https://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/2021/08/04/as-church-prepares-to-welcome-vehicle-dwellers-neighbors-clamor-for-background-checks


Town Square

As church prepares to welcome vehicle dwellers, neighbors clamor for background checks

Original post made on Aug 4, 2021

Unitarian Universalist Church's plans to launch a safe parking program on its lot has faced a new obstacle from its neighbors at Stevenson House, which is arguing that all participants should be subject to criminal background checks.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 4, 2021, 11:33 AM

Comments

Posted by akaMaiNguyen
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 4, 2021 at 11:51 am

akaMaiNguyen is a registered user.

Thank you to Palo Alto Weekly for reporting this item in details. I live nearby, in the Greenmeadow neighborhood so I read this article thoroughly out of self interest. From the information provided, I strongly support opening this Safe Parking Program without the additional background check, and applaud the Unitarian Church for volunteering to host it, going through all the needed application process and subsequent discussions. There are many things that could make our lives safer, but I think the right balance is struck here by the Unitarian Church's proposal, between my need for safety in my neighborhood, and allowing the homeless to have safe parking and attendant social services without lengthy procedure prior to doing so.


Posted by Cal Ave resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2021 at 6:57 pm

Cal Ave resident is a registered user.

I live in Palo Alto and I support this project. I’m saddened that my neighbors may feel differently about supporting the less fortunate and the needy


Posted by Kevin
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 4, 2021 at 7:09 pm

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I live down the street from the church and I support the project as is.


Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2021 at 10:59 pm

felix is a registered user.

Let’s have background checks for everyone who moves in to any average $3.8 million Palo Alto home near any of us. Gosh - they could be an axe murderer!

No? Don’t want that? No need you say?
What’s the difference? Not moral superiority, that’s for sure.
Money. Privilege.



Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2021 at 8:24 am

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This sounds like delay tactics to me. Grace Mah has become an activist with her own agenda in Palo Alto many times and I am very wary of anything she does.

My own view is that this appears to be over-reaching. I would rather have well monitored sanctioned overnight spots, than having a free for all on various streets with no monitors and no sanctions.


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2021 at 9:51 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

A kind approach seems reasonable. Christianity and people in need are "prefect partners." I also understand the safety concerns of seniors living across the street. Their concerns are valid.


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2021 at 10:45 am

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Of course there should be background checks. For addiction as well. Otherwise the church is importing potential criminal activity and that is not appropriate or fair to its neighbors.


Posted by Dianne
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2021 at 10:48 am

Dianne is a registered user.

Thank you to the Unitarian Universalist Church for all their time, effort, money and compassion in meeting these urgent needs. I agree with many of the previous comments that the current plan seems like a good compromise. Ask ourselves the question "Would I insist on background checks on everyone who lives in or moves into my neighborhood? Is that reasonable?" Of course not. In Palo Alto we've helped create this problem by years of neighbors blocking better solutions like low income, affordable, and senior housing so we have a special responsibility to do everything in our power to assist our neighbors who need to live in their cars or mobile homes.


Posted by panative
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:01 am

panative is a registered user.

My wish is for Stevenson residents to ask themselves, and really think about, why they are equating poverty with criminality.


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:08 am

Local Resident is a registered user.

Kan's statement "There are also operational challenges, he said. Each background check would cost between $150 and $200 to conduct and take months to complete, he said." is not true.

Life Moves does a violent felon and registered sex offender background check on its safe parking participants for Redwood City and San Jose.

The national registered sex offender database is: Web Link and Megan's Law database for registered California Sex Offenders is: Web Link Neither require registration to check anyone by name. There are online services that allow you to check registered sex offender and criminal records very quickly.

I thought a valid driver's license was required to participate?



Posted by Observer
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:19 am

Observer is a registered user.

I support the SPP at the Unitarian Universalist Church as it is. Do Stevenson residents/ts administration really think that moving people who are already parking on our streets into the church parking lot increases the potential risk risk to themselves or the community at large, or that keeping them parking on the street decreases that risk? Persons who have a history of sexual or other violent crimes are a problem no matter whether they park, and reducing any risk they might pose requires other solutions.


Posted by SRB
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:31 am

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Is there a background check for any other neighboring multi-million dollars single family home?


