News

Car-camping ban suspended for a year

Legal concerns prompt Palo Alto to delay enforcement of controversial law

Faced with citizen anxieties, threatened lawsuits and a pending court case in southern California, Palo Alto officials agreed on Monday to delay for a year the city's deeply controversial ban on vehicle habitation.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve a staff recommendation to delay enforcement of the ban, which the council officially adopted on Sept. 19 and which was scheduled to kick off in February.

The ban, which was prompted by a swell of car campers at Cubberley Community Center and in a section of College Terrace, was adopted despite heated opposition from homeless advocates and members from the faith community. Last month, a coalition of attorneys led by Carrie LeRoy announced its intention to sue the city over the ban and requested a meeting with City Attorney Molly Stump to discuss their concerns. LeRoy argued in a Nov. 15 letter to the city that the ban is too broad and too punitive, that it violates the U.S. Constitution and that it would effectively criminalize homelessness.

"Enforcement of the VHO (vehicle habitation ordinance) will exacerbate serious health issues and disabilities prevalent among Plaintiffs, who will be forced out of their vehicles or Palo Alto altogether to avoid criminal liability," LeRoy wrote.

The council's decision on Monday to delay the ban squashes the controversy for at least a year. In a memo released last week, City Manager James Keene pointed to a case currently going through the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. That case, Cheyenne Destertrain v. City of Los Angeles, revolves around the issue of vehicle habitation. The appeals court has recently heard the arguments in this case and staff believes its decision "may provide further clarification regarding legal requirements governing ordinances prohibiting vehicle habitation."

The letter also noted that the council has already taken another step to address the transformation of Cubberley into what officials often refer to as an "ad hoc homeless shelter." In August, the council adopted a new law ordering that all community centers, including Cubberley, be closed between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise. Thus, the lawyers contended, the new law serves no legitimate purpose.

In the memo, Keene pointed to the Los Angeles case and noted "some members of the public have questions regarding the scope of the ordinance, which suggests that an additional period of outreach and review would be beneficial."

The council approved the delay unanimously as part of its "consent calendar," with no discussion or argument. The only people who spoke out on the issue were a handful of public speakers who opposed the ban. One speaker, Lois Salo, urged officials to go a step further and rescind the ban. Others said they were pleased to see the prohibition delayed, even if it's just for a year. Edie Keating from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto was among them.

"Many members of the community appreciate your willingness to keep this open for up to a year," Keating told the council. "There will be a need to find a solution so that we aren't in the same place at some future point in time. Many people are already talking about what the possible solutions could be."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by May
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:10 am

Amen!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reflections on PA Weekly
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:30 am

Wow--can't believe that the Palo Alto Weekly Editorial Board endorsed such a horrible and unconstitutional law:
Web Link

With so much influence, do you think Weekly geniuses that you could at least try to get your facts right when you advocate a position? Palo Alto is clearly NOT the only city in the area that doesn't have this kind of wretched law (otherwise they would all be sued--like Los Angeles). Weekly--your shameful and irresponsible editorial nearly led Palo Alto into years of lawsuits. But maybe the PA Weekly Editorial Board has never read the Constitution? Disgraceful I say.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reflections on PA Weekly 2
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:34 am

Here's the active link to the Weekly's endorsement of sending people to jail because they are homeless and have a car: Web Link

Maybe the link won't work--PA Weekly should destroy/hide every trace of that awful piece.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Disgraceful
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:39 am

Reflections-- both links do not work. Maybe the weekly is trying to cover their tracks. You have to realize thatbthe Weekly'sosition are not driven by what is good for the community-- it is what is good for their profit line. Copying up to the big shots in town, advocating positions that their buddies support and censoring criticism of those people, while trying to control discussion of topics is the way the weekly operates. Disgraceful, indeed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:56 am

Extemely Cold & Freezing Wheather - Emergency Respond for unhoused.

Dear Friends & Neighbors,
While we are enjoying the PACC decision to stay the VHO.
There is an urgency to help our unhoused right now.
Imagine you have to sleep in your car. Now imagine you have to sleep in your car with your children in 30 to 40 degrees. Could you tell the difference between 30 or 40 degrees? Probably not, IT'S just cold...

