News

Editorial: Enact vehicle-dwelling ban

After five years, it's long past time for the City Council to take action and prohibit overnight vehicle habitation

Compassion and support for the downtrodden has always been an important part of the Palo Alto culture, but city leaders have done the community a disservice by allowing the problem of vehicle dwelling to languish for more than five years.

Spurred on this time by reports of increasing problems at Cubberley Community Center, which in the words of City Manager James Keene is becoming a "de facto homeless shelter," the City Council's Policy and Services Committee voted 2-1 last week to put an ordinance in front of the full council.

Vehicle dwelling, which is against the law in all neighboring communities, is one of those Palo Alto issues that seems to never reach a final resolution.

College Terrace residents tried to get the city to act back in 2008, as they saw first-hand the effects of there being no legal mechanism for preventing someone from deciding to park and spend the night in his or her car or camper directly in front of a home.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that many don't seem to think exists because they haven't personally experienced someone living in a car or camper parked in front of their house. But it is real and the scope of the problem seems to only be growing.

Over the last five years, the city has struggled to find a way to approach the issue in a way that would not simply rely on new laws, but respect and support people who had reached the point where their only place to sleep was in a vehicle.

In 2011, the city staff finally proposed an ordinance to ban sleeping in cars, but brought it to the City Council without outreach to the faith community or homeless advocates. Facing strong push-back from those who found the proposal heavy-handed and premature, City Manager Jim Keene pulled the proposal from the agenda and it disappeared again.

For the last two years, church leaders have explored whether there was enough interest and support for a system used in Eugene, Ore., where overnight vehicle-dwellers are allowed to use church parking lots and have access to bathrooms and other facilities.

The idea has all but fizzled out. After outreach to 42 faith-based organizations last year, only one church committed to the program as others ran up against strong neighborhood and liability concerns.

Last November, there was talk of a pilot program that would allow overnight dwellers to park their vehicles in designated city parking lots, but that too has gone nowhere, and the Cubberley experience suggests that is not a viable option.

City officials, including Police Chief Dennis Burns and Planning Director Curtis Williams, told the Policy and Services Committee last week about the growing homeless problem at Cubberley, including a steady increase in police calls. Burns said police had to respond to problems at Cubberley on 39 occasions last year, more than double the previous year.

Williams said that 20 to 30 people show up every evening, including five to 10 in vehicles, a "fairly significant increase in homeless dwelling at Cubberley." A manager in the city's Community Services Department, which has offices there, told the committee that there is more frequent drug use and fights and said that when custodians go to lock rooms up for the night they often find homeless people inside.

These reports and others were enough to convince the council committee that it's time for action. With Liz Kniss and Larry Klein supporting an ordinance, Gail Price opposing and Karen Holman absent, the matter will now go to the Council, though with unclear prospects.

Up until now most council members have taken a nuanced position on the problem and have emphasized providing support services rather than enacting a law similar to other cities.

Klein and Kniss said they endorse continuing to reach out to the homeless, but Klein, who has previously minimized the problem, now believes that the absence of a vehicle habitation ban may have contributed to making the city a magnet for homeless dwellers.

As we have advocated in earlier editorials, we strongly believe that an ordinance is needed to address this problem, along with stepped-up referrals to agencies that can provide assistance. It is not appropriate, fair or safe to openly permit people to live in their vehicles in a way that imposes on other residents of the community.

A tougher question is whether a ban should be limited only to vehicles in residential neighborhoods, at city parks and other facilities, or whether commercial and industrial areas should also be included.

It is hard to imagine the owners and tenants of offices or stores being any more accepting of a vehicle with someone living in it parked in front of their building than an occupant of a home or apartment.

As the years of delay in coming to a resolution of this issue suggests, there is neither a simple solution nor more ambitious ideas that have proven workable.

It's time to conform to what other cities have on their books and to equip our police with the legal tools they need to take action when vehicle dwellers create a problem for a resident or neighborhood.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by John Barton
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 24, 2013 at 9:17 am

Banning sleeping in cars does not suddenly provide housing for those who are less fortunate. Criminalizing the actions of those who are just trying to survive is cruel and unworthy of a great city.


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Posted by nobody special
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

This is a complete turnaround for Larry Klein. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pares
a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 9:45 am

It has not happened yet, but it was a shock to find out that anyone can park in front of my house, sleep in their car, and stay there for 72 hours. Then, all they need to do is move to the next house, and stay another 72 hours and that is completely legal. Not a safe situation at all. Yes, we do need to ban sleeping in vehicles in residential neighborhoods.

A regional solution is needed where there can be some oversight in a large parking lot with access to toilets.

To claim that Palo Alto is heartless to pass such an ordinance is nonsense. Safety comes first.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2013 at 9:55 am

Vehicle dwelling should be banned in Palo Alto for safety and sanitation reasons.

@ John Barton - no, this will not provide housing for the less fortunate, that is another issue. As a City, we provide an abundance of services to the homeless and poor, far more than most surrounding towns. No one is criminalizing the homeless. When someone sleeps in their car in front of your house, then uses your front lawn as a toilet and garbage can, you might feel differently.


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Posted by Scared Kid
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

Agree this is a problem. We went over to the (temporary) library in Cubberley one night, and my daughter was really scared by a homeless guy who approached her and offered to help her with something. She won't sit outside the library any more. There are way too many children's services in that area to make it a de facto homeless shelter without a large amount of additional security and protection.


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Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 10:31 am

I often see a gentleman at the PA Mc Donald's on El Camino. He sits in the television area all the time. Just last week, I went up to him, and sort of joked, "do you own stock in Mc Donald's, I always see you here". He responded, "I have no where else to go, as I live in my RV". He went on to say. "and I am tired of this type of life." He is a senior, and receives social security. I suggested he put his name on one of the PAHC housing lists, preferably the Oak Manor Town House/Scattered site list, as that list is always open. He said he would give it a try.

Seems to me, part of the challenge here is that folks who live in their vehicles either do not know what housing alternatives exist, or they are afraid of the bureaucracy involved with the application process, and possible fear of being denied, based on past circumstances. Perhaps, the Human Relations Commission of PA should make it a goal of its commission to hold a training on housing access for those who need housing.

One little known fact is for those who can be defined as homeless, section 8 vouchers can be obtained through various programs, and the voucher is expedited if the household is homeless; or if there are children in the household, there are transitional housing programs in each county.