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:35 am

Local Resident is a registered user.

Almost every renter in Palo Alto and elsewhere goes through a background check administered by their landlord that checks if they are a registered sex offender or a violent felon. For example, Zillow does this automatically when you submit a rental application through their website.


Posted by Mama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:37 am

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According to the map it looks like this is very close to Magical Bridge playground. Is that correct? Definitely need the checks.


Posted by kyrie robinson
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:37 am

kyrie robinson is a registered user.

I support the Unitarian Church SPP program as is, and I live within .25 mi of the church. The Stevenson House Residents’ safety is not meaningfully altered when a person parking in the neighborhood is now parking in the church lot with a bathroom and social services. More procedural hurdles are not the answer.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:45 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Stevenson House is not across the street. It abuts the church with seating areas and gardens that are connected to the church parking lot by a footbridge. Further, a path that serves as a walking/biking route to Mitchell Park and multiple PAUSD schools and the Magical Bridge playground are nearby. The church parking lot fence has a gate with access to the path that connects to this path. This is a path that hundreds of kids use independently every day to bike and walk to the library, park, playing fields and schools.

An abundance of caution is warranted here. That said, I support the offer of the space for this purpose. In exchange for a free place to live, I think a background check is a small request. The City could fund and implement the background check to preserve privacy of the new residents and to help the church that has been generous already by offering their space for this purpose. I am a nearby neighbor of the site, and I support this use but given the nearby uses, the request is reasonable and prudent.

Further, I bet the car residents might be more comfortable knowing that their car neighbors have been background checked. When Cubberley was being used by car campers, we had problems with some car residents yelling at kids walking through campus. (Other car residents were quite peaceful). Violence between car campers broke out twice that I know of. Some of the more peaceful residents there expressed fear about the trouble makers. There were a number of behavior problems--syringes found on playing fields and one person who exposed himself to children walking through the community campus to programs. Not ok. If the city wants this to work, they need to do the background checks to preserve the safety of sensitive nearby facilities and not repeat the mistakes made at Cubberley. Preemptive caution could prevent an incident that might mobilize opposition.

We are trying something new. Make it work. Don't be sloppy in the execution of the plan.


Posted by Optimist Pessimist Realist
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2021 at 11:53 am

Optimist Pessimist Realist is a registered user.

You can tell by the supportive comments that the church or related entity has done outreach asking for letters of support.

Stevenson House residents are right to be concerned. The safe parking program in East Palo Alto has done checks on enrollees and do have other programs. Since there’s childcare and schools very nearby it makes sense to ensure violent offenders and sex offenders are barred from the program. Why would the church risk a lawsuit resulting from an incident?


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Since autos and vans are the method of transportation than be aware that we have a number of vans in the city with stolen license plates, possibly stolen autos and vans, and any vehicle that participates in this program needs to have valid identification of both the person and the vehicle. I reported one white van to the police and it is still lurking around. If an auto has stolen license plates then your house is next - or your autos license plates. The license plate numbering system has to be consistent with the age of the vehicle as a starting point. Why let anyone near old people or schools who are not validated, identifiable people.

I passed one old truck sitting on Louis on the bridge that had bicycles inside, front and back license plates totally differnt. Read the police log in the paper, crime is happening all over.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:12 pm

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So they don’t leave by 7:30AM…then what?
Schools, nearby elderly residing in a senior residence: these will be at risk along with general risks to the public, liability worries (fights, damage, criminal acts), AND concern over anti-social acts such as setting fires. I oppose this though I understand the good intentions of this church.
Nearby references that show where issues occur/red:
- Homeless, undocumented persons linger near Facebook HQ (news media reports of fires set, fights, criminal acts, damage to natural Baylands environment)
- Cubberley “homeless vehicle experiment” that resulted in children threatened, bathrooms damaged, dirty, made basically unusable by general public at the community center.
I think such programs, while well intended, cannot solve ever increasing arrivals; the complicated screening that ought to accompany any arrivals; the high cost of living in this region; major drug addiction issues; criminality, criminal records; enjoyment of residing unconventionally (but here: this means in a city/suburban environment which necessitates prioritizing Public Safety, Public Health of existing city and region) - AND what will be long term resolution of the person’s situation?
Suitable employers, social services in SF.
It’s untenable to locate a vehicle in a non-residential spot and expect to endlessly “reside” there.
How can compliance be enforced?
We have existing shelters, even one generously placed here in Palo Alto, so why won’t those in need or who choose to be un-housed or live a transitory lifestyle be required to register there, undergo criminal background check, comply with social services interview and follow basic rules installed for the necessary benefit of Public Safety, Public Health, capability of Emergency/Fire Services to respond/get through streets….
Those not from northern California should be deemed vagrants and told by police to move out of the region (unless, of course, local residency/employment are proven).


