Bay, an effort of restoration of wetlands that has been underway for decades, according to documentaries I have seen on tv (I haven't been here that length of time myself). All around SF Bay it USED to be a dump, the too-salty salt ponds, and a herculean effort - from Save the Bay and other nonprofits and government efforts has resulted in massive improvement to the health of the bay and surroundings and wildlife.
Let's not wreck it again. I remember a few years ago there was a homeless guy "camping out" in the Baylands (EPA property, but right next to PA Baylands) and he got a fire going (by accident, I think).
It is just not the correct spot for human habitation for a host of reasons.
I posted earlier about how we were lectured installing the Opportunity Center in Palo Alto would solve all such homeless problems, and there hasn't been a strong answer. It does seem like PA, a midsized city, is taking on individuals with problems from other areas as word gets around. I do read about criminal, dangerous acts emanating from that center, and that people are attracted to Palo Alto from out of area for services. Yes, there are some who are in genuine need and honest people. I support offering services to people, but urban centers such as San Francisco are more amenable to helping people function, afford the area, get low-skilled jobs, have easy access to major charitable outreach like Glide.
Still, many appear to want to do as they please, in all respects, but as individuals they cannot take precedence over societal needs for general public welfare/public health and safety on our streets, in front of our residences, at our community centers, for the sake of our children, elderly, all in fact who have the right to reasonable use of facilities without threats.
The individual "needs" and desires of the varied set of homeless/vagrant folks -- and the situations do vary -- can sometimes be met by government or charitable assistance. Permitting casual habitation (whether under freeway bridges in San Jose or at Cubberly Community Center) do not constitute the correct way to deal with these needs and desires.
I understand PA police do offer resources and assistance and suggestions to people who claim to be in need: shelter/housing, food, welfare, job search, counseling.
Yet, if such offers of assistance are flouted, what right do such folks then have to create public safety and health threats through alcohol/substance abuse leading to behavioral or criminal acts/threats; preventing the public's use of public community facilities or the space in one's front yard without threat of panhandling, abusive behavior (from the aggressive mentally ill or physically filthy individuals). Trash and physical illness constitute a threat along with public drinking and fighting and urination/defecation.

Posted by Tom Goodwin, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Actually Yes:

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Norman Carroll, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2013 at 2:47 pm

There are a number of laws and ordinances on the books which address the behavior problems, but few people want to go through the time and trouble to sign the form necessary to make a citizens' arrest. It could mean having to show up in court as a/the witness.

There is nothing in the ordinance banning the real issue - parking "eye-sores" in certain neighborhoods. All it will do is force people to sleep elsewhere, regardless of the location of their RV/car.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

The behavior and "biology" laws are useless because the police has to see it happening.

Car camping bans are not unconstitutional....even the 3 most liberal cities in America (San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Cruz) have car camping bans.

I laugh at the "Palo Alto is becoming so evil and uncaring" comments when just about every city in the region already bans car camping on city streets.

I'm all for creating a city-run overnight camp lot...I'm on record for giving several suggestions on how to do it. But it is time to take back our residential neighborhoods. We have waited far too long and all of the "good doers" have done nothing in the last 2 years.

Time is up. Time to get it done.

Posted by Shopper, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I don't know if this was some kind of a protest, but someone littered what seemed like the entire contents of their life in the Midtown parking lot, behind CVS yesterday. It was a huge mess of food containers, clothes, suitcases and looked like it posed a health hazard. Who's suppose to clean that up?

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Exactly Crescent Park Dad. The time is up. Time to get it done. And once again to our city council, do not allow yourselves to be shouted down by a vocal minority playing the guilt card. Palo Alto already far exceeds what every other city in our region contributes to homeless outreach efforts. The same cities that already ban overnight car camping. I'm sure they are very happy with Palo Alto carrying the majority of the burden. Enough is enough.

Posted by Tom Goodwin, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm

[Portion removed.] The Constitution was created to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

“Injustice fights with two weapons, force and fraud.. A common form of injustice is chicanery, that is, an over-subtle, in fact a fraudulent construction of the law.” Cicero - On Moral Duties

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." John Adams.