In addition, the waiting lists for affordable housing need to reinforce the need to give preference to those without housing first. It is a well known fact that many people who are on the various apartment/project waiting lists are folks who already have affordable housing of some sort, but just like market rate renters, they want choice, and the ability to change housing. I believe that priority and preference should not be primarily based on local live/work criteria, but in the interest of fairness, to give those who do not have housing, the main priority, until everyone who needs/wants housing is served. Let's minimize the musical chair practice in the affordable housing industry of people putting their names on every housing list; getting into housing, and then simply moving to another affordable housing complex.

First, educate folks on their housing options. Secondly, commit to the goal of housing those in need first, and then the musical chair applicants. These wait lists are long not simply because of need, but because they are not carefully scrutinized to service those in real need as a priority. Since the city of Palo Alto often helps affordable housing developers, like PAHC, acquire and build affordable housing projects, the city can require one of the public benefits to be that a certain percentage of of the city's homeless receive priority application wise, prior to the usual "musical chair" applicants.

The homeless population will never decrease, and fully be served if we don't make it a goal to provide equal access to all with respect to affordable housing. The first step is education, and the next, a willingness on the part of the respective property management companies to wholeheartedly address the needs of the under served homeless population in each city and county.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 10:35 am

Theoretically I supposed if this was a brand-new community, or a big problem I would be for talking about it and enacting something that would be fair ... but it's not.

This is not a problem as far as I can see. I admit I don't have reconnaissance drones circling Palo Alto, so if there are places where this is a problem maybe I have missed them .... BUT, I keep my eyes and ears open and I read the news, and this online forum, and I do not hear anything of the magnitude that demands this kind of action.

What I do see and what mostly concerns me is the nastiness, mean-spiritedness - not to mention the exaggerations, lies, slanted comments cold words and unreasonable arguments from the people who are endorsing this. It's not the idea that is bad, it's not unreasonable to want someone who is imposing themselves on your front yard to leave - I get that. I just do not think it is a big problem that cannot or should not be resolved by the homeowner, the homeless person and the police if necessary.

Bottom line is that I feel the people supporting this effort are worse than the problem of the homeless of car dwellers and my gut reaction is to oppose anything being driven through by hate and lies.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2013 at 10:38 am

There is no doubt, please pass this ban. And commit a meaningful amount of money towards doing something to help the homeless at the same time. Perserving quality of life in Palo Alto and being compassionate about the problem are compatible.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2013 at 10:41 am

@CrescentParkAnon Go take a walk through the Cubberly lot at night, then go back to your cozy crescent park compound and tell us what you see. You are being compassionate at the cost of other people in the city.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 10:44 am

I appreciate Chris Gaither's thoughtful post on this.

It occurred to me that what could happen is that there are some people who have lived in Palo Alto all their lives and perhaps fallen down on their luck or just do not have skills to deal with a traumatic situation.

This proposed new attitude seems to be that once these kind of people become noticed, they get criminalized or run out of town - when there might be much better, softer and more humane ways of actually helping these people.

The over-riding characteristic of the people who want to ban this just seem to have a mean streak and like to push, boss or control others. You can hear it in the way they communicate in these forums or the way the describe the problem, and often are caught in lies or tell stories that are patently untrue.

I would urge the city to spend its time on things that need the attention and to allow the attitude and ideas of people like Chris to work with this problem or set the tone for working with this problem. This is not an emergency, or even much of a problem.

There may be certain circumstances where a real type-A person has been frustrated and thwarted into deciding to take action and setting a goal of revenge for whatever situation befell him or her, but that is not a good basis for legislation or public policy.


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Posted by Lorin Krogh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 11:03 am

To whose and what purpose does criminalizing a behavior serve? Why must we punish the struggling souls to make a point that society is often unjust? I know there are better solutions to suffering than to punish anyone. We're all in this together so let's solve it together. Wishing and crimianlizing a problem only seems to make our problems worse.


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Posted by Don
a resident of Green Acres
on May 24, 2013 at 11:07 am

Make it illegal, and then arrest them if they park and sleep in a prohibited area. Then what, fine them? They couldn't afford to pay it. Put them in jail? It's expensive to house them there. Might as well just give them the money instead. But for fate and luck, we could be them. Too bad that all the surrounding cities have forced them here. A lot of these people have mental problems that prevent a normal life.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 11:07 am

> Perserving quality of life in Palo Alto and being compassionate about the problem are compatible.

Overlooking Mr.Recycle's sarcasm to comment on this one thing he said.

What passing this ordinance will do is JUST come down on the homeless ... it seems obvious. Talking about allocating a "meaningful" amount of money towards solving the problem compassionately is just going to create more high salary patronage do-nothing positions for the 0.1% that Palo Alto really cannot afford and should be getting rid of more of them to get real work done. These goals are not compatible. Putting temporary money towards supposedly helping the homeless is a sugar-coating meant to push some people over to the other side by easing their concerns ... falsely.

If this so-called problem is limited to Cubberly, why is that unacceptable - or some other area? I don't see houses on either side of that area, or that people would be walking through there at night ... what have been the specific calls to the police or reported problems? Who does this really affect and how, and why is the shotgun approach the only one these people want to consider?

And just in care you're jealous Mr. Recycle, don't be, I don't have a compound.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 11:08 am

> A lot of these people have mental problems that prevent a normal life.

Yeah, kind of ironic huh, the rich people with mental problems always want to go after the poor people with mental problems ... maybe so as to not remind them of their own mental problems? ;-)


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Posted by Dumping ground.
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 24, 2013 at 11:12 am

A regional solution is needed. When all of the surrounding cities ban vehicle dwelling, they pushed a critical mass of homeless to Palo Alto, creating a problem here that we can't solve on our own.

I would like to see the regional media ask our neighboring cities why they imposed bans, pushing the problem on their neighbors instead of working together to find a more compassionate regional solution?

Shame on them. Shame on the media for not properly covering the failure of all of these cities who one-by-one pushed the problem to us. They'd better not blame Palo Alto--the last holdout. Shame on the state for closing facilities that treat the mentally ill, pushing them to the street. Shame on all of us for allowing poor seniors to live in cars as their bodies become older and more fragile. They deserve better. We can do better if the REGION and state use their combined resources to solve the problem instead of each city shutting its individual door to vulnerable people until one city is left holding the bag.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 11:17 am

Paly Parent said:
> When someone sleeps in their car in front of your house, then uses your front lawn as a toilet and garbage can, you might feel differently.

