News

Pandhandler Victor Frost fined $50 in sit-lie-ordinance decision

Frost has been battling ordinance since first ticketed in 2008

Victor Frost's long-running battle with the City of Palo Alto over its sit-lie ordinance resulted in a judgment against him for two infractions and a $50 fine Monday (Aug. 1).

Interim Judge Donald Squires, who is sitting in at Santa Clara County Superior Court and normally presides in Alameda County, heard arguments in Frost's sit-lie case regarding three citations for violating the city's ordinance. Palo Alto' sit-lie ordinance forbids sitting or lying on the sidewalk within 20 feet of a commercial building. Frost was found guilty of violations stemming from sitting near Whole Foods Market on Nov. 22, 2010, and Jan. 11, 2011.

Frost, a well-known panhandler and fixture across from Whole Foods on Homer Avenue and outside Village Stationers and near Mollie Stone's on California Avenue, has been fighting the ordinance's legality since he was first ticketed in 2008. He originally had 12 citations for refusing to budge off is milk crate near the Whole Food's parking lot. The citations were condensed to six and were prosecuted as misdemeanors.

Frost fought the charges on civil-rights claims and argued that the city had violated his First Amendment rights for equal protection.

Frost's attorneys said the city had been enforcing the law unevenly because it allowed businesses to encroach on sidewalks with outside tables and chairs and that enforcement unfairly targets the homeless and creates two classes of treatment for the rich and indigent.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Lucy Koh rejected Frost's claims in March 2010, saying they were not yet ripe to be heard since he had not yet been convicted and sentenced.

A jury deadlocked on the charges on April 23, 2010. The city attorney re-filed the charges then asked the court to dismiss the case on Oct. 5, 2010.

The city filed a new case with the three citations but charged Frost with infractions, which meant that Frost would not have a jury trial and he didn't have a right to an attorney, his new attorney, Stanford Law Lecturer Galit Lipa, said.

Lipa said she believed the city filed the cases as infractions on purpose, since the previous jury trial showed their case might be lost during a new trial.

"They learned their lesson," she said.

Judge Squires stayed Frost's fine until Sept. 6 in the event that he chooses to appeal.

The case could be far from over, Lipa said. Frost will probably file an appeal, she said.

Frost's original equal-protection claims that challenge the ordinance could also be raised in post-trial proceedings, she said.

Lipa said the judge noted the asymmetry in the city's enforcement. Whole Foods is allowed to encroach on the sidewalk with huge bins of produce, while Frost is prosecuted, although he is "clearly not blocking the sidewalk," she said.

The judge, she noted, said the facts showed the case is a "very insignificant breach of the law" and he told both the prosecution and the police officer who cited Frost that "they should talk to their bosses about whether this is what they should be doing with their time," she said.

Frost has 30 days to file an appeal.

Frost could have been required to pay $435 if convicted of all three charges. Assistant City Attorney Donald Larkin said the intention of the prosecution was never to fine Frost heavily and the $25 per conviction is what he expected.

"The convictions speak for themselves. We're pleased the court upheld the City Council's actions regarding the ordinance. We intend to continue that enforcement," Larkin said.

Asked what it has cost the city so far to prosecute Frost, Larkin said he is paid a salary, so it isn't costing more to prosecute the case.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:32 am

I am so tired of Victor Frost. If someone wants to start a collection to move him to another state, I would contribute.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wasted
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:38 am

Our tax dollars are wasted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:42 am

Victor Frost makes his life choices daily. His sense of entitlement is astounding. Go sit somewhere else Victor, and how can you be so obese when you're constantly begging for food and money? What a waste of taxpayer money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

How can he still continue to sit out side Whole Foods?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wasted
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:52 am

because he has law ion his side to protect his rights.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jack Ryan
a resident of University South
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

Yes, his rights should be protected. And the law should be enforced. Fine him again.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sara
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:02 am

Victor Frost is a public nuisance. I'm really tired of having to swing my shopping cart wide and go outside the crosswalk to get around him. I also resent the time and cost of prosecuting his "alleged" infractions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Give to the ORGANIZATIONS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:02 am

Mr. Frost is making it bad for the REAL needy to be helped. But from him, one thing is learned: do not give directly to people on the street.