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:26 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

There are safety concerns with or without a backround check. Churches are well aware of the concerns and liability. I understand both sides.


Posted by Josie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:28 pm

Josie is a registered user.

The irony is that Stevenson House sits on land where UUCPA was going to build their sanctuary, and sold it so low income seniors would have a place to live. [Portion removed.]

UUCPA has done much to support the unhoused over the years, and I fully support this use for safe parking.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Why are churches in South PA the destination points here? If churches in north PA are also not participating then the whole program should be scrapped. If the city cannot participate as a total city effort then it is practicing descrimination. That is legal issue.


Posted by Judy
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2021 at 12:44 pm

Judy is a registered user.

It’s next to Magical bridge, just a net fence between the proposed parking and the children playground. Same with Stevenson House. A few steps away are play ground of an elementary school, a school for disabilities, library, tennis court. Within the same block are Hoover Elementary and a Junior HS.
I trust Grace Mah and her leadership


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2021 at 1:54 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

What is happening is that religious institutions are becomming people to come here who have no resources. And the churches have limited resources. They are working on a single-minded theory that if they come then the city will cough up money to assist in this venture and all of the surrounding neighborhoods who will have to absorb these people during the day. And they want browney points for doing this. What they should be doing is helping the big cities who have more resources to absorb these people. Major cites have the tools to do this - we do not. Quit sending out the bird call for people to come. You are single-mindedly overloading our resources and patience.


Posted by long view
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2021 at 3:07 pm

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If Santa Clara County Staff say that safe parking programs work better without background checks, then I hope the Palo Alto City Council will honor their knowledge, and deny the appeal. While certainly not a majority, we know that justice is not always perfect, and some individuals with a conviction on their record are actually innocent. If someone can follow the rules of the safe parking program and not bother anyone while on the site, I think that is adequate. We don't get background checks on the people who park at supermarkets or on the street. This situation seems similar, except that it will have some daily oversight, while street parking has almost no oversight. I hope the City Council lets this safe parking program move forward as City Staff recommend. Thank you to Stevenson House for their general support of safe parking, with just the one exception regarding background checks. I suspect that some late night users of the church facilities will feel a little safer walking to their cars at night, knowing that they are not alone at the site - count this kitchen volunteer as one of them!


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2021 at 3:59 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

The church is adding a use that wasn't foreseen and bringing a population that has issues. If they didn't have issues, they would not be living in their car on the street. Just admit it. Some folks may be just fine; others not so much. Think about the neighbors; this is unfair to them to import possible criminal activity to their neighborhood.


Posted by We Told You So!
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 5, 2021 at 5:15 pm

We Told You So! is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] You tell Humans where all the "FREE CHEESE" is and Human Nature will bring them (called Survival). aka: Make an Attraction For them, & more will come.
East Palo Alto is a perfect example of what could/can happen. They were OVER-Run with Broken down RV's & people living in Cars. The Churches are "Stingy", they didn't want RV parking in any of Their Lots! They claimed that It might interfere with Worship Services? 43 Church's and none wanted to take on the Burden? I take off my Hat to the Stevenson House? But Once The East Palo Alto came up with a viable program. Most of the Dwellers moved back into Neighboring Cities, and lined the vehicles along El Camino Real, Palo Alto.
Redwood City opened up a program also. They moved their dwellers out from parking on the street, outside the OLD K-Mart and over by the Maguire Jail, into a nice parking facility lot. Some got left out & are trying to move back into that Court?)
What's the Old Saying? "Build it and They will come".
Good Luck Palo Alto~


Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 5, 2021 at 9:26 pm

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With the limited number of spots available, there should be no problem filling them with people who can pass a background check. As reported in the surveys cited, it is very common for homeless programs to perform background checks. Palo Alto should not be bullied by Santa Clara County.


