Homeless residents and advocates pleaded with Palo Alto officials on Monday night to rethink their plan to ban vehicle dwelling on city streets.
The City Council is scheduled to consider on July 25 a new ordinance that would make it illegal for residents to live in vehicles. The new law would make vehicle habitation a misdemeanor that would be punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
Though the council did not discuss the new ordinance on Monday, about a dozen critics -- some of them homeless -- asked council members to slow down and consider the plan's impacts on the city's homeless population.
"I'm homeless and I live in my car and I'm not a criminal," resident Vickie Boone told the council. "I've lived in Palo Alto all my life and voted for most of you.
"I'm asking you to delay the vote you'll have next week and give us time to come up with solutions instead of criminalizing it."
Another speaker, David Gilroy, told the council that he was once homeless but isn't anymore. He asked the council not to make the homeless population's already difficult situation even more daunting.
"I'm going to appeal to your hearts that you think about the people out there in these rough times," Gilroy said.
The Rev. Greg Schaefer, pastor of the University Lutheran Church in College Terrace, also told the council to consider other options before instituting the ban. The city, he said, failed to seek "broad community input" before proceeding with the ordinance.
"I think the cart is being put way, way before the horse," Schaefer said. "To enact an ordinance without providing viable alternatives for people who will be most affected by it is irresponsible."
If the council passes the new ordinance, Palo Alto would cease to be the only city in the area that allows homeless habitation. As the Weekly reported last week, the new law would ban vehicle habitation on city streets, parks, alleys and parking lots.
The College Terrace Residents Association has long called for a ban on vehicle dwellers. Earlier this month, the associations' board of directors voted to support the proposed ordinance.
City officials said the new ordinance would be enforced based on complaints.