                      WHAT YOU CAN DO...
          We have and continue to ask the community for these items;
                               • Travel Mug w/car plug in

                               • Feet & Hand Warmers,
HotHands Direct - Hand Warmer, Foot Warmer, Toe Warmer, Cold Pack
Web Link

   • Blankets - these (2) types ONLY please.

                                 Disaster Emergency Blankets*
                                 Space Blankets**

      NO comforters,quillts, cotton/polyester or any other type other than listed above, thank you.
Also, NO, clothing, ie no coats or jackets.

There are other ways to help keep our unhoused safe, warm and fortified.
                             "Motel Stays"
Checks or credit card payment. Non tax deductible.

                Cks payble to: Midtown Neighbors & Friends
                                        P.O. BOX 113
                                        Palo Alto, CA

Credit cards made direct to motels.    
 We want to offer our vehicle dwellers a much needed resitbit from the cold and their dire circumstances.
                                 CONTACT:
      NeighborsHelpingNeighbors2013@gmail.com
     David Taylor, logistics leader, cell #650-283-9910

                            HOLIDAY FOOD DRIVE
Midtown Realty in collaboration with NHN is holding a food drive. Dec. 6th to 21st.
Canned & package items maybe dropped off in food barrel in the office lobby,
                           2775 Middlefield Rd
                           Palo Alto, CA 94303
                   Front door faces Colorado Ave


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 17, 2013 at 8:00 am

Try this link for the editorial endorsing the unconstitutional and morally repugnant vehicle habitation ordinance:

Web Link

The editorial contains no mention of the law and also contains this 100% false and clearly not fact-checked statement: "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."

Vehicle dwelling is not against the law in all neighboring communities at all. In Mountain View, it unregulated in commercial areas and even in residential areas the penalty is a parking ticket, not 6 months in jail and summary "abatement" (seizure) of your vehicle, along with a $1000 fine. In Portola Valley there is no law at all. In other areas there are exceptions for commercial property, there are small parking tickets, and it is not a draconian criminal law that exiles the homeless to wander from town to town in some Dickensian hellscape. It doesn't criminalize being poor. And it doesn't try to build a wall around the town and push the homeless out.

Palo Alto has kicked off a race to the bottom among neighboring communities due to this ridiculous and illegal law. That's thanks to the Weekly, which used its considerable influence in this case to ease the City Council's feelings of anxiety about the law and reassure them that yes, even the local liberal paper supports the ordinance.

To those who say that the Weekly isn't that influential, that is a cop out. It is that influential, and it played the role of handmaiden to pretty much the worst thing the City Council has done in a many years. And it did it with a crassness that was remarkable for a paper that now wants you to give generously to its reputation-cleansing Holiday Fund:

"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." And the Weekly advocated doing what other communities don't do, which is extending this ban to commercial property: "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."

It is "hard to imagine" a more selfish, heartless, and wrongheaded (and illegal) proposal. The Weekly did a terrible injustice to the poor, causing them months of fear, pain, anxiety, and shame. It should apologize and retract this damnable editorial.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Disgraceful
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 17, 2013 at 8:07 am

Very well stated, thanks weekly. You are right about the weekly being the handmaiden ofthe council and the " influential" people in the city. The weekly cannot actually support what is right- for their bottom line ( profits) to flourish, they have to be in sync with the " right" people in the city.
I suggest showing our displeasure with the weekly by not taking out a membership in their support journalism fund (aka increase our profit margins fund) and not shopping at those retailers that advertise in the weekly. Make sure you let those retailers know your feelings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 17, 2013 at 8:20 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bizantine
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 17, 2013 at 8:30 am

Big mistake to copy the discriminatory legislation chosen by the city of Los Angeles. The Palo Alto board ought to have copied the San Francisco Law that ban sleeping in cars in a non discriminatory way. Naives...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

"The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection." -- Goethe


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Berry
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2013 at 10:09 am

Well that was a waste of time! I fully support(ed) the ban. However, I will say that Palo Alto does a horrible job of providing information on where the homeless are welcome. If I see a homeless person(s) where shall I instruct them to seek help and shelter? What number can I call where someone will drive to the person in need and pick them up and take them to said shelter? There should be info and links at the bottom of each of these related articles. But please put the ban back on... people are parking in front of my house already!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me too
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes -
Shakespeare


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Retiree
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2013 at 10:46 am

Enough. Palo Alto should not seek to take in every homeless person, every poor senior and every other person in need of lots of $$$ subsidies. Candace Gonzales said there were not sufficient government funds for subsidized housing. Really? After PA kicked in $15 million? The government at any level should not be responsible for cradle to grave care of individuals.