It occurs to me that this is one of those comments that is supposed to make us all think that disgusting things are or could be happening in our very own yards!

But honestly, how often does this happen, and how do you know this PP? Bad choice of acronym.

Seriously, if someone went to the bathroom in my yard I would call the police and get them arrested. There is a law against that ... so this again turns out to be another hyperbolic emotionally manipulative dishonest comment by those who are in favor of this ban.

When I go down the list, every single comment, statement or claim by these people has worked out to be nothing ... the only argument that makes sense is that in a perfect world bums should not be allowed to camp in someone's front yard ... but that is not what is happening either, so we get distortions and embellishments.

When this becomes a problem, let us know, honestly and objectively, leave out the dishonest manipulation please, and before someone says it leave out as an argument for this that certain people in Palo Alto ought to host these people in their homes as well. In this whole argument here I've yet to hear anything that really demands legal action be taken that cannot already be taken. It is against the law to go to the bathroom in your own yard, so it is surely against the law for others to do it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 11:25 am

DumpingGround:
> they pushed a critical mass of homeless to Palo Alto, creating a problem here that we can't solve on our own.

Please qualify that - and lets stop relying on pumping up people's imaginations on this problem with what are basically lies please?

How many homeless people are there in Palo Alto?

Did you complain as loud when Reagan dumped many of these people from state hospitals to the streets - because I am old enough to remember when I never saw homeless people in Palo Alto, and then there they were.

And the numbers of homeless people have increased, but to me it seems steady, but very gradual. When there is a problem why don't people deal with it.

Do the police just not want to take their time to process these people for the ordinary normal problems they might cause? I know there were people I saw all over town that bother me if only to gross me out when I am out for the night on University. Like the lady with the matted hair that is as big as her body, or the guy who used to frequent the Apple Store that you could smell throughout the store ... the old store.

Maybe what the city ought to do is to crowdsource a description of the problem. Put up a web blog where people can explain and document how this problem affects them so we can get a real idea of magnitude and scope of the problem. Then are reasonable discussion can ensue instead of this pile of exaggerations and distortions by people who seem to have too much time on their hands!



 +   Like this comment
Posted by jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2013 at 11:30 am

If 20 to 30 show up every evening, including 5 to 10 in vehicles, it doesn't sound like the Cubberley problem will be solved by banning sleeping in vehicles.

If the Palo Alto police department can not deal with a problem, enacting an appropriate ordinance to help them is one way to help solve the problem.

There are people who are either unable or choose to not have a conventional job. If marginal support such as allowing sleeping on public land is provided there will be additional maintenance costs for restrooms, trash, and maintaining peace. Every resident should be willing to put some effort into keeping the city pleasant but city policy and actions shouldn't make a few residents responsible because they happen to live near a parking lot.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of College Terrace
on May 24, 2013 at 11:37 am

@ Crescentparkanon -

I find it offensive and condescending for you to dismiss everyone else's concerns as unreasonable or made up.

Simply because you have not experienced a problem in front of your home does not make it fictitious or exagerated.

Contrary to what you write, not every concern can be addressed by existing laws. Sure, if a person is observed defecating in someone's yard, they can be issued a citation by the police (after which they could return to their vehicle and remain there); however, the homeowner who simply discovers and reports the feces after-the-fact has no recourse. And, to suggest that the homeowner should have to tolerate anything short of openly camping or defecating in their yard is ludicrous.

Honestly answer the following questions: would you be pleased if an inhabited vehicle was parked directly in front of your home overnight, night after night? Would you be pleased if you knew someone was urinating and defecating in your bushes, even if you didn't see them doing it?

There is a reason that EVERY surrounding city has enacted such a ban. There is a reason that this ban has been proposed in Palo Alto for years.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

Bob, I did not dismiss everyone's concerns at all ... if you read my comments you would realize this. I put them in perspective - because besides the genuine concerns about this which I acknowledged - most of the comments on the pro side of this issue were irrelevant, exaggerations or outright fabrications. As I also said, let's get to the truth of what the exact issues are here - and then see if it requires a ban on someone sleeping in their car.

Even you have some legitimate concerns, but I think ...

> suggest that the homeowner should have to tolerate anything short of openly camping or defecating in their yard is ludicrous.

is one of those meaningless who knows what it means, but since it has defecation as part of the sentence structure it seems like you are talking about that ... but you are not, since defecation in public or on someone's private property is already illegal - RIGHT?

So, please do not accuse me of dismissing other's legitimate comments - especially while dismissing everything I've said ... please!?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Jeff,

> Every resident should be willing to put some effort into keeping the city pleasant but city policy and actions shouldn't make a few residents responsible because they happen to live near a parking lot.

Well put. Now that is actually a fair statement and a useful comment - in my opinion.

As I look at the Google Map, the only parts of Cubberly adjacent to residential areas are Keats Court on the Southwest.

Ferne Ave. and Nelson Drive are adjacent to the track and ball fields respectively.

Then as Nelson Drive jogs over towards Charleston there is some residential with backyards touching on the parking lot near Charleston Center and Piazzis.

Where are these problems that the people who live near the parking lot have to deal with ... and to be honest if I lived there I would class just seeing homeless people from my home a problem - so I am not dismissing anyone's concern. But, what is the issue?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Do it soon
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Yes, please enact this and soon. However, police need to watch who they determine is a camper dweller. With all the remodeling going on in this town, many people are parking outside their homes, attached to their home electricity by cords, in order to,avoid noxious fumes, wood dust, freshly refinished floors, etc. the police have been harassing them , too, so let their be no confusion.


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Posted by one for all
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm

@Do it soon,
A ban is a ban. The person living in a vehicle because their home is re-modeled is vehicle dwelling and needs to be cited. All are equal in the eyes of the law.


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Posted by Calm Support
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Palo Alto turn the baton on those in need? For shame.

It would be more humane and less costly to provide a self-regulatory program to manage in-vehicle sleeping in designated places with facilities, from 9PM to 7AM, supervised by the homeless and their supporters (Downtown Street Team, Inn-Vision, Ecumenical Hunger, etc.), with some funding.

The churches could not be the place because many are sanctuaries people visit at all hours, and many children use during the day for pre-schools. Churches are already providing homes for the completely homeless through Hotel de Zink, which is well-managed and has been put in place with care. The risk of loss for the community was perceived as being greater with the Church-based vehicle dwelling pilot.