Posted by Paly02
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2021 at 10:29 pm

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I see this is an item on the City Council agenda this coming Monday. Not sure what it means to be quasi-judicial if it's on the consent calendar, though...


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 6, 2021 at 8:23 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Since autos and vans are the topic here please note that the freeway system is now busy retooling for Fasttrack. That is reading license plates and Fasttrack equipment to price the cost of going down the road. The local churchs are trying to draw people with no car insurance, no money, no valid license plates, and possible ownership questions of vehicles to the border of this conflaguration. Push comes to shove and all of these people who are roaming the streets during the day will be busy trying to resolve their own personal issues and auto issues are a priority. These people need to be down in San Jose which can provide big city benefits and give them roaming room during the day.

One of the recall debate accusations was that San Diego was trying to reduce their homeless numbers by moving people into other cities. I suspect that San Jose right now is trying to do that as they are clearing homeless camps. There is no benefit to moving people to Palo Alto since we are on the border of a financial issue and a police issue. Please quit moving people from a big city with lots of resources to a small city which has relatively no resources. This city is built out from border to border with residential homes. We do not need police issues which are the end result of this type activity. There should be a law concerning how close a homneless camp should be relative to schools and retirement homes.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2021 at 9:45 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Before the pandemic, I spoke with someone who told me she was living in her car. She was well dressed, clean, and on her way to work in Palo Alto. She told me she was a member of a gym and she would go there each morning to shower and liked to park nearby overnight to sleep. I do not know where she worked except that it was in Palo Alto. She had a job, but it was not enough to live on and it was cheaper to join a gym than find somewhere new to live in town.

I suppose this lady became the picture to me of what living in a car was like. I often wonder how she managed during the pandemic when the gyms were closed and she could not use their facilities.


Posted by Cameron Lucas
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 6, 2021 at 9:58 am

Cameron Lucas is a registered user.

>> ...San Diego was trying to reduce their homeless numbers by moving people into other cities.

^ WRONG...North San Diego County is placing the homeless in various motels situated along the I-5, something Palo Alto could also seriously consider doing, given the number of mediocre motels along El Camino Real.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2021 at 11:28 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Background checks are standard procedure when you rent an apartment or get a new job. Every employer and landlord I have ever had has done a background check on me. When I finally could afford to buy a house, my mortgage lender also did a background check on me. This is widespread practice. It is completely reasonable to ask for it in this case.

Stevenson House (an AFFORDABLE apartment complex for seniors nextdoor to the church) would not be appealing the parking use of the lot if standard background checks were being done on the users. Please, let's not turn this into a pro-housing vs. anti-housing battle. This is about implementing standard practices that insure safety for everyone in a place where it actually matters a lot, given the existing nearby uses.

According to the article, Stevenson House made an effort to work with the Unitarian Church and were rebuffed. It is unfortunate that appeal is the only tool at their disposal at this point. The city could easily solve this by offering to do the background checks themselves.


Posted by Marcie Walters
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Marcie Walters is a registered user.

In addition to background checks, proof of FULL Covid-19 vaccinations should also be mandatory.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 6, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Individual churches should not be instigating the collection of homeless who then roam around the neighborhoods and city during the day. You are giving "permission" for what ever takes place - both good and bad. The church is in part providing police protection while the people are roaming around.

An alternate solution - churches are not stand alone organizations - they belong to a coporate entity. The local collection of churches should buy a place in a large city - San Jose and collectively support that building and property. Church members can then go and help out at a central location. And donate money when needed. The people have an overnight place to be with a kitchen, bathroom, and any other amenities the collection of churches choose to provide. The people who are staying thre can then have a big area to roam and look for work.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2021 at 1:27 pm

Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

Jessica's Law makes it illegal for sex offenders to reside within 2000 feet of school or playground. The proposed SPP lot is within 500 feet of BOTH Hoover Elementary and Mitchell Park/Magical Bridge playground, plus a low-income senior residence. This should tell us that we need to be careful with who stays in the SPP lot.

