Palo Alto Weekly

News - November 16, 2012

News Digest

Housecleaner interrupts Palo Alto burglary

A Palo Alto resident, alerted by his housecleaner, came home to find a man allegedly trying to steal his vehicle Monday afternoon, Nov. 12. Police arrested the man, Axel Morales of Palo Alto, on several charges, including residential burglary and attempted vehicle theft, police announced Tuesday.

The incident occurred in the 1800 block of Channing Avenue, between Greer Road and Rhodes Drive.

The resident had received a telephone call from his house cleaner, who had arrived at the home to find a man inside, rummaging. The resident was nearby and returned to discovered Morales, 20, in the front seat of his vehicle, which was parked in the driveway. Morales was allegedly trying to start the resident's car, police said in a press release.

Morales was still inside the vehicle when police arrived. No one was injured during the arrest.

An investigation showed that Morales also had allegedly burglarized the resident's home two days earlier. That burglary was not initially reported because the resident was unaware that it had occurred.

Police were able to recover the property stolen in both burglaries and return it to the resident. The stolen property included jewelry and keys. In both cases, Morales allegedly entered the house using a hide-a-key that the resident had placed outside.

Police ask anyone having information about the recent residential burglaries to contact the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Palo Alto ponders restrictions on living in cars

Palo Alto's deeply divisive debate over whether to ban people from living in their vehicles could get closer to resolution Tuesday evening when a City Council committee considers the staff's latest proposal for dealing with the issue.

Unlike neighboring jurisdictions, Palo Alto currently doesn't have a law regarding vehicle dwelling. Residents in some neighborhoods, particularly College Terrace, have complained in recent years about the safety and sanitation issues created by the situation. City officials had initially proposed a law that would prohibit vehicle dwelling but backed off after intense opposition from homeless residents and their advocates.

Now, staff is considering softer approaches. One would involve a three-month pilot program under which the homeless would park in certain parking lots, generally at churches or businesses. The program would be modeled after the one in Eugene, Ore., which includes 31 sites that serve 62 people.

For outreach, Palo Alto's proposed program would lean heavily on the Downtown Streets Team, which provides work opportunities to homeless people and has volunteered to administer the program during the three-month pilot program at no cost.

Among the top challenges will be finding churches and businesses willing to offer space to vehicle dwellers. Only one church, First Presbyterian Church, has so far committed to participating.

Another option is the "do nothing" approach — that is, keeping laws as is but enhancing outreach to the homeless community.

"This approach may help to target the relatively few instances of concern without imposing an ordinance and could be implemented on a trial basis for several months," the planning department report states.

Planning staff have been meeting periodically with a working group of homeless advocates and neighborhood leaders to come up with a mutually acceptable solution. The overall perception, according to the report, "is that an ordinance to prohibit the human habitation of vehicles is not necessary."

Can you help out for Thanksgiving?

Volunteers are needed to prepare turkeys, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, which will be served at the InnVision Shelter Network Estelle Chalfin Community Thanksgiving Meal at All Saints Church on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22).

Recipes will be provided (for consistency), and the food must be delivered to All Saints, at 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto, by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

More volunteers are needed to purchase items and drop them off at the church by noon on Wednesday as well.

According to Eileen Richardson and Owen Byrd, who are organizing the meal, "Right now the biggest needs (in order of importance) if you can't cook and want to help make the meal successful are: large cans of sweet potatoes (1 lb. 13 oz.) or cans cranberry; meats and cheeses for the bagged lunch we send home with the men and women on Tday; large bags of potatoes we can peel and cook, delivered on Wednesday morning, Nov. 21; large crates of fresh green beans; juice boxes, fresh fruit, granola bars and cookies for the take-home lunches; and loaves of bread for the take-home lunches."

Last year volunteers served close to 500 meals "and will likely do more this year," Richardson wrote in an email. "Your help is crucial in making this community potluck a success."

Those interested in volunteering can email paloaltothanksgiving@gmail.com.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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