Christmas spirit does not mean putting Palo Alto residents at risk. Let the non-taxpaying, religious groups take on such cases as they want. If individuals worry about the homeless, then take them into your home, church, etc.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 17, 2013 at 10:50 am

"The government at any level should not be responsible for cradle to grave care of individuals."
And of course, you are refusing your Social Security and Medicare?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by inyourneighborhood
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2013 at 11:17 am

I would love to have the addresses of all who would like to have the car campers in front of your house. You might take a different view after the rv's move into your neighborhood dump their black water on the street or your neighbors might. Please we pay a lot for our housing I don't need car campers, sorry. I think the city should open up Cubberley or the red cross for the car campers. But the city doesn't want them on their property either. Nor do the churches, so the neighborhoods get them, mmm something wrong with this


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm

[Portion removed.] Enforce the car camping ban. There are 3-4 RVs on El Camino near Maybell who live in RV's and send their kids to Palo Alto schools, wasting resources paid for by Palo Alto taxpayers. There is someone else there that has a plumbing business and sleeps in his van and has a trailer full of plumbing equipment. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm

For the Adobe-Meadow Resident Remark

I worked and paid the maximum into Social Security and Medicare for 45 years. My employers and I paid in over $220,000 over that time for SS. I used the annual contribution numbers and gave myself a 5% compound interest and would have more than a million dollars in my "private Social Security account". But Volker changed the calculations for payout and instead of getting $70,000 to $100,000 now, which would be the interest I could earn on that money. Instead, I only get $24,000, and the government uses the rest to subsidize freeloaders and fraud filled Social Security Disability System. So no, I am getting any "Free Social Security or Medicare" andthe government, as usual, is stealing most of the money and using it for the endless entitlement programs. Since Lyndon Johnson Congress has enacted 124 different welfare entitlement programs.
Likewise for Medicare, I paid the maximum into it for 45 years and would have the money for an excellent medical insurance program.
Instead Obama is stealing my money and giving it to half the deadbeats and drug addicts so they can have virtually free medical care. Let them pay for it themselves. In the last few administrations, Americans have been taught to abandon their self respect and independence, and become deadbeat moochers of the state.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Winston Smith
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Reflections on PA Weekly: Try page 14 here Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by always another way
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I guess it's time for a law which accomplishes the same thing without violating the sensibilities of the Stanford cabal. Permit only overnight parking?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Are the surrounding communities also suspending their car-camping ban?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Trainspotting
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Does this mean we'll start seeing the campers and private storage lockers, a.k.a. cars belonging to homeless, back at Cubberley?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2013 at 4:17 pm

No, train spotting, read the story. Cubberley was handled in a different manner. Also think about it-- if the law has not gone into effect and cubberley is quiet now, then there must be something else in place


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Sprat
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2013 at 4:45 pm

The PACC knows that their ordinance is very poorly drawn and will not stand up to a court challenge. They took the law from some other city and slapped their name on it. The ordinance lists eating in a vehicle as one reason that a person can be cited. If that is the case, half the people in the U.S. must be living in their cars.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

>But the city doesn't want them on their property either. Nor do the churches, so the neighborhoods get them, mmm something wrong with this

Exactly. Thanks.

Time to protect our neighborhoods from welfare housing and car camping.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by what about the Maybell site?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm

It looks like this will stand empty for a while. Could it be used for car campers over the next year?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm

> Car-camping ban suspended for a year.

Good, glad to hear it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Honest question to CPA: So if someone(s) decided to camp in front of your house, barbecue on the lawn strip between the curb and the sidewalk, etc....every night for the next year, you would be OK with that?

Please note I'm not going the, "if that's your opinion then invite them into your home" route. Just asking if you'd be OK with someone car camping in front of your house for the next 365 days/nights while they work this out. And I won't come back with a "then let's have your address" response either. Just curious about whether you would put up with the camping yourself.