There's no right or wrong in public policy - this is a balancing test. Sure, it will be a minor impediment to some who need a place to park overnight - they need to provide their drivers license and wait 2-3 days for the check to come through. Some will be discouraged; some may even be excluded. But the risk of NOT taking that simple precaution can be devastating - so much so that a law was passed to prevent it. Let's stop the virtue signaling and just take common sense precautions.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2021 at 3:03 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Not sure of status of this, but Santa Clara County was entertaining purchasing a hotel (MV/Sunnyvale border) that the gleeful owners wish to unload on us hapless taxpayers (who have little say in the matter). Crest view Hotel, I believe. Nearby neighbors, homes, apartments filled with residents: some are concerned. See Mountain View Online
How very odd our county” representatives” seek to install shelters, homeless housing in northern Santa Clara County rather than near County HQ in San Jose, which seems far more suitable for the region.


Posted by Former Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:03 am

Former Resident is a registered user.

Funny how the folks at Stevenson House have forgotten that it was the Palo Alto Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that donated two acres of their land so that the facility could be built. (My family attended the fellowship in those days and my grandmother lived at Stevenson House.)


Posted by Hinrich
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2021 at 7:52 pm

Hinrich is a registered user.

When Palo Alto becomes a place that used to be a nice town before socialists and activists invited anyone with a tent, a car, trailer to fill the voids not sufficiently occupied by the rich people of PA who do not understand communist allocation of other people's property, those rich who don't appreciate the new 'equity' regimes, who don't quite know how to react to their once pleasant town being given away - when those who pay the taxes move away because downtown PA looks like downtown SF, everyone will wonder if these decisions were good decisions. Churches are not housing agencies. People living in cars, trailers, tents, cardboard boxes, etc is NOT good. It does NOT make for good community (think of Venice beach). It only draws in more people that cannot be accommodated and demands more community resources to manage. Build apartments. If you want to alleviate the housing crunch don't keep expanding businesses without adequate housing. If you want to help the homeless - don't let them live on the street - don't let them live in parking lots. Build apartments. Neighbors have every right to be upset.
California is a real mess. For some reason, Californians persist in thinking stuff like this makes sense.


Posted by Martha Dogood
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:10 pm

Martha Dogood is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 8, 2021 at 7:25 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I was in San Jose yesterday roaming from Santana Row, Westfields to San Jose State U. San Jose has unlimited choices in housing, and most of that housing is near local business strip malls - potential jobs. Why any church or organization would try and turn little Palo Alto - a suburban city - into a homeless encampment is truly bizarre. It is not benefiting the people involved. They are not going to find housing and a job here - we are not set up that way. We are not a major urban city.

Concerns for the homeless are a strategic issue. The real issue is that the San Jose mayor is termed out and wants to run for higher office but must prove he is capable of running a city. Moving all of the homeless out of the city is one of those political choices. That activity is taking place now near the SJX airport.

Meanwhile Google is buying up the lower cost areas in San Jose to create their city. Now what to do with the people that have been displaced. Hummm - send them north and south. And youe friends in MV - home of Google are particpants in that venture.
The big problem here is that what was considered the lower cost part of PA is now being populated with $3M level homes - singles being torn down and replaced with two-story homes. This city is border to border residential homes. And we do not have a lot of strip malls to provide temporary work. What we have is city market areas.
If churches want to do the Christian thing then put the homeless where they can find a place to live and a job - a job that does not require a H1b Visa to work.
Further do not compromise the police department by bird calling to people who have no jobs to comes here and roam all over the city. They tend to get into trouble.


Posted by J. Peron
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2021 at 7:44 am

J. Peron is a registered user.

Palo Alto is a safer and more convenient residential environment if one is homeless.

The Guadalupe River encampment and St. James Park in San Jose are most unpleasant.

Having lived on the streets of San Jose and Santa Cruz, a number of homeless have transported themselves to Mountain View and Palo Alto where one can easily blend into the population by day and find a quiet place to sleep at night.

And with stores, public libraries, and restaurants reopening, places to regularly bathe are becoming readily available again.

The key is to get as many of the homeless vaccinated ASAP as very few of my homeless acquaintances are innoculated (unless they received the vaccine while in county jail).