I don't believe in quotas. America was founded on a philosophy of individual rights, not group rights.
Clarence Thomas

The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.
Ayn Rand

law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
Thomas Jefferson

"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men;
John Adams

[Portion removed.] Rhode Island, Connecticut and even Oregon have passed Homeless Bill of Rights supported by Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.

You may win this battle, but you will not win the war for a California Homeless Bill of Rights will be enacted within a year.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Wrong. Ammiano had no support in the CA legislature and withdrew his proposal. There is no bill in the works at all.

Posted by JAM, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2013 at 8:01 pm

I vote YES, and not soon enough. The city ignored the repeated requests from College Terrace residence for decades to do something, and of course, nothing was done. Now the problem has moved into other neighborhoods, more people are affected, and want action. Once Palo Alto laws conform with it's neighbors, maybe then, Palo Alto won't be alone in trying to do something positive about homelessness. In the mean time, Palo Alto is the default homeless destination, and I'm sure neighboring towns are quite happy to keep it that way.

Posted by Tom Goodwin, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

Earlier this month, the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee approved the legislation, AB 5. But last Friday, the Appropriations Committee put the bill on hold until January 2014.

Web Link

Ammiano's Bill needs some adjustments because he asked for too much. But with adjustments in hand the Homeless will be parking on the streets just like you by next July.

I feel sorry for the irrational fear [portion removed] you are instilling in your children and the inability to differentiate between behavior and status.

Based upon your logic we should be eliminating all teachers, coaches and clergy because of the actions of some.
Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

P.S. If you look at the details of the laws you will find that it is not illegal to camp in a car in Berkeley or even San Jose or even in the commercial areas of Mountain View.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Tom, the solution is to provide a city controlled/monitored facility for campers. I am on record for stating this many, many times.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Margaret Fruth, a resident of Ventura
on Aug 2, 2013 at 10:12 pm

How do we define ourselves as citizens of Palo Alto? How does the Palo Alto Process affect the poorest of our residents?

The proposed ban on car sleeping may increase segregation in mostly white Palo Alto. Because many disabled residents live in cars, evicting them may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, at least in spirit.

Is this who we are?

Is this how we treat the weak?

Please ban this ban!

Posted by Tom Goodwin, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2013 at 11:16 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by A mom, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Right on, Tom. As a former car camper, I really appreciate your quotes. As a younger single woman, I lived out if my car while working to save money to get my own apartment.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

Dear Margaret Fruth,

You ask how do we define ourselves as citizens of Palo Alto in this matter, and who we really are? I argue that we citizens of Palo Alto have exemplified how a caring, generous, and tolerant community should respond to this issue. Palo Alto has already set a high standard that other communities should follow, who I am sure are quite content with us carrying the burden. These other cities already have vehicle dwelling bans on public property, and provide a tenth of what Palo Alto offers in homeless services. How convenient for them huh?

For decades, Palo Alto has carried the burden in our entire region in terms of homeless outreach and providing services for those less fortunate. We offer far more services, and have more of these programs located within Palo Alto than the vast majority of cities in the entire Bay Area. Palo Alto tax payers allocate a six-figure annual expenditure to help fund many of these programs. Also keep in mind, and this is key, that the majority of those seeking these services have little or no past ties or community roots in Palo Alto to begin with.

So to answer your questions, that is how Palo Alto has defined itself. That is who we are and who we have been for many, many years. That is how we treat the weak. We are highly generous and tolerant. That generosity and tolerance is being taken advantage of. The critics play to these instincts by consistently dropping the guilt card, and fail to recognize the overwhelming contributions that we make already. This ordinance doesn't take away any of the services that we provide. It simply instills some common sense limits.

Posted by "Neighbors Helping Neighbors", a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2013 at 8:41 am

Dear Neighbors,
Most of our current 'homeless' both 'vehicle dwellers & other unhoused folks were Palo Alto residents living in homes or apartments in Palo Alto. Plus, many have jobs but unable to afford rents anywhere in Santa Clara county.  A portion are people who work here and compute from long distances which makes going home nightly impossible. NHN serves Palo Alto residents, too many on our groceries rooster are becoming homeless. Many of tthese folks are your upper & middle income neighbors.
      Please consider that there are good 'alternative measures' rather than a droconian ordiance which will make the circomstances of your neighbors who are failing horrifyingly worse. WE HAVE SEVERELY INADEQUTE 'SAFETY NET SERVICES'. The gaps and cracks in social services will not happen over night nor will there suddenly be adequte services in 6 mos.