Rather, give to organizations whose purpose it is to help large groups of people, including women, children & physically disabled people among us: the REAL vulnerable.

Mr. Frost collects a lot of money daily, tax-free. I do not see any of the people he supposedly helps speaking up for him. Why not?

He was so possessive of his Whole Foods perch that he was caught screaming profanities at someone that took his spot, when he was out on his lunch break. So if he intends to "help the needy", would he not have shared that location with the other man?

People contributing to Mr. Frost's cause would be good buyers for the big orange bridge in San Francisco - the one that spans the Bay. There are still some people that will buy anything.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:04 am

He sits on the other side of the street, across from WF. The "downtown" ordinance covers up to the sidewalk in front of WF, but it does not cover any businesses on the SE side of Homer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wasted
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:04 am

He will owe city plus interests til he becomes rich.If he has money in his pocket then he has very right to spend it on his food first.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

The judge said:

The judge, she noted, said the facts showed the case is a "very insignificant breach of the law" and he told both the prosecution and the police officer who cited Frost that "they should talk to their bosses about whether this is what they should be doing with their time," she said.

I think she is missing an important point. The retailers and merchants want to attract customers which generates tax revenue which provide vital services to the city. If even one panhandler inhibits several potential customers from spending money in the stores they need to be removed.

Saying that law enforcement should ask their bosses if it is a good use of their time is a question that indicates that the judge does not see the big picture.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wasted
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:14 am

What is the big picture,it is just like we would allow wall street crimals to control our wall street but we would spend tons to prosecute beggars.Is it fair and effective?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:20 am

> the city's ordinance. Palo Alto' sit-lie ordinance forbids sitting or lying on the sidewalk within 20 feet of a commercial building.

I've seen this guy too, he is rough on the eyes and the nose.

The problem is ... come on ... no one can sit or lie in the sidewalk within 20 feet of a commercial building? That is really ridiculous. I could see maybe the entrance of a public building, and what about those panhandlers that stand?

This is a stupid law ... but everything I'm starting to see that has the Palo Alto name anywhere near it is hardly what I would call intelligent. Can't we do better than this. It is hard for me to get very sympathetic about Victor Frost, but the City of Palo Alto can bring it out and make the city seem the villain.

And ... what about the incredibly stinky and obnoxious tall guy with wavy black hair that used to haunt the inside of the Border's bookstore. He was not doing Borders any good, you could smell him as soon as you walked into the place, and I don't think he was buying much?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:23 am

AND ... you know I go to Whole Foods quite a bit, and I get the whiny complainers that are talking about how it is so hard to avoid this guy are the same people who stand in the middle of the aisles and do not think for a second about their effect on other people who have to wait for them to think about moving or getting their carts out of the way or walk by and bump into other people as if they weren't there.

The average shopper or consumer in Palo Alto may look and dress better than Frost, but they are not much more considerate.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by in midtown 50 years
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:26 am

All the time and money,how much does he get a day to sit at WF?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bee
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

Do you know what Frost buys with his money? Liquor. I have seen him at Mollie's in line.
Please do not support Frost.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:31 am

Sorry, the more I think about this the more it bothers me.

The Palo Alto Whole Foods would do much better to hire some competent, friendly, helpful people ... who can communicate effectively ... like all of the Whole Foods in the surrounding cities have.

The Palo Alto Whole Foods is a black mark on the repurtation of Whole Foods, it is filthy and disorganized and a problematic location. I have to also mention there are a few helpful people there that I do not want to ignore.