Palo Alto could initiate an outreach program in this area alongside its efforts to provide sanctuary for the homeless population.

A small living stipend provided by the city or county would also decrease the need for panhandling and reduce any suspected shoplifting.


Posted by Seer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 8, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Seer is a registered user.

Background checks can be done way cheaper. Others have noted there are public databases for sex offenders and convicted property and violent crimes are also public. You can do this in about 3 Google searches. So the algorithm could be:
(1) Present valid ID
(2) Search on that name in the appropriate databases
(3) (a) If nothing comes up, good to go.
(b) If there is a hit, THEN do an appropriate background check in case of name conflicts or other errors.

This site is literally across a path from the Challenger Elementary School, it's within 300 yards of 2 other elementary schools and a Junior High. Are you telling me a sex offender can just park there, hang around and then move on?

Of the 5 violent crimes I personally know about in Palo Alto, 2 came from uncontrolled homeless parking (Cubberly), and 3 came from "couch surfing" friends of friends who had criminal backgrounds. All 3 of the latter were former property crimes. The guys continued stealing but intersected with owners and violently attacked to get away. For example, a friend heard some sounds in his garage, thought his cat was out, and went to get it only to be struck over the head by the "just property crime" guy when my friend inadvertently surprised the thief.


Posted by Seer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 8, 2021 at 12:38 pm

Seer is a registered user.

>> "
Before the pandemic, I spoke with someone who told me she was living in her car. She was well dressed, clean, and on her way to work in Palo Alto. She told me she was a member of a gym and she would go there each morning to shower and liked to park nearby overnight to sleep. I do not know where she worked except that it was in Palo Alto. She had a job, but it was not enough to live on and it was cheaper to join a gym than find somewhere new to live in town. "

Such a woman would have no problem passing a background check. I'm all for building higher and denser/simpler apartments, even dorm-like with shared resources such as kitchens to make it cheaper. Letting random people live randomly leads to crime, trash and a worse life for everyone.

There is a public-private balance to be kept. Let's find better ways to house non-criminal working people without thinking that we can't differentiate.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 8, 2021 at 2:34 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

J. Peron - San Jose is a very large city and has very nice and abundant low cost housing. You are saying that SJ homeless can only live in obvious locations but come north to "unobvious" locations. Trouble is you can get a job in San Jose but the ability to get a job in PA is slim to nothing. You want some type of subsidy - more subsidies in San Jose.
So did you come here to hang out or get a job? More jobs in an Jose. All type of jobs. And you want an outreach program? Someone gave you the bird call to come here promising something but guess what - they do not have the money to do that. Bird calls are just that - bird brains. Bottom line is that you have to put the people in a location that gives them lots of choices as to living and work. This is a suburban city - not a lot of choices, and that is due to a role as a suburban city. Also a high cost city - poor choices on your part.


Posted by Emmett
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 8, 2021 at 2:55 pm

Emmett is a registered user.

J. Peron...you are welcome to reside wherever you please (even in Palo Alto).

And as long as one is law abiding and not creating a public nuisance or safety threat, go and live wherever you want.

It is a free country and not for others to dictate (though they have a right to their opinion pro or con).


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 8, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Emmett - the people who are offering services to homeless are doing it with the rationale that they want them to get back on their feet an be productive contributors to society. You first have to have people who want to get back on their feet and be productive members of society. If people offer up no intention to be productive and get a job then what is the point? If people do desire to get a job then they have to put themselves in a place where they can get a job. Just hanging out and getting subsidy is not a good job hunting attitude or a good life lessons attitude.


Posted by Banes
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 9, 2021 at 3:22 am

Banes is a registered user.

Everyone Else has to provide I.D., even exhaustive credit reports to rent anywhere. If they don’t want to provide I.D., minimally a thumb print would suffice, even with fake i.d. No big deal — until something becomes a big deal, fires, drugs, drunk fights, someone mysteriously deceases or whatever. Also good to know if a car is owned, registered to driver or not.
Anonymous, Under-All-Radar is usually a recipe for those trying to hide from something. If nothing else, thumb or fingerprints should be mandatory, or less messy, a dna mouth swab.
Btw, Where will they go to the bathroom???