Currently, there is no gap in emergency, temporary or permenant housing that these homeless folks can receive for free or afford because THERE IS NO HOUSING AVAILABLE.
It is false to believe that right now there are 'shelter beds' for street homeless or car campers. NHN peer counsels many homeless. And there has been NO available beds in quite sometime (except isolated incidents).
There is NO 'motel voucher' program in Santa Clara county. Previsionally, some faith groups have given money for motel stays but it is so little to match the true need for folks in dire circumstances.
Of the 500+ residents in need, housed & unhoused, which NHN provides peer counseling not one of them (even though they quailify) has been approved for public housing unit(s) in Palo Alto. Many of these folks (singles, seniors, couples and families) has submited public housing applications repeatedly (2004-2013).

       If you or anyone you know (Palo Alto resident) who has difficult circumstances pls contact us.
                                      What We Do:
We are a group of volunteers striving to provide groceries to Palo Alto families, seniors and singles who are unable to qualify for 'safety net' programs like Cal Fresh (formally food stamps) or food closet assistance. However, extra food items collected are given to local food closets. Also, our City of Palo Alto Family Resources trained volunteer provides peer counseling and referrals for other life's challenges (housing, healthcare, professional counseling, legal issues, etc.) for those who may need extra help.

Palo Alto Online Palo Alto Weekly: Catching neighbors who fall through the gap (January 25, 2013)
Web Link

Caryll-Lynn Taylor,
Exc. Dir. & Food Programs Chair

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2013 at 11:36 am

Dear Neighbors Helping,

Unfortunately, the majority of people who find themselves living on the street are not there simply because they have fallen on hard financial times. There are those who are, but those numbers are well into the minority. Anyone who has been involved in social services, or assisted with homeless outreach know this.

We cannot separate the fact that when coping with the issue of homelessness and poverty, there is most definitely a negative downside and heavy dose of fallout. Most, not all I realize, find themselves in that predicament due to issues with alcohol and drug abuse, mental illness, or personal choices they have made in the past, such as criminal backgrounds, set the stage for their plight. As a result, the community as a whole has to deal with the negative impact this problem has on our overall quality of life. We see it every day, especially in the downtown and greater north side area of town. Aggressive panhandling, public drunks, petty street crime, drug dealing, and many other health and safety issues.

I agree that every community has a human obligation to help those less fortunate. I am extremely proud of Palo Alto's track record in this regard. Collectively we are indeed a tolerant, generous, and compassionate community. However, we must set limits in order to maintain everyone's quality of life. What frustrates me is that somehow Palo Alto has inherited the responsibility of taking the lead and carrying the burden of the region's homeless outreach efforts. I have never said that we should stop extending the services that we already provide, which are substantial. As Palo Altans however we should have the reasonable expectation of other cities and communities in our area to begin carrying their fair share of this burden.

Posted by Be rational, please , a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2013 at 11:41 am

This is a ban on sleeping in cars. None of the homeless-related complaints have anything to do with the act of sleeping itself. Complaints are about theft, trespassing and drug use (for which we already have laws). The act of sleeping itself should not bother anyone (e.g., if a person parks between 10 pm and 6 am, probably wouldn't even be noticed--most people are asleep at or around that time). I think what is motivating this is irrational fear and people simply not wanting to see homeless people (or perhaps the modest cars that they drive parked in front of their nice homes). I think that the City should have a compassionate option, like allowing people to sleep in their cars in the big empty City parking lots--how would that bother anyone? If not motivated by compassion, the fact that similar bans have been deemed unconstitutional and unenforceable (e.g., in San Luis Obispo) should prevent passage of this law:

Web Link

The court ordered the City of San Luis Obispo to pay nearly 300K in attorneys' fees (in addition to invalidating the ban).

