News

Palo Alto delays debate on vehicle-dwelling ban

City postpones its discussion of controversial ordinance until September

Palo Alto officials are delaying their plan to institute a ban on vehicle dwelling after hearing complaints about the proposed ordinance from a group of homeless residents and advocates.

Planning Director Curtis Williams told the Weekly that city officials decided to postpone their discussion of the ordinance until Sept. 12. The City Council was originally scheduled to discuss the ordinance on July 25.

On Monday, about a dozen residents -- some of them homeless -- attended the council meeting and urged the council not to pass a law that would turn them into criminals. The Rev. Greg Schaefer, pastor at the University Lutheran Church, asked the council Monday to delay its discussion and consider other alternatives for residents with no place to live.

Williams said the delay would give city officials a chance to consider some of the issues that were brought up at the meeting. He said the goal of the new ordinance is to identify those vehicle dwellers who cause disturbances in their neighborhoods.

"If someone is minding his business and not causing any problems, that's not what we want to aim our ordinance at," Williams said.

Most cities in the region already ban vehicle dwelling. Palo Alto officials were urged to institute a ban by residents from the College Terrace neighborhood who complained that vehicle dwellers create unsanitary conditions in their neighborhood.

Palo Alto's proposed ordinance would make vehicle dwelling a misdemeanor that could be punished by a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Related stories:

Homeless residents pan car-dwelling ban

Ban on car dwelling heads to City Council

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Only12
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by danny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm

1. The city staff played dirty by rushing the ordinance proposal to the city council on a fast-track. Few opponents were alerted. The opponents sought a postponement.

2. People have been still posting comments at the paloaltoonline article from a couple days ago.


Like this comment
Posted by Just Say No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm

City Council needs to vote based upon the opinions of the city of Palo Alto. My guess is most people do not want car dwellers in their neighborhood with the high mortgage prices we pay to live in a nice city.

It's easy for residents to sympathize with car dwellers when they are not parked in front of their houses. Those bleeding-heart liberals should post their addresses so the car dwellers can park in front of their homes instead of where they are not welcome.

Why doesn't the Rev. Greg Schaefer (pastor at the University Lutheran Church) offer their church parking lot for these car dwellers? Oh, right. It's easy to have sympathy when the car dwellers are not bothering you. . .


Like this comment
Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm

The homeless don't vote, so why worry about them? Also the suggestion that the good Reverend Schafer can let them use his parking lot and bathrooms sounds like a good alternative.


Like this comment
Posted by aram james
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm

July, 20, 2011


To: Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump




From: Aram James




Re: Issues to consider re why the city should reject the proposed ordinance banning people from living in their vehicles




(1) When you have a few free minutes I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the implications of the city actually moving forward with this ordinance---in light of the pending judicial crisis (budget issues) -- and in light of the very strong likelihood that potential defendants charged with violating this ordinance will assert their right to a jury trial and their right to be represented by appointed counsel.




(2) My experience as a many year –now retired –public defender–is that trying such cases to a jury will be complicated, time consuming and very expensive. In my view cases involving the assertion of the “Defense of Necessity” are often mishandled by trial judges—(who seem to frequently misconstrue the legal elements/standards necessary to assert the defense –along with misconstruing the evidentiary showing necessary to allow the defense to go to a jury). As a result time consuming appeals, writs of habeas corpus, etc., are almost predictable.




(3) In addition –cases of this sort—will draw much public attention to Palo Alto—and I predict—juries and the criminal justice system at large –will be hostile to prosecutions of this type. This is particularly so if juries understand that the city had less restrictive ways to handle the underlying issues of poverty and homelessness—and instead decided to use--or from my perspective misuse--the criminal justice system to criminalize conduct that that could have and should have been dealt with from a restorative justice perspective.




(4) I believe a careful reading of the case law re the application of the “defense of necessity” will support my contention that these cases are eminently defensible and very costly to the city and the judicial system.




(5) Bottom line: Juries have a long time honored history of refusing to enforce morally indefensible laws—this proposed law –banning often hard working, but down on their luck—folks/people/citizens from sleeping in their vehicles – is just that type of law—one that citizen abolitionists and others--called upon to sit on a jury—will reject with the words, “Not Guilty.”




(6) If I can provide other legal citations re the “defense of necessity” or related issues please let me know.




(7) Finally, at least for now—even if a judge refused to allow a “defense of necessity” to go to a jury—cases of this sort ---always have the unspoken back-up defense of jury nullification:


(8) Here is the text from a poster I co-produced (2004) on the subject of Jury Nullification. The piece is titled: Justice Trumps Bad Law and reads as follows: “Based on the knowledge that kings and governments often pass oppressive laws, the Founding Fathers designed our Constitution to ensure that the final say as to whether a particular law is just always rests with the jury. The Jury is the conscience of the community and may reach a verdict of “not guilty” even when it finds the defendant has committed a crime, but concludes the law is immoral or unjust. This is known as the power of jury nullification. History is full of heroic examples of jurors refusing to enforce bad laws. Before the abolition of slavery, jurors routinely acquitted those assisting runaway slaves, thereby nullifying the unjust Fugitive Slave law. Similarly, jurors found striking workers “not guilty’ when striking was against the law. Current day juries, recognizing their constitutional power to nullify, are standing up to judges by saying “not guilty” to nonviolent drug offenses, acts of civil disobedience and a variety of unjust laws. Ironically, today, if you advise the judge of your knowledge of jury nullification and express a willingness to apply it, you will not be allowed to sit on a jury. So what do you say to the judge? Very little.