Why does this seem to be true of almost all of Palo Alto's markets- they are staffed by what has got to be noticeably and significantly the lowest paid least helpful of any markets in the area. Piazzis is an exception here. What is it about Palo Alto that produces sub-par businesses with ugly buildings, insufficient space and mostly unpleasant shopping experiences.

I go not mostly to the Mountain View Whole Foods, even though I just lives blocks the Palo Alto one ... and Victor Frost does not even show up on the radar for that decision.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NameGoesHere
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:31 am

I still see people give him money??? I say just start handing him bottles of liquor. Get him drunk and keep him drunk. Then the cops can start picking him up on public drunkenness charges on a daily basis.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by lisa
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

I see him pull up in a vintage Mercedes, and he clearly hasn't missed a meal. What he doesn't understand is that a lot of us who WORK in and around Palo Alto are barely getting by and have a hard time paying our rent. Sorry Victor, but I have to eat too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by waste of money
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:44 am

"Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Lucy Koh rejected Frost's claims in March 2010, saying they were not yet ripe to be heard since he had not yet been convicted and sentenced."

The law is used to harass and was doing so effectively until someone chose not to pay. Now there has been a conviction, the case will be tested and will lose on appeal.
It's ironic that what is has taken is for someone to sit down and refuse to move.

"Asked what it has cost the city so far to prosecute Frost, Larkin said he is paid a salary, so it isn't costing more to prosecute the case."
Not costing anything? Really? What would the attorney have been doing if he wasn't involved in this case?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TC
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Between Frost parked on the sidewalk across the street, and the ubiquitous petition signature gatherers right outside the door, the obstacle course involved in entering the Homer Ave. Whole Foods is incredibly annoying. I'm not going to the grocery store so I can give money to an alcoholic, or so I can be yelled at when I choose to not speak to someone gathering signatures.

I've been shopping at Piazza's a lot lately.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm

"What is it about Palo Alto that produces sub-par businesses with ugly buildings, insufficient space and mostly unpleasant shopping experiences."

Anon, I can't believe you are asking such an obvious question, or are you just teasing us?

Come on, everyone knows the answer. It's liberals!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 7:27 pm

What created a huge number of the homeless population that we are still contending with? The answer is obvious: the conservatives!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

@Hmmmm,

Victor Frost is a product of conservatives? I think not, if conservatives had their way Victor Frost would not haunt the streets of Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm

My friend, I meant vis a vis Reagan! I know plenty of people, left, right & center, who'd love it if Mr. Frost made himself scarce.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Leave Victor alone. Stop picking on him. There are so many incidents/ robberies here in Palo Alto. Why is the city spending money and resources just to pick on this man who does not really bothers anyone. Why???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Because it's a conspiracy, Ann, clearly. My comment about people left, right & center that would be happy if he didn't hang around? Well, that was in reference to the fact that he has major political enemies after his run for city council. These politicos formed a cabal and it goes very, very high up. But no one knows who the power behind this cabal really is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by couldbe?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Could it be?I think maybe,maybe not,50-50.Anyway,time and money wasted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wheelchair guy is worse!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Hey, I used to think Victor was unpleasant and a con artist until the guy that brings a wheel chair as a prop and is "in your face" all the time (really really obnoxious and unpleasant) started showing up. The only time I hear Victor vocalize is when the other guy starts hurling obscenities at him. I still think that if nobody ever gave him any money or food he might not come back. It will take several 26cent contributions to pay that $50 fine. Quit giving him stuff and he may not come back!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 9:05 pm

How about an IRS audit for Victor Frost? I bet he doesn't declare any of his panhandling income or file tax returns.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adolf
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I think that Victor Frost should be sent to a work camp to sweat off some of that blubber and pay for his fine. If he cannot keep up, oh well, that is why America has come up with euphemism of collateral damage whenever we accidentally kill innocent woman and children while stealing the natural resources of other nations in order to feed our insatiable and greedy appetite for ease of life and pleasure. I have to imagine that the Capos at the Palo Alto Weekly will censor this post just like Goebbels did back in the 1940's