Web Link

That does not include the cost to the City (time, resources, legal fees, appropriate signage to give people constitutionally-required notice of the ban on each street in Palo Alto, law enforcement/criminal justice system resources to jail homeless people who likely won't be able to pay the fine). I would guess that that would put the costs up into the millions. And homeless people could still park their cars in front of nice homes without sleeping--so if the idea is to make destitute people invisible, it wouldn't even serve that illegitimate (in constitutional law terms) purpose.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2013 at 11:50 am

Dear Be Rational,

If this issue was not connected to a negative downside, wrought with health and safety issues, and something that goes unnoticed, do you really think we would be discussing it right now. Of course not. And to counter your argument with the San Luis Obispo ordinance, keep in mind that San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz, three of the most liberal and open cities in the entire country, all have vehicle dwelling bans on public property. I think this ordinance will hold up just fine thank you.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2013 at 12:11 pm

>I think what is motivating this is irrational fear

What is irrational of fearing a homeless transient from blowing into town for a few day, staying at a homeless shelter, then randomly killing a local business woman, as other transients aided and abetted?

People in Santa Cruz certainly don't agree that it is irrational to fear the transients.

Web Link

The irrationality is on those who claim that it is irrational.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm

>Sorry, the aiding/abetting was in another homeless murder case in Santa Cruz.

Web Link

Posted by Haven, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Haven is a registered user.

Web Link

The old adage, "when one door closes," another SHOULD open is entirely appropriate in the Cubberly situation. A ban is necessary for the Cubberly site, but another site within the tri-city areas of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto should be established, with the cooperation of San Mateo and Santa Clara county administrators and supervisors.

As a formerly homeless military veteran while in uniform, I can identify with the needs/demands of residents who want the Cubberly cleared, yet I also understand the needs of working citizens and military veterans living on the fringe of housing and economic affordability in the Nine County Bay Area (NCBA).

While unemployed, or between jobs, I plowed much of my unemployment insurance into the creation of HavenWorks, Inc, a 501C3, non profit organization with the aim of helping veterans and single adults with children achieve housing, job creation and travel as a way out of their situations.

The HavenWorks Class A Housing Model is a mobile concept and a two year program that will help people live in a recreational vehicle, complete with "Hook Up" of water, sewer and electric, while starting their own business from our business incubator, and travel for cultural and business expansion. Consider that we live in a docking age: computers, phones, cars;etc, but our homes are way behind this technological evolution. The time has come to make "Home Docking" a reality...Visit Web Link, or send an email to for more information.

We offer innovation solutions in our rapidly changing times. The cost of housing is increasing and the availability of housing is decreasing. The population of the NCBA is increasing while the transit,housing and quality of life options within the NCBA are growing more and more deplorable.

Second units are expensive and illegal garage conversions are dangerous. Current zoning laws and ordinances need changing and/or adjusting for a new age of housing and transit. HavenWorks is one of those organizations committed to help. It can be safe to say one member of the Hewlett and Packard team was homeless by today's standards...imagine our world today if complaints were received about their illegal garage operation and told to close down, or move on every 72 hours...

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Haven-- you will be happy to know, that as a homeless member of the military, you would be arrested according to the legislation proposed by craig. Also a family that loses their home would also be incarcerated if Craig's law if ever enacted.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Not an Issue,

No need to play the guilt card or be a sensationalist. Anyone with reason and common sense can see right through it. Everyone said that the sit-lie law for the downtown area of Palo Alto would lead to otherwise innocent people being incarcerated. You know what, no one, including Vic Frost, the most frequent violator of the sit-lie law was ever incarcerated for being in violation. He received citations, but was never incarcerated. Spare us the drama already. The ordinance will pass because it's the right thing to do.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm

> a family that loses their home would also be incarcerated if Craig's law if ever enacted.

Living on the street will be criminalized, which is the only way to force them into help. The current modality of liberal tolerance is a disaster, for everyone.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Child of Immigrants, a resident of Southgate
on Aug 4, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I don't have the will to read through all the argumentative postings but I applaud Craig Laughton for having the guts to stand up for the majority in Palo Alto who want to ban car dwelling. We aren't bothered by the issue in our neighborhood but I sympathize with those who have to deal with it.

