Palo Alto council prepares to settle 'safe parking' dispute between church, neighbors | August 19, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 19, 2022

Palo Alto 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 Gennady Sheyner

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

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:29 am

felix is a registered user.

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.

Posted by birdie
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:34 am

birdie is a registered user.

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?

Posted by Donya
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:37 am

Donya is a registered user.

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

Posted by Michelledb
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2022 at 10:43 am

Michelledb is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Old teacher
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:38 am

Old teacher is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Tyler Hagen
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:48 am

Tyler Hagen is a registered user.

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.]

Posted by Stephen Harrison
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:18 pm

Stephen Harrison is a registered user.

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.

Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:47 pm

ndn is a registered user.

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 !!!!

Posted by Resident11
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 18, 2022 at 1:54 pm

Resident11 is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 18, 2022 at 2:10 pm

Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern is a registered user.

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.

Posted by DuveneckNeighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 18, 2022 at 3:15 pm

DuveneckNeighbor is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 18, 2022 at 4:37 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

[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.]

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:13 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

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?

Posted by Gary Locke
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:17 pm

Gary Locke is a registered user.

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.

Posted by birdie
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 18, 2022 at 7:53 pm

birdie is a registered user.

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

Posted by
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2022 at 11:04 pm is a registered user.

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

Posted by Frank Morales
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:19 am

Frank Morales is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Paul Brophy
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:25 am

Paul Brophy is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Dolores Campo
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2022 at 9:28 am

Dolores Campo is a registered user.

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.

Posted by JH
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:31 am

JH is a registered user.

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

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.

Posted by Gerry Horowitz
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2022 at 11:39 am

Gerry Horowitz is a registered user.

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.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 19, 2022 at 12:27 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Alan Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2022 at 2:04 pm

Alan Parker is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

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