But Palo Alto has vast parking lots with facilities in parks and places like Cubberley, unused at night. If supervised, with rules, and with our police empowered to provide support if needed, just one of the locations could provide a place for calm, peaceful vehicle-dwelling at night, and the uncomfortable encounters avoided.

We let stockbrokers self-regulate through the their SEC, with oversight. Generally that works out. They no longer trade stocks in the street. We can certainly give vehicle-owners-without-an-address the power and respect to do so as well, to support them while they seek work in our community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This thread is just getting started. I'm sure the CT residents will pipe in on the problems in their neighborhood. And there are the issues around the public garden/main library/art center. The Alma campers in DTN. The campers in the varsity parking lot at Stanford. El Camino campers.

The problem goes beyond the act of camping - to think otherwise indicates that a person has not been around the "experience" themselves. The following does not apply to all cammpers - but there is enough of this going around that many are fed up with being a regional campground for all of Santa Clara county: Trash. Cooking on the sidewalk. Urine dumping into the gutter or storm drain. Defecation. Scary characters around school children. Abusive language and comments when you walk by. Begging. Drug/alcohol abuse.

The idea that "it doesn't seem to be that big of a problem", is one promoted by individuals who don't have to deal with it on a daily basis.

I'm not going to go the "well have someone camp in your driveway if you feel that way" route. We all know you won't do that.

As for the Cubberly Google Map response --- the campers are in and out of the neighborhood on a daily basis. It's not like they pull in quietly, have self-contained RVs, and slip in for a quiet night of sleep and leave early in the morning ... without making a mess, roaming around the area, cooking in the bathrooms, hiding in classrooms when they can, etc. Do the drugs, smoke, etc.

I have proposed that if the city wants to do something then set up park parking lot with porta-potties, mandatory registration, no drugs/alcohol policy, posted guards, in before 9pm, out before 8am. Baylands would be the ideal place to do this...away from residents, away from any commercial property, but still easy to access as its very close to 101. Red Cross or some other entity could set up a trailer out there.

It is a regional problem. And because PA is the only city that allows camping, they all come here. Not even San Francisco (the great liberal city) allows camping on the streets. So spare me the "PA residents are heartless" rant.

Time to get it done.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm

This is a challenging issue.
I can see that churches may not wish to assume the liability and hassle of routinely housing an ever-changing mix of homeless (down on the luck/criminal/foreclosed on/alcoholic/unemployed -- whatever the combination of factors). This is understandable - we need to maintain public and private cleanliness and safety. I wouldn't want to stick my neck out in a church only to end up being threatened or have fights, etc. in my church. Careful, well-planned programs can provide specific assistance, such as food, and that is fine.
I also don't think it is correct for Palo Alto to attract marginal people from out of area here, as is what is currently happening, with the expectation of a lax attitude towards enforcement of criminal acts and/or harrassing actions: sleeping on public spaces, urination/defecation in public spaces, panhandling, public health concerns (TB and so on). Other cities seem perfectly capable of making welcoming public streets and sidewalks and community centers without inviting out of area vagrants. You may have the right to walk the streets, sit in the public library, but if you are set up there near permanently and a threat to public health or safety, you are over a line and should be arrested, not cited.
I have been threatened with aggressive street people, and do not believe their "rights" to threaten me trump my right to free passage on the street. However, notably, the occurrence/frequency of such situations is NOT consistent everywhere - it IS a problem in Palo Alto (and San Francisco).
That said, we DO have a myriad of government and charitable social services and making this widely known is advisable. I understand there ARE local efforts, too, through churches and clean streets teams and so on to assist with those who are willing to accept meaningful assistance to improve their hardship situations. The problem is, there is a spectrum of homeless/car campers/vagrants/mentally ill/ex-cons and so on and I think personal responsibility for one's behavior has to factor in to how our community/city/state are going to respond.
Some, though, will not accept meaningful assistance or take steps to assist themselves - entrenched street living should NOT be accepted and it is a public health and safety concern. I oppose giving cash to such persons, we all know that doesn't solve anything and may worse their situation (and ours) with increased drug and liquor purchases. Resorting to theft and harrassment is not acceptable when these persons become desperate.
At this point, law enforcement needs to clarify and then enforce public health and safety rules such as no public urination/defecation, institute a ban on car camping in line with this region (other local cities) and we taxpayers will have to pay for more police until this problem calms down. It is NOT OK for random homeless persons to squat on Cubberley Community Center - this DOES infringe on the general rights of the public - childen, families, business, taxpayers - to have use of this local facility without fear/threats/filth.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Absolutely no "homeless camp" or "car camp" in the beautiful Palo Alto Baylands - that is the worst idea possible and would lead to trashing a valuable habitat, loss of use for families, possible fires (as in past in EPA section of Baylands when a homeless guy was out there) - completely too far from the oversight of Palo Alto police.


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Posted by Marianne
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm

To "CrescentParkAnon" and "John Barton" and "Lorin Krogh".... did you bother to read this part of the editorial?

"Unfortunately, this is a problem that many don't seem to think exists because they haven't personally experienced someone living in a car or camper parked in front of their house."

"After outreach to 42 faith-based organizations last year, only one church committed to the program as others ran up against strong neighborhood and liability concerns."

Tell you what: why don't each of you publish your home street address and we will direct these homeless to camp out in front of your house for a spell?!!


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Posted by Carla
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm

We moved from Palo Alto to Los Altos Hills because of this. It is amazing how much Palo Altans are willing to put up with, and how the leaders have no backbone there. The situation with the homeless people (in vehicles or not) is not only dangerous but also unsanitary; call it a biohazard.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Palo Alto is the last community that should be criticized, faulted, or made to feel guilty about their outreach to the homeless and those less fortunate. The critics and many homeless advocates are quick to play that card. Quite frankly, and I think that many Palo Altans would agree, I find it more than offensive.

This community has a long history of supporting homeless advocacy groups. Palo Alto has been and still is the leader in outreach efforts on the entire Peninsula. This has been true for decades running.

Due in large part to our patience, compassion, and tolerance, Palo Alto is home to numerous homeless programs and services. The Opportunity Center is one of the largest such facilities in the Bay Area. Prior to that, the Urban Ministry operated out of the Red Cross building near the Downtown train station for over thirty years. Other services include the Downtown Streets Team, All Saints Food Closet, and the Hotel DeZink Temporary shelter that rotates among several local churches.