Honest answer please.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm

>Just curious about whether you would put up with the camping yourself.

CPD, I hope you do get an honest answer from CPA.

I think it is very fair for our current council to volunteer the curbs in front of their own homes, as an invitation to the car campers. At least it would show some consistency. Can you imagine what their neighbors might have to say about it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wrong again, Craig
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm

CPD-- I am sure that BBQing on the street may be illegal. Call the police if they are doing it.

Craig-- time to get your facts straight. The council or anyone else cannot " volunteer" their curbs. The streets are public and ANYONE can park ther ( except in CT where they have welfare parking benefits for residents). It is not for the council, Craig, neighbors or anyone to determine who can park on the streets at night.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm

>It is not for the council, Craig, neighbors or anyone to determine who can park on the streets at night.

Another wrong statement. Car campers are not allowed to park overnight on streets that have "no parking 1-5 AM", or where there are simply "no parking" signs, for example. [Portion removed.]

Our city council is completely allowed to invite car campers to park in front of their own homes. The campers may not be interested, but the invitation would be a generous offer. At least the CC members' neighbors could weigh in with those members. Ya think those neighbors would be congratulating their generosity?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wrong again craig
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm

[Portion removed.]

No one can park where there are " no parking" signs. No even you. Dah. [Portion removed.]
Car camper can park ANYWHERE that it is legal to park. They do not need an invitation from anyone. [Portoin removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

[Portion removed.]

In case you don't know, the CC can, and does, authorize 'no parking/limited parking' zones, especially after listening to neighborhood complaints. Looks like it is about to do something in the Downtown neighborhoods RPPPs), and this will spread, as the parkers go to other neighborhoods...this will have the effect of suppressing car campers (with no legal challenges). In fact, Menlo Park has suppressed car campers by (mostly) outlawing overnight parking.
[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm

My guess is that the RPPPs will be from 9-5 weekdays or on one side of the street only. We will see. Car camping occurs mainly at night, so it may not solve the problem.
But the current law, as written, makes it illegal to be eating a burger in your car!!!! You could be arrested and have your car confiscated. Important thing is that this draconian law will not be enforced for now-- a victory for descent people and a poke in the eye for"............


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm

>My guess is that the RPPPs will be from 9-5 weekdays

More likely 8 AM - 5 PM. The car campers are unlikely to want the hassle. Of course, the RPPP could just be "no parking without neighborhood permit"...end of the issue.

Then we wouldn't be arguing about absurd things like eating hamburgers in a car. And there won't be any legal challenges.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

"
Then we wouldn't be arguing about absurd things like eating hamburgers in a car. And there won't be any legal challenges."

And that " absurd" thing is part of the Palo Alto law that you have championed for months and could not wait to go into effect and see no reason for the law not to go into effect. So what is really absurd???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2013 at 5:31 pm

>And that " absurd" thing is part of the Palo Alto law that you have championed for months and could not wait to go into effect and see no reason for the law not to go into effect. So what is really absurd???

Police officer discretion should be allowed, as it is in many things. Car campers will try every trick in the book to stay on our streets. Doesn't have to be...just apply the ban, as passed. Our current CC lacks the intestinal fortitude to enforce the law...so they punt. However, RPPPs can achieve much of the same thing....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 5:55 pm

> Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park 4 hours ago
> Honest question to CPA: So if someone(s) decided to camp in front of your house, barbecue on the lawn strip between the curb and the sidewalk, etc....every night for the next year, you would be OK with that?

Come on Crescent Park Dad, don't be a dufus ... because I think the car-camping ban being suspended for a year is a good and fair thing is not the same as saying I believe in unrestrained car camping ... and personally I am sick and revolted at this kind of argument and rhetoric. It's not honest, it is not productive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Crescent Park Dad, by the way, if someone was doing something that was illegal I would call the police and ask them to deal with it. I might ask the person to move or make contact with them, or not. Just because the car-camping ban is suspended does not mean any of the other laws about private property, hygiene and public behavior are. So, please relax.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2013 at 8:32 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wrong again, craig
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2013 at 8:40 am

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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