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eileen
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I really don't get America anymore - not even California and I am a native of this formerly golden state. How can a society allow is poor, insane, and elderly take to the streets? No one should have to panhandle and no one should have the "right" to be mentally ill out wandering the streets. I am not saying people should be locked up in poor houses or mental institutes, but how is this more moral? Surely there must be something between the work houses of Charles Dickens' novels and Victor Frost camping on the side walk begging for money to buy a drink. To those of you who say leave him be, I wonder why it doesn't bother you to see a fellow human being clearly in ill health spending all day long sitting on a street corner asking for money.
It's not that I feel sorry for him, because I don't, I just think that America should do better. Palo Alto should especially do better. People should not be allowed to roam the streets crazy, sick, and poor - we need programs to take care of the weak. We should be doing it as a city, state, and country - not one person at a time, one religious community, etc...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I just don't understand why the city cares so much about Victor. Who is really after him? Why?
Victor is a good guy. The only time I heard his voice out loud was when a car was about to run some people over at California Avenue.

A lot of people say bad things about Victor, but most of those people never took the time to talk to Victor. He is not doing anything to hurt anyone. He has his problems and he deals with it without bothering people.

Btw, I think the city knows that it will never win if they go to trial with jury against Victor. That is why the changed the way they are going after Victor. But I wanted to know who is pressing the city to go after him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Intolerance
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 5, 2011 at 6:46 am

As someone who grew up in the U.S. South (world-renowned for its supposed intolerance) I'm constantly surprised at how intolerant Palo Altans are. In fact, the South is remarkably tolerant of the indigent, the intoxicated, the eccentric. And yes, people of color. In the old days, and still in the South, a "community" is made up of all sorts of people, high and low, sane and insane, rich and poor. Go visit a southern community some day. See African-Americans living happy middle class lives. Watch old episodes of "The Andy Griffith" show. The recurring comedy bit about the town drunk showing up asking to be locked up for the night ... that's based on fact. But in Palo Alto everyone is supposed to look, act, and be the same. Loosen up,, people!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Compassionate intelligence
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 5, 2011 at 9:58 am

If you want to give him money, do. If you don't, don't.
If you donate to homeless groups, all the better.
He broke the law and is fined. Not a great way to use our tax money, so lets fix that.

BUT please at least try to understand alcoholism, mental illness, schizophrenia and depression. These are real illnesses at work here and we walk by them everyday rolling our eyes and complaining about the smell. And a big thank you to the social workers, educators and psychiatric workers who brave the smell and head out to the streets to help the unfortunate among us who have choosen the streets for home.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:11 am

Remember that the sit lie ordinance was expanded to the Whole Foods area because of Frost? One of the city council member at that time nicknamed the ordinance as Victor Frost Ordinance. So the city has been after him for a while. He broke a law that was created to target him. How sad is that? A city targeting one person who is not really aggressive or abusive. A man who minds his own business. Why they care so much about getting Victor out of his " confort zone"???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:40 am

Eileen, don't you recall Gov. Reagan? Don't you recall the release of thousands of mentally ill onto the streets under his purview? I am not sure why you're so confused, because I was very young when it happened, but I recall it very, very clearly. It was Dickensian in the reverse & just as bad, in many ways. Thank you for your post - very well put.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Eileen, where are our local shelters? Are you one of those people that believe that our unhoused folks should either work for the Downtown Streets Team picking up after the rich or any of those programs and follow all the rules or move to another city? There are people that cannot follow some of those many rules that some of those programs have. There are many people that need just shelter and mental help. Where are those services?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Compassion for us all...
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Some of you are so ignorant..just because VF is overweight, you use that as a put down. Mental Midget. Ever cross your teeny tiny brain that the man may have a MEDICAL CONDITION whereby it is causing his over weight problem?
Would it be any different if he was THIN and asking for money?? What if he dressed up and wore a nice jacket and tie? Would that please you??
Awhile ago when the lay offs began here in the Valley, I saw upscale, well dressed people in gas stations with signs, asking for money~ and as of late, this economy isn't in very good shape~it's worse!!! People are loosing their homes! Etc...Victor may get more competition and/or friends very soon.......................