Many of these programs are funded by Palo Alto tax payers. For example, the Opportunity Center draws an annual six-figure tax allocation, provided entirely by Palo Alto tax payers.

The bottom line is that Palo Alto carries the majority of the burden when it comes to society's relative responsibility in dealing with the homeless. No other community in our region comes even close. Palo Alto has a disproportionate level of responsibility, and it's high time that it gets spread around.

Furthermore, I would venture to say with great confidence that all of these services located in Palo Alto serve a very small percentage of those with true Palo Alto ties or roots. We have become a magnet for those seeking these services from all over the Bay Area. It's excessive, unreasonable, and a situation that has to have some limits and boundaries.

Passing this sleeping in the car ordinance would be one small step toward balancing things out. All of our surrounding cities and beyond already have an ordinance and for good reason. I am sure that those communities are more than happy to allow Palo Alto to become a campground magnet and allow us to deal with the problem.

This ordinance would place us on a consistent policy ground with the vast majority of cities in the Bay Area. Palo Alto does more than its share of homeless outreach work already. The critics and advocates are merely taking advantage of our generosity and compassion by laying a guilt trip on everyone. It's time to stop and exercise a little common sense. This is a good ordinance that will place a greater priority of those that live in Palo Alto, paying incredibly high taxes, have made huge financial investments to live here, and simply wish to preserve the quality of life that we've come to expect from this community.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Carla - I found your post intriguing. Can you tell us more about what caused you to move? I hope that you are happy in your newer environs.


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Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I live adjacent to Cubberly fields. You do not see the car dwellers from the Nelson Drive side. You must actually walk through the parking lots to see it first hand, even by the FOPAL portable.
I walk my dog there and I walk through the area, as do many, to get to Piazza's and the temporary library. My dog found human feces on the playing field one day--no, not dog poop--believe me, it's different and you would know it. A car dweller's off leash dog menaced mine (typical dog protective behavior; I don't blame the dog) and the owner had a hard time controlling it. I have seen people cooking breakfast in the trees at the edge of the track. Some of my neighbors have been concerned about the car dwelling and have attended meetings on the subject. There are some car dwellers whom I feel for--people with their pets, who might not be able to find a living arrangement that would take their pets. I believe these people need help and for whatever reason, do not seek it. It's time to stop enabling this behavior. Pass the law.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm

> The idea that "it doesn't seem to be that big of a problem", is one promoted by individuals who don't have to deal with it on a daily basis.

Who has to deal with this on a daily basis?

> Palo Alto is the last community that should be criticized, faulted, or made to feel guilty about their outreach to the homeless and those less fortunate.

Oh ... the dishonesty here is really what makes me so pissed off at the people who are pushing this. No one is faulting Palo Alto for their outreach ... that is a non-issue, non-statement. Phil's post goes on like this for 8 paragraphs.

This is the way things that are not optimal or even though out at all get ramrodded by a militant few who seems as nasty as any homeless people I've ever encountered.

Yes, there are criminals, but that is not what we are talking about here.

And just as I said, someone pipes up with send them over to your house. They should not be and are not in front of anyone's house, and if they are get it dealt with without trying to hoodwink the entire city. This is the kind of crap that makes politics so damn dirty.

Then someone pipes up who doesn't even live in Palo Alto anymore claiming to be a former resident who moved apparently because her house was overcome by homeless people. Some of you really ought to go into acting or writing fiction.


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Posted by CrescenttParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm

CurMudgeon says he is not bothered by homeless car campers in his home and cannot see them ... he has to go out and find them, and then claim, as an expert in poop that his dog has once found human poop in the playing field, and that this poop was from one of the people in Cubberly?

That a car-dwellers dog menaced his dog ... no reported damages or problems?

Curmudgeon claims to have had a neighborhood meeting but does not talk about the content or results of that meeting. I have to assume that it was not important enough to do anything about since no one ever heard from him.

This is exactly what I am saying I see in this effort, just a few wild-eyed dishonest witnesses trying to make this problem much much greater than it is - and not for logical reasonable reasons, just because they do not like the homeless.

Well, I can agree with that, but I seem to have been able to avoid the homeless and not let them bug me for the 40+ years I have lived in Palo Alto ... this is merely a concerted whining campaign in order that some grumpy old folks can get their blood flowing for a while and feel alive. ;-)

Sorry, I'm doing just what I accuse the anti-homeless of doing ... but at least I'm not taking it too seriously ,,, more seriously than it deserves.

Compare this to some of the people who hang out on the streets in Palo Alto that really are scary and who are not homeless. The real live honest to God homeless are not pleasant, and sometimes they lose it just like the rest of us we are just more likely to see it. But very few of them are a criminal problem ... virtually none of them in the decades I've lived here. They are quiet and peaceful if not hygienic and refined for the most part, and again, those that are not do not stay out in public long.

From another thread, we should not pass an anti-homeless law, why don't we save the whole state a problem and restore the mental hospitals so there is an alternative? One homeless guy who was nuts burned down Walmart - $26 million in damages, court and prison costs ... what are the real costs of these people, and what is the best way to handle those costs and liabilities? Until such time as we can see clearly and solve this, why add another layer of government onto the problem and start persecuting people who are for the most part not a problem - just let the police handle these problems as they come up - they get solved that way.

Finally, is there anywhere that the Palo Alto Police have talked about homelessness and how much of a cost it is for them now? What is that cost? What are the damages to society ... until I see proof I continue to think they are a relatively small problem that does not need their own laws to manage. It's overkill and mean spirited.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm

>Banning sleeping in cars does not suddenly provide housing for those who are less fortunate. Criminalizing the actions of those who are just trying to survive is cruel and unworthy of a great city.

@John Barton: OK, John, then take one or two of the homeless into your home. Provide for them, and pay for their keep. Just don't force me to have them in front of my home. At a minimum, you can invite them to park in front of your home. Walk your talk.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm

CrescentParkAnon - To your comment about people using my yard as a toilet - "It occurs to me that this is one of those comments that is supposed to make us all think that disgusting things are or could be happening in our very own yards!" Guess what, it happened in my yard. Calling the police would not help unless they "catch them in the act." This was in Professorville, by a person living in their camper that I still see parked in various parts of Professorvile.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Transcending the particular issue of car dwelling in residential neighborhoods, our society seems to be fond of coming down hard on the least fortunate and most powerless elements in our midst.