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2021 at 8:46 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11. 28

It is against Bible teaching to discriminate. Churches do not have the staff, volunteers, or training to run a present day shelter. This has to be done by a qualified outside agency. The reason why agencies have to do this is liability of course. If something happens due to this, untrained volunteers should not be the ones responsible for making discriminatory decisions.


Posted by The Apostle
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2021 at 9:44 am

The Apostle is a registered user.

..."sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Luke 18:22

^ This will unlikely occur in most of Palo Alto and not surprisingly.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 9, 2021 at 10:20 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I am sure that there is a line in the Bible that people need to execute some planning and good choices as to how to serve. Serving requires an intelligent use of available resources. The available resources are in the larger cities that have a large inventory of housing and jobs. Note that every church belongs to a larger corporate board that has larger facilites in bigger cities where they can combine resources to serve a purpose putting the right resources to use.


Posted by Stepheny
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2021 at 10:48 am

Stepheny is a registered user.

Kudos to the Unitarian Church for providing a local service and earning their tax-free, non-profit status. That said, background checks -- and of course, Covid shots -- should be required.

As we face an overcrowded planet with strained resources, there will be a culling of those who need a little help to get back on their feet and those who cannot be rehabbed. With all the job openings advertised everywhere, free Covid shots and over the top government handouts, if this last measure by the Unitarian Church can't change their fate, the limited help should go to others who do wish to be self-sufficient.

Palo Alto is straining at its infrastructure seams -- water, schools, government services. You can't -- and shouldn't try to -- save everyone.


Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2021 at 12:09 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

I grew in PA but now live in a 'liberal' community elsewhere. I live adjacent to sites that so-called homeless people frequent and attempt to camp. They trash our neighborhood with litter from discarded scavenging, leave trash by dumpsters they scavenge, leave their 'belongings' when they abandon a camp, sell drugs, do drugs in public, come into the neighborhood and steal multiple bikes in a single evening (documented this, cops do nothing), once I had three of them approach me and throw rocks at me just because I was trying to figure out what the loud noises were coming from the meth camp from 200' away. Meanwhile, all the bleeding heart people away from the railroad, bike trails, trenches and ditches the so-called homeless choose to live in live in bliss and criticize those of us directly and daily affected by this 'heartless'. Well @#$%^! the lot of you. This is my lived experience and those of my neighbors, daily. We have to clean up their trash, or they scavenge it and bring more. Some of them are scary and deranged and wander around screaming at night. There's one now, walking down the alley as I type.

I'm well familiar with the Palo Alto Unitarian Church. I grew up in it. My parents went there for decades - but became disillusioned with the well-hearted by unicornian thinking of too many of it's members. "They are so open minded their brains fall out" as my dad put it. "Housing First" is a failed joke of a strategy. Put drug addicts in comfy places to use -- so they can kill themselves faster. Anyone who understands addiction knows what I'm talking about. But those administering the programs benefit and say it's 'evidence based'. Yeah, so is my 'lived experience'.

I'm for the program in concept. I'd also be for checking for property crimes. But I'll settle for sex and felony convictions. That's pretty darn reasonable and not much to ask, unless your so open minded your brain is falling out.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2021 at 1:52 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.


The city could solve the problem by offering to the background checks. I hope they will.


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2021 at 10:25 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Palo Alto Unitarian Church is a liberal church. "They are so open minded their brains fall out" would be an accurate statement -- to some people. A friend of mine is a member, and if you're liberal it's a good fit. Most Americans are moderate or conservative, and so are most Christians. Liberal churches serve liberals well.


Posted by Sam Taylor
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2021 at 10:30 am

Sam Taylor is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Elle Taylor
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Elle Taylor is a registered user.

The Unitarian Church is a winner in my book...they do not pass judgement and promote a 'live and let live' perspective.

Only the fuddy-duddy fundamentalist churches push their anachronistic dogmas.


Posted by Bette Layne
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2021 at 1:11 pm

Bette Layne is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Annies biped
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2021 at 6:40 pm

Annies biped is a registered user.