Other towns have banned car dwelling. There is absolutely no reason one should be chronically homeless in America. There are plenty of jobs available if one is willing to work hard. Palo Alto, with its high cost of living, is not the place for people to try to get back on their feet when they have nothing. American homeless should learn from the immigrant work ethic, who take any job, multiple jobs, share housing, until they can afford more. I am disgusted with overly prideful people here who expect the government and good will of others to bail them out.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm

To our city council and civic leaders, please do not allow yourselves to be shouted down by another vocal minority who fail to acknowledge that our city already goes above and beyond on this matter. Don't bite on the guilt trip or suggestion that passing this ordinance is a sign of being uncaring. Palo Alto already carries the majority of the burden, financially and otherwise when it comes to homeless outreach efforts in our region. Surrounding communities don't contribute anywhere near what we provide in Palo Alto, but yet they all have a vehicle dwelling ban on the books. It's not fair. Enough is enough. Let common sense prevail and enact this ordinance!

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

[Portion removed.]

As I pointed out in an earlier post, I do not believe that anyone would ever be incarcerated for violating the vehicle dwelling ordinance, anymore than anyone has been jailed for violating the sit-lie law that was enacted many years ago. But yet, the critics of sit-lie howled from the rooftops that people would be jailed for simply sitting on a downtown sidewalk. Well you know what, it never happened. In fact no one has ever spend a day in jail for violating that code. So for anyone to promote this type of fear mongering is irresponsible and historically invalid. Another example of playing the guilt card and nothing more.

The police have approached sit-lie in the same manner they have proposed the overnight dwelling ban, which is undoubtedly similar to how nearly every city in the bay area enforces their own ban. It gives the police and the community a tool, which is handled almost entirely on a compliance basis, a means from preventing people from taking up residence wherever they please. That's just common sense and logic, pure and simple.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm

[Portion removed.]

As for the incarceration of those violating the sit-lie ban, it was well chronicled on this and other local publications that no one was actually jailed for this offense. Even Vic Frost, who was the central figure on that issue, never did any jail time according to his own admission and reported coverage.

As for the issue at hand, I look forward to the city council enacting this long overdue and logical ordinance.

Posted by charles ivan king, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Web Link

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Not an Issue, apparently this forum chooses to discourage one on one banter among participants. No problem. I understand and will respect. I also respect your commentary Not an Issue.

On the topic at hand, I truly hope that our city council will enact this much needed and overdue ordinance.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2013 at 1:08 am

How early do we need to show up at City Hall Monday evening to get a seat?

Posted by Charles Ivan King, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 5, 2013 at 10:09 am

In response to Not and Issue"
The day we start incarcerating families because they lost their homes and start arresting military veterans will be the day classism kicks a leg from under an other wise stable chair in our society, toppling what used to be a good country...

There are some reserve personnel serving the country right NOW who are unemployed and homeless because they cannot afford rent or have lost their homes...they are not the kind of warrior that will complain and tell you about their situation...I know this first hand because I was one of them...I had police knock on my window in my car, pull my license and ask me questions I wanted no part of at 3AM, but not once was I ever arrested for being in that situation. Base closures removed the bulk of active duty military personnel from the Bay Area, but the reserve and national guard personnel still remain, with half the support they once had.

The Cubberly is not a solution to the current situation, for it is deplorable that good people have to live in a situation like that, and police intervention will do little to help. something MORE should be done, and it is at this point that I stand and say lets apply the "Rules of the Garage," to help bring a better arrangement to "our" current and collective problem. Indeed, I would venture somewhere deep in the Palo Alto police books many years ago, there "may" exist a complaint from concerned citizens about a man sleeping in a shack in a back yard on Addison Street and working in "the" garage all night....

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2013 at 10:31 am

>The day we start incarcerating families

If the families refuse social services, because they don't want them, and prefer to raise their kids on the streets, then incarceration (for the parents) is probably the best answer. However, there is much between here and there. Think Giuliani.

Without criminalization of homelessness, there will be no answer. Once criminalization occurs, then you may begin to see the 'garage'/granny unit approach, like Santa Cruz has, or the organized parking lots like Santa Barbara. Not before.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2013 at 11:26 am

First point - the recent opinion piece by a former public defender is so over the top, it's ridiculous.

If you check out today's Daily Post, there's an article that summarizes the situation in PA, reviews what is happening in neighboring towns and even quotes the aforementioned former defender.

The article also reviews the whole sit-lie episode from 10 years ago.