We seem to worship power and influence. Our corporations and politicians literally get away with murder, fraud and grand theft. The previous administration has committed blatant war crimes and violated international treaties the US is a signatory to numerous times and none of them was even prosecuted because they are so powerful.

Wealthy people who can afford ultra expensive attorneys get away with pretty much anything. The wealthiest and most powerful have bought the political system and get their way on anything. We have become an oligarchy, a class society.

I may be old fashioned, but my father used to tell me that going after the weak is cowardly and standing up to the mighty is true bravery,


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Posted by wishwecouldhavetriedit
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 24, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I am sorry that the experiment of letting 'car sleepers' use churches or other similar parking lots never got off the ground. It would have been nice to get some objective data on whether such an approach would work. It might have attracted nomads who were conscientious and appreciative of a place that was safe for them as well. Maybe it would not have attracted those who everyone here is afraid of and who no one wants. But we won't know ....


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Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on May 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

"I am sorry that the experiment of letting 'car sleepers' use churches or other similar parking lots never got off the ground. It would have been nice to get some objective data on whether such an approach would work."

But that's the point right? We needed two things for this experiment to work - parking lots and people to fill them. We didn't get the first thing - entities in PA won't offer up the parking space. So the objective data says the approach is a non-starter. Sorry.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 7:32 pm


This issue of "homelessness" seems to have some friends in the Legislature—that feel that the "homeless" are an obligation of the taxpayers—

California homeless rights bill fails in Assembly committee:
Web Link

Ammiano, D-San Francisco, proposed several protections for homeless people, including the right to counsel when accused of crimes like loitering. His bill also called for cities and counties to build hygiene centers, which would have cost as much as $216 million to build and another $81 million a year to maintain.
----
It's difficult to believe than any estimate for taking care of California's "homeless" is as little as $216M + $81M a year. Once you start giving other people's money away—there is no end to the ideas people come up with—such as free phones, free cars, free food, free housing, free cloths, free alcohol, free drugs, free health care, free travel vouchers, and so on. Why should anyone ever work again—when they have friends like Tom Ammiano?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm

@Joe, Why should anyone ever work again — when they have friends like Tom Ammiano?

The more serious question is why should anyone ever work again when they get taxed 110 percent?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2013 at 8:19 pm

> The more serious question is why should anyone ever work
> again when they get taxed 110 percent

Ok .. looks like there are two questions on the table.


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Posted by Hypocrisy Spotter
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Only 1 church offered their parking lot for the homeless. All the preaching about helping others in need? Easier said than done. Even our churchgoers want them out. Ban vehicle dwelling now.


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Posted by Anon_non
a resident of Ventura
on May 24, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Sadly some of those RVs contain children who attend south Palo Alto Schools. One such kid, was a year behind my daughter. Each time we walk past the RVs on Park Ave near Oregon Expressway, I wonder what it might be like to have a kid and be living in one. Just how fortunate we are to have our 'nice warm homes', with running water, toilets, fridges, stoves .... and so much more. As a single parent working full time with no support from my ex, if I loose my job we could very quickly become one of those families. Scary thought. It is easy to pass judgment when sitting in the pound seat.

And, I must add I so understand how disconcerting it must be for those who do have someone sleeping in their vehicle or on their street night after night. I also agree, at night Cubberly is no longer as safe as it used to be but simply passing an ordinance to ban people sleeping in their vehicles is NOT a solution. With all the brilliant minds here in Palo Alto, if people put their heads together I am sure they could some up with something where each person is respected.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2013 at 12:14 am

How could a child live in an RV and attend PAUSD? Wait till this catches wind. . .

No, Anon_non, if you lost your job, you would move elsewhere where you could afford to live, and you would find another job or jobs, whether at Wal-Mart, fast-food, etc. All America requires for success is determination and hard work. So many people don't understand what a great country this is. My grandparents were immigrants. Immigrants are grateful for the opportunities in America.


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Posted by Alf
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2013 at 7:41 am

Hard Left types, like Chris Gaither and John Barton, seem to want to make homelessness out to be a societal problem—that needs societal solutions. They rarely seem to suggest that people are ultimately responsible for themselves.

Take Gaither's claim that we need to educate those like that man who seems to be camped out in the TV area of a local McDonalds. Rather than trying to get him signed up for more social benefits—what about suggesting that he look for some sort of work that might keep him better occupied. Is there any chance he could work at McDonalds? Part time jobs abound in this area. If age, or health issues, were to be an impediment to employment, what about volunteer work? The VA Hospital is close by, for example. Are there any programs there for volunteers to help in dealing with those former service members? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Hubert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2013 at 8:24 am


There is a difference between being compassionate and stupid. Being the only city to allow car camping makes Palo Alto a magnet -- everyone will come here, and the problem will continue to get worse.

We already have a lot of services for the homeless. The car campers need to use them, rather than just making their own rules and doing what they want.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2013 at 8:49 am

Dear CrescentParkAnon,

Where did I say that Palo Altans are being faulted for their homeless outreach efforts as you state? I never said that, not even close. I stated that we have been criticized and faulted for NOT doing enough outreach. Big difference. My entire point is that we do more than our share of outreach work already, and cannot be expected to continue to carry this burden for our entire region. I have lived in Palo Alto my entire 70-plus years. I am proud of our track record of caring and compassion for those less fortunate. I also know when that generosity is being taken advantage of. It has nothing to do with grumpiness and everything to do with common sense.


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Posted by Joan a resident nearby
a resident of Los Altos
on May 25, 2013 at 10:50 am

A Palo Alto community approach and plan for the current problem of people living in cars in your neighborhoods and environs? The homeless in the large numbers now understandably needing to be dealt with, make this indeed a problem.
Why not designate part of Palo Alto's "only for Palo Alto Foothills Park"as an area for them? Though we in the neighboring communities who have never been able to share in those outdoor environs might feel a bit jealous.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2013 at 11:35 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2013 at 11:38 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

May I suggest that you lobby your city leaders to pass a bond measure that would provide a six-figure tax increase to your residents to help fund another Opportunity Center in your town. Let's open another food closet for the homeless in downtown Los Altos. Have Los Altos join the Downtown Streets Team program and allocate tax payer dollars to have homeless work cleaning the sidewalks in your downtown area. Encourage your faith based leaders to join the Hotel DeZink Homeless Shelter consortium and have your churches open their doors to those in need.