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Support Compassionate Organizations
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 5, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I lived not far from downtown Palo Alto, but my family would drive all the way to Cupertino, when we wanted to eat at The Good Earth, because of the hassle of even getting to the University Avenue restaurant. That must be why I see many PA residents at Whole Foods Market in Los Altos now. We vote with our feet.

Giving to a compassionate organization is so much better than to individuals, as it does not encourage more panhandling.

When Gavin Newsom cleaned up San Franciso of its panhandlers, many hopped on a bus to our cities; & unfortunately, many caused the same problems that resulted in them being ousted from Golden Gate Park. There are resources to help already in place, and it's prudent to support the many institutionalized & faith based groups in our cities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another waste of money
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Do you realize how much this whole debacle has cost the City? So, Victor has to pay a $50 fine and the City has spent hours and hours of legal staff time to write up the "sit/lie ordinance." The Council spent time debating whether to have a sit/lie ordinance and what restrictions it should contain. Then, how much Police time has been spent on Victor Frost?

Money-wise this whole debacle has probably cost the City thousands!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 6, 2011 at 12:14 am

It is crazy the amount of money and time the city has spent going after Victor. Why, why, why???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Les
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2011 at 9:48 am

For those decrying the wasted tax dollars, the sit-lie ordinance was enacted long before Frost was in the picture. Originally it targeted the main downtown area, which was attracting too many panhandlers and vagrants. Stemming from the overwhelming number of complaints from local residents and business owners, it was Frost's behavior and disdain for civility and reason that caused the legal response. He created this situation and he alone. It something called consequences.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Hey, Hmmm, "Eileen, don't you recall Gov. Reagan? Don't you recall the release of thousands of mentally ill onto the streets under his purview?..."
That release was not Reagan's baby. The legislator shut down the central nut houses with the intention of establishing local, more compassionate care - then neglected to set up the local care. Laws are passed by the legislature, not the governor.
Perhaps, before Reagan, Frosty would be comfortably ensconced in a nice padded room somewhere.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Eileen, (a post way back that I just got to read) is spot on. These
people who are disabled, weak, addicted, or character-disordered (that's the biggest cohort) are allowed by our liberal Palo Alto cognescenti to wander the streets and sleep in alleys, I guess because we think the eyesores are "free"? They are "doing their own thing"??

Think of the bent-over woman dressed in black, probably over 60, invisible to all, even journalists, who patiently moves her belongings, neatly wrapped, into the corridor leading into the soon-defunct Border's. Then she folds herself down in a corner, into a comma, and covers herself over, while the Palo Alto world of nouveaux and arrivistes and scholars and journeymen trip the light fantastic by her, spending and getting, getting and spending. Dickens be!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2011 at 4:42 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

These people need care, even those who reject it. We need a procedure that allows confinement of weaker folk to a more structured life. Even Frosty might, with guidance, become once again a contributing member of society.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by compassion to spare
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Eileen,
Victor Frost has a taxpayer-funded apartment in Redwood City, yet he chooses to live in his car so he can run for city council in Palo Alto.

If you were a business owner, would you want him sitting in front of your store or parking lot? He does cause shoppers to go elsewhere. Ask the owner of Village Stationers on California Ave.

I agree that "America should do better" about providing for the destitute, but if you want to feel sorry for people, read about the vehicle dwellers at Web Link

Sadly, the latest "debt deal" will probably mean more jobless and homeless.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by whatta
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm

they6 charged a black man 150 dollars for having marijuana??? no wonder why your country is falling. this ''white guy'' who calls people names and threatens black men pays only 50 bucks?? racist country nobody cares about you rotten empire.


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