Bottom line - no one has been arrested, no court cases costing $10K, etc.

If anything, the ordinance will be a tool that will help the police if they even need to go that far. I think the doomsdayers against the ordinance have vastly under estimated how the PAPD works with the local homeless population today.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Crescent Park Dad- your above post is very reasonable & thoughtful. The work I've done on & off in your town w/homeless & car living folks (not recently, however) has shown that the cops have been mostly pretty even-handed in routine dealings. PAPD has a decent awareness of the agencies & churches who help out, too. More & more it seems that if some designated place had been set up or was in the works, your town might not be so divided on the issue.

Posted by Haven, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Now you entered a grey are of homeless criminalization...Anyone at anytime can become homeless and become subject to arrest, even you, Craig...One earthquake, one sewage spill, one flood, one gas explosion, one, one virus, one...etc, etc and your butt is out somewhere on the ground or sleeping in the one thing you salvaged from the mishap...your car.

That is an extreme for you but it shows how vulnerable we all are to such a scenario...Criminal systematic processing for something you enjoy, which is your freedom, is not a thing you want to give way to, even if it comes by Mother Nature getting pissed off at you...It takes a long time to recover from disaster when you are arrested for being involved in it...

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2013 at 2:19 pm

> More & more it seems that if some designated place had been set up or was in the works, your town might not be so divided on the issue

Hmmm, that was the same argument put forward to set up the Opportunity Center (OC). Once OC was built, and it became a magnet, it was filled, mostly by people not raised in Palo Alto. Victor Frost, himself, warned about the magnet...he was right.

> Craig...One earthquake, one sewage spill, ...

Haven, if my house is shaken down by an earthquake, and the cops tell me I gotta go to a refuge center, which would be completely legal if refusal is criminalized, and I say, "No way!", and the cops put me in cuffs and drag me away, then let's talk about it. Until then, let's not.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Convenient for those like Haven whose city of residence already has a vehicle dwelling ban on the books. You spew more fear mongering. No one will be incarcerated for being in violation of this ordinance, anymore than people were arrested for the sit-lie law, which was zero. Spare us the drama and histrionics already.

If you really want to make an impact on the homeless issue, and see yourself as being more caring than everyone else on here, then I urge you to lobby your Menlo Park city council do repeal their overnight parking ban and share this wealth of compassion. You can also ask them to pass a six-figure local tax for your residents to support the new and varied homeless outreach programs and services that I'm sure you will all rush to open and operate in Menlo Park. While you're at it, I would expect that you'd want to open another Opportunity Center near your downtown area. How about extending the Downtown Streets Team to your city. You get the point.

When Menlo Park, and the other cities in our region begin to contribute even a tenth of what Palo Alto provides in terms of homeless outreach, then please feel free to weigh in on this topic. Otherwise your credibility and take on this matter is dubious at best.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Craig - I know that there would be many challenges in developing a place for people to camp. It would have to be well run & not open to new folks in order to deal well w/the current people. Solutions often contain problems - it's like endless nesting dolls. I do wonder why the those against the ban haven't been working on a viable solution that a few other communities have come up with.

Posted by Cubberley/Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

So when do they have to be cleared out? Article states 90 days. End of October? I was just at the track last night and had to see a dumpy camper, dumpy white car, dumpy van, outhouse. And before any bleeding-heart liberal spouts off, remember, only one church in town offered to help the homeless. So much for Sunday sermons. . .

According to a SJ Mercury article, a mom who lives with her son in a car receives a monthly $1,200 disability benefit but claims she can't afford rent. What? $1200?! One can easily find a studio in a neighboring city with that amount of money.

There are places on Earth for these people, but not in a city with multimillion dollar real estate. We worked hard so we wouldn't have to live amongst the poor. If I were homeless, I would live elsewhere even though I grew up in Palo Alto. People don't have a "right" to stay here even if they grew up here. When my children grow up, they probably won't be able to afford to live in Palo Alto unless one of them inhabits our Palo Alto house. That's life.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm

For those who don't believe that Palo Alto has become a magnet for the homeless - Menlo Park identified 16 individuals who are homeless in Menlo Park and are not currently in shelters. Just 16 in the town next door. There are more than 30 at Cubberly alone.

Web Link

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