When Los Altos and our other neighboring cities begin to contribute to these and many other regional problems, then maybe we'll consider opening Foothills Park to everyone.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 25, 2013 at 11:52 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

Phil - I suggest that you amend your whole "other communities don't do as much as US" routine, since I don't think that you've updated your understanding. I'm rolling my eyes every time I read those comments from you because you act PA has no room for improvement in those services & that other local communities don't offer services, but they do - & that's significant.

It would be useful if car camper supporters realized that the lack of a ban ongoingly invites car campers from other areas & then they try to claim that they're PA residents & entitled to XYZ.

I know 2 Ventura-area families who moved in haste from their apartments in large part due to problems w/car campers. Both young Stanford families, the women experienced ongoing harassment from car campers. When they left, they took their $$ spent at local businesses w/them. Restaurants, gas stations, banking, hotels where their families stayed, grocery stores, etc.


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Posted by MM
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

The City should open a camper park in the open space area near Embarcadero or pass a law no camping.

Is it really our responsibility to house homeless people on our city streets without health or safety?

We work very hard to get to live in Palo Alto and pay taxes to do so. We live here because our streets are safe AND beautiful. Is it really a right to camp on our streets? I don't feel entitled to camp in Atherton nor would I last a nite without being asked to move on.

I have been involved in hotel de zink and support compassion to the homeless which there is too much of since the institutions closed down in the 80's And since the valley's unemployment has thrown campers on to our streets. Let's have an organized and safe place to house campers, like a city designated camp area with city ordinances and camping fees with sanitation and enforcement that is fully staffed or pass an ordinance not to camp on Palo Alto public streets.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2013 at 12:37 pm

> We live here because our streets are safe AND beautiful.


Do you read the news at all? ... our streets do not appear to be that safe,
and that is not because of these car campers that everyone wants to
blame for all kinds of crime.



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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Alright Hmmm, update me. Outline the other services that our surrounding cities provide that rivals that of Palo Alto. And you suggest, that PA has room for improvement. I think our neighbors have some serious catching up to do before they dare to criticize and point fingers that we're not doing enough. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I don't think that anyone is blaming the homeless for all the crime that is committed in Palo Alto CrescentParkAnon. Of course that isn't the case. However, the majority of homeless, at least a highly disproportionate number are in the situation they're in because of serious issues involving mental health, substance abuse, and in many cases a criminal background.

Often time the results of a disproportionate number of homeless people in any given community leads to many quality of life issues that people experience every day, especially within city centers. Vagrancy, public drunkenness, aggressive panhandling, urinating/defecating in public places, and the list goes on.

I believe that society has a responsibility in a public and private sense to help those less fortunate and who are struggling. I think most of us would agree on that. I also believe that responsibility should be shared across the board equally. Palo Alto needs this public camping ordinance passed for the same reasons that nearly every other city in the Bay Area has one. As I've repeatedly stated, Palo Alto already does far and above what other cities provide in terms of homeless outreach. That is why we have disproportionate number of homeless in our downtown area. By not having such an ordinance certainly contributes to that off-balance number.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

> Let's have an organized and safe place to house campers,

In my opinion, this is the way the city ought to approach this. First, create a place for some of these people to go, assuming that is appropriate, that is - they are not criminals or child predators. There needs to be a mechanism that this is not a long-term or permanent solution. As I wrote earlier it is really not ideal to run someone, especially someone who has been local, out of town, if they have a temporary problem.

Then when that is in place"carefully" and "publicly" track problems from homeless and leave out issues that cannot be directly associated with homeless or car campers and resolve them as appropriate. Let's not "solve" a problem we do not really have that is not manageable by laws we already have.

This "car camping ban" thing is a law that we do not even know there is a real reason for except some loud people here start to claim all these incidents - and with no proof and having taking very little effort to resolve by what laws we already have.

One problem is that we have too many laws and not enough common sense, and this is the reason why, some constituency get some voice or some money and puffs up and convinces everyone they know what they are talking about, and then we are stuck with a bad law and lots of adjudication in the courts and the associated costs for that. What a waste of time and resources.

The other common claim here is that all kinds of homeless are coming to Palo Alto from "all over the county" ... and I don't think there is a shred of evidence to support that. Most of this is from one or two very loud determined people that admittedly do not have the problem now, though they claim to have had it in the past.

Another complaint is that they are going to the bathroom in people's yards ... and I think this is nonsense. Of course it happens, but there is not telling by whom, but there is dog poop all over the place, and if I take my trash cans in too late the nice dog walkers love to take the space in my trash cans to dump their dog poop bags stinking up my trash cans like a sewer - maybe we need a law against that? Police can arrest people already for going to the bathroom in public - this is not a problem that will be solved by a car camping ban. Just out of curiosity what do people think people do when they are playing or being active in Eleanor Park and then have to go to the bathroom when there are no facilities around?

I am much more concerned about muggings, burglaries, robberies and armed-robberies that I see reported here in the news regularly. These REAL thugs can strike at any time, and do. There have been enough of them in the last few years that I feel like I have to be very aware just walking to downtown from Crescent Park ... around a mile! Lord help me if I walk downtown to upgrade my iPhone and have to walk back with a big old Apple bag in public. This will do nothing to solve any real problem.

This is such overkill for a non-problem, people are reacting and prompted to react based on their emotional reactions to stories that are not even verified, relevant or true.

Then the response is always, you host them at your house, well I have just as much chance of that as anyone, and if that happens I am quite confident I can deal with it appropriately with the current system without going off the deep end to blame a who class of vulnerable people.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2013 at 1:08 pm

> Palo Alto is the last community that should be criticized, faulted, or made to feel guilty about their outreach to the homeless and those less fortunate. The critics and many homeless advocates are quick to play that card.

Phil, this is what you said ... direct quote. "Card" ... as in irrational reasoning backed by an emotional moral appeal. I don't believe your reasoning here was less emotional.

The conclusion being made that because you say that Palo Alto has done more than surrounding communities for the homeless that a car camping ban or anything else is sensible and justified. I'm just pointing out that is an irrational argument. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Exactly as stated. Why, if Palo Alto already carries the majority of the burden in terms of homeless outreach, should we be expected to add to that by opening a mobile shelter? All to serve a vast majority of those that have little or no ties or roots to Palo Alto. Again, it's time for other communities or the county to step in and lift their share of the weight. This is a little something called common sense. You may want to try it sometime. In the meantime let's just agree to disagree. Looking forward to the ordinance being passed for all the right reasons.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm

PAMC 10.44.020 (1)-(3) prohibits oversized vehicles, trailers and camper shells from street parking between 2am and 6am without a permit.