Applause to the UU Church for reaching out to the unhoused, and offering four parking spaces for overnight parking. The parking lot is uniquely positioned, well off a busy street, separated from Stevenson House and Mitchell Park by Adobe Creek and sturdy cyclone fencing. It is sad that some Stevenson House residents don't know their own history and the huge debt of gratitude they owe the the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto. Sixty years ago when the Stevenson House project was working its way towards reality, these very residents (low income, seniors) were the "undesirables" some wanted kept out of their neighborhood. Thank goodness the church was able to prevail then, and may it be able to prevail today - without onerous background checks set out as road blocks. The City Council would be wise to deny this incredibly disgraceful appeal.


Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2021 at 3:02 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

This comment seems right:
"Kudos to the Unitarian Church for providing a local service and earning their tax-free, non-profit status. That said, background checks -- and of course, Covid shots -- should be required.
As we face an overcrowded planet with strained resources, there will be a culling of those who need a little help to get back on their feet and those who cannot be rehabbed. With all the job openings advertised everywhere, free Covid shots and over the top government handouts, if this last measure by the Unitarian Church can't change their fate, the limited help should go to others who do wish to be self-sufficient."

I'm puzzled by one description in the story: "He (Kan) also noted that much like in Mountain View, police will know who is using the lot. He noted that sexual offenders who are legally barred from getting near schools would not be able to use the program."
Isn't this describing a de facto background check? "police will know who is using the lot" and "offenders who are legally barred...would not be able to use the program." What's the problem with formalizing that with a "real" background check?


Posted by Seer
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 18, 2021 at 6:46 pm

Seer is a registered user.

People keep saying "how about background checks on residents of houses?". We have those! You can easily look up where sex offenders are by location, name or "near you". Here:
Web Link


Posted by Seer
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2021 at 7:02 pm

Seer is a registered user.

> "
..."sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Luke 18:22

^ This will unlikely occur in most of Palo Alto and not surprisingly.
"

Um, I've lived in the South amongst the thumpiests of Bible thumpers ... and their big trucks and their desire to keep brown people from "invading". In fact, not a single Church has ever in history followed this doctrine, or those that did, by definition, don't exist anymore. Realistically, we do lots to help in terms of volunteering, donating, and politicing. But ... life is a tradeoff (and that's why no church follows that 'ideal'), so provide some parking, and get a real identity and have the police check.

If you want a "safe" place where there are no checks, buy some land in a rural area and move the "no checks" people out there (it won't end well).


Posted by Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 20, 2021 at 12:48 pm

Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern is a registered user.

I have served with Christopher Kan and other members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA) as their parish minister for 18 years. Long before I arrived, the church was already a leader in addressing housing needs in our community, beginning with the donation of 2.2 acres for the establishment of much-needed moderate-cost senior housing, which was then named Stevenson House after the prominent Unitarian, Adlai Stevenson. To give just a few more examples, we have hosted Hotel de Zink every year since being a founding member; several years ago we began hosting Heart and Home as well; UUCPA helped to establish the Opportunity Center of the Midpeninsula; we give regular financial support to LifeMoves.

Throughout these initiatives, we have sought to be good neighbors to all. Unitarian Universalists often describe ourselves as striving to follow, not a religion about Jesus, but the religion of Jesus, and Jesus challenged us to treat everyone as our neighbor, and above all, to extend hospitality to those who are poor, ill, or outcast. It IS a challenge. Many thoughtful comments here remind us that being a good neighbor is neither simple nor easy. I appreciate the commenters who are trying to be generous of spirit, recognize the full humanity of those afflicted by poverty, and ensure everyone's safety.

However, our record and those of the organizations who are our partners should be reassuring. Because we HAVE given careful attention to our many neighbors' needs, we have welcomed hundreds of homeless people as our guests over decades without harm coming to anyone. As we taxpayers have shifted this duty of care more and more from our governments to non-profits, these programs have been a huge success. I hope the Safe Parking Program will shortly be added to them.


Posted by Schoenberg
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 20, 2021 at 5:25 pm

Schoenberg is a registered user.

Thanks reverend...your words said it all.

I am also a Unitarian but was brought up in a conservative Protestant environment (Presbyterian) even though my father was raised a Conservative Jew.

Unitarians do not promote the Holy Trinity and accept Jesus as a devine prophet like Mohammed or the Buddha.

I can handle that concept.


Posted by Laura Cannon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 21, 2021 at 1:21 pm

Laura Cannon is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]