PAMC 10.44.021 allows residents to obtain a one-time 30 day hardship permit for a fee. The fee is $25 in the current municipal fee schedule.

To qualify a resident must establish "actual residence at an address within the city"


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2013 at 1:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by okaaa
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 25, 2013 at 3:22 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

No, Phil, you can update yourself. Your hyper-focus on what PA does is a bit foolish considering what some of the local cities ALSO do. You post constantly about how they need to do more, but you do nothing to actually try to get them to do anything AND it's likely you have less of a handle on it than you think you do.

I think it's great for the residents who put up w/the car campers to request that others who are supportive of car campers to take them on. If they weren't a nuisance I'd likely not notice them much, & neither would my friends. Or if the car campers were in a specifically designated area, people could choose whether or not they want to be in that area, instead of force to repeatedly deal w/some jerk camping on the street. The ones who cause the problems give the others a bad name & it's not clear if they do any self-policing.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm

The problem with a "designated area" for car camping is

A - no one wants it near them
B- a large group of homeless/car campers (such as at Cubberly) start fights, drug deals, etc. This requires police time that should be spent elsewhere.
C - when Churches were asked to volunteer, their neighbors protested.

@ CrescentParkAnon - you seem to be unwilling to believe that people use yards and fields to as toilets. They do. It was not dog droppings, I think my neighbor the doctor recognizes human feces, he was the one that pointed it out.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

In other words you don't have anything to compare to Palo Alto, so thanks for reinforcing the many clear and factual points I've made and specifics that I've referenced. And I'm quite sure that you'd be supportive of a mobile shelter just so long as it isn't in your city. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Palo Alto has worked hard to become a completely unaffordable city, and as such some people end up living in their cars. Why again should Palo Alto be exempt from dealing with the exact same issues that every other unaffordable city in California has to deal with?


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Posted by who u
a resident of Southgate
on May 25, 2013 at 4:11 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Paly Parent:
> @ CrescentParkAnon - you seem to be unwilling to believe that people use yards and fields to as toilets.

I know people are forced to do what they have to do when they have nowhere to go to the bathroom ... I wonder how many of us have been in that embarassing circumstance and made the best of it. My point is that you have no idea who or what it was. It does point to a car camper from Cubberly if your story is true, but that does not mean they do it every day. A certain amount of this is going to happen. I heard a couple stories of some fancy shopping places in Stanford finding surprises in their little niches, probably from overcome shoppers with no other alternative. Give them a place to go and they will go. I also know that teens when they are hanging out with their friends in places like this will not leave to go to the restroom a block away. If this was a chronic problem we would have a lot more incidents of it and a lot more events.

It happens to a lot of people, if they are unwell or feeling sick. I'm just saying you have no idea of the magnitude of the problem, and what you are indicating is that your neighbor ... not even you encountered it ONCE! Do we need a city-wide law to handle such a minor problem when it is not proven to be homeless or car campers, and that if it was the police could be called and the person cited?

Instead of evading my point and continuing to say I don't understand or believe you or whatever, follow the point, follow the logic and explain what this one event on your part must have city-wide action?

What I'd really like to hear is the anecdotes of some of the police officers and their experiences with homeless and car campers in general. It would make an interesting documentary for anyone with a movie camera and some video editing skills.

I think I get this problem from both sides, and I am not in favor of homeless people being pests or bothering homeowners, but occasionally when this is not a chronic problem I don't see the need for police action on this until it is a chronic or major problem.

I've asked over and over - is it? I've never heard anything from anyone that says or proves it is ... it is what it's always been in Palo Alto, a few homeless that are unsightly and normally quiet and polite.


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Posted by FreePress
a resident of Professorville
on May 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

FreePress is a registered user.

I challenge the people below to an open and public debate regarding the vehicle habitation ordinance and the alleged problems related to the issue and the Constitutional rights of the citizens involved. If you have a legitimate position you should want to reveal it while proving that the opposite does not. If you don't want to debate, then you there isn't much substance to what you say proving that there is zero merit to your position.

This challenge is to:
Jay Thorwaldson of the PA Weekly, PA City Attorney Molly Stump, City Manager James Keene, Police Chief Dennis Burns, Council members Liz Kniss and Larry Klein, Craig Laughton and Phil of downtown north, especially you Phil since you seem the most capable of articulating that Palo Alto is only for wealthy Americans.

I'm quit certain that we can get Mark Peterson-Perez the editor of the Palo Alto Free Press to moderate the debate and stream it live (video) over the internet so that the entire world can judge who possess the moral, logical and Constitutional correctness on the issue.

Your opponents will be myself, Tony Ciampi, and any number of individuals opposed to the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance equal to the number of you who are for the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance who decide to engage in the debate.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Jon Parsons
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2013 at 7:24 am

Jon Parsons is a registered user.

Part of the problem may be our often secretly held opinions of just who these "homeless" are. Are they God's creatures, down on the their luck, and in need of a helping hand and some time to "rehabilitate" into more suitable habitation? Or are they denizens in some demimonde of their own creation (or karma) who put upon/ prey on those around them because they are psychologically imbalanced or sociopathic. At another level, do we respect the sordid reality around us or instead try to affirm what Lincoln called the "better angels of our nature?" Not certain myself, but I know I don't want some stranger sleeping in front of my house night after night, there in the middle of the night, and when I am gone in the middle of the day, with little to lose, and who just might be, as Hannibal Lector warned, coveting what they see.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

Given that every other city in the region has a no street camping ban (including the 3 most liberal cities on the planet: San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Cruz), I think it's a safe bet to say that a camping ban is more than Constitutionally legal. Our good neighbor, Menlo Park, bans overnight parking altogether.

I consistently see a refusal by the pro-camping posters to acknowledge that they would accept campers in their neighborhood, in front of their houses on a 7 day/week basis. But , in general, they doubt all of the first-hand experiences by the anti-camping posters on this thread.


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Posted by Jls mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2013 at 11:19 pm

bru is a registered user.

Geesh ... the Palo Alto Online crew here really knows how to kill a lively thread. They slap login restrictions on it when there is no need to. They usually seem to do that when the conversation is not going the way they want. Really pathetic to see PAO so thin-skinned and not serving the public.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

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