Sincerely,


Aram James


Like this comment
Posted by paloaltotreewatch
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jul 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm


What does it say about city officials and council people if they won't even own up to who initiated this ordinance proposal?
Their punishment should be to go homeless and sleep in their car for a year.

And what about Stanford with gobs of land.
Why can't they find a bit'o land and bit'o compassion in their hearts.
I know, no homeless person has ever left $$$ for a new building for
the Center for Homelessness in the Bay Area.

"A hard rain is going to fall
a they who were first will now be last" - Dylan


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Once again, will Aram James invite the homeless to share his home, or at least his driveway, in Barron Park? I invite him to provide his home address (although it is a matter of public record).

Time to get real, Aram. All your legal threats/warnings ring shallow.


Like this comment
Posted by SOSA Business
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I'm the owner of a small business in the southeastern most corner of PA trapped between 101-San Antonio Road and Charleston.

There is a group of 5 or 6 rather large occupied RVs semi-permanently located on Transit, Commercial or Industrial Avenues.

While I am acutely aware that these types of residences are an unfortunate result of the high cost of housing in Silicon Valley...they do present several problems to our neighborhood.

1. Unsightly presence on the street
2. Take a large number of on-street parking spaces away
3. Our staff has expressed concern about the safety of the residents.
4. Some of the RVs keep unsupervised pets in the vehicals
5. Clients and vendors have expressed concern about the City's lack of vigilance in enforcing current regulations.

Most of these RVs sit in one place for weeks at a time as the Police do not actively enforce the current Palo Alto abandoned vehicle regs.

We would like to see these RVs moved to a location that does not disrupt our business but does provide an appropriate safe location for these folks to live.

Perhaps there is a section of the City yard that can be dedicated to permit these folks to have a safe temporary location to live while they seek a permanent living situation.

The current situation is unacceptable.


Like this comment
Posted by To SOSA Business
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm

In regards to your concern about the animals, you can call animal control at: 650-496-5971 For after hours (much of the time now, given their reduction in hours), call PAPD dispatch: 650-329-2413. This way, ACOs can check on the welfare of the animals, which can be critical in the summertime.


Like this comment
Posted by PA Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2011 at 8:01 pm

PA Dad is a registered user.

Three things:

1) Is Palo Alto the only local city where the Aram James' “defense of necessity” applies? Somehow the rest of the cities have found a way to have such an ordinance on the books. It seems to me that if we are the only local city without such an ordinance then we will forever be the Best in the Bay for living in a car.

2) It has been made very clear that the intent of having such an ordinance is not to conduct draconian sweeps of the city. Rather it will be used as a last resort when all else fails. And without such an ordinance in place, I suspect all the steps before enforcement will be harder to implement if it is known that Palo Alto is all bark and no bite at the end of the day.

3) Finally a comment not as a resident but as a business owner: I recently was looking for a larger facility to house my growing company. We found some interesting properties on Industrial and Commercial Avenues. But when we took our female employees to see the properties, 100% said they would be afraid to walk to their cars at night because of the encampment there. So we found a place around the corner in Mt. View that did NOT have people living in their cars 7/24 and everyone feels safer.

There is no one living in a car in front of my house, and for that I am glad. But because of the encampment mentioned by SOSA Business, I was unable to bring a business to Palo Alto -- because another city just blocks away felt safer.

- PA Dad


Like this comment
Posted by Cynthia R.
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Palo Alto is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. Plenty of our friends would love to buy or rent here, but they can't afford it so they're in Redwood City, EPA or Fremont.

Like the rest of us, the homeless must chose areas within their reach and not expect to be welcomed and subsidized by us all.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Cynthia & PA Dad make excellent points. Many of us born & raised here can't afford a home in our hometown; I am one of those people. Living in EPA is an ongoing adjustment & also requires some vigilance to keep the neighborhood & our homes safe. While that's the case for everyone everywhere - it's wise to be cautious - no one wants their quality of life reduced by car dwellers who don't respect the laws and/or frighten people.

While the car dwelling largely effects the residents NOT living cars in a negative way, it clearly also effects business, as PA Dad stated. I wrote before of my scary run in w/a car dweller & clearly there are many others. Now it appears PA just took it on the chin since they lost an excellent business opportunity w/PA Dad.

If PA wants to keep some sort of vehicle dwelling legal, it makes sense to do so in just one or two locations, not wherever the car dwellers choose. Unfortunately, it seems that because PA has given them an inch, some of them have take a mile.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

Ken, they are welcome to park on any public road. Your drive is private property and they would be trespassing.
We already provide the opportunity center in downtown. What does CT offer?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

They are welcome to park on any public road for up to 72 hours and not on street cleaning day. Web Link

If this rule were enforced, it would be a start.


Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 9:41 am

Our public officials balking again on what should be an easy call. Where's the common sense? Palo Alto is already home to the majority of services provided to the homeless population and has so for many, many years. The Urban Ministry operated from it's former location near the downtown train station before giving way to the multi-story Opportunity Center. The Hotel DeZink project provides rotating shelter at many of our churches. We have the downtown clean-up project which employs many homeless people, as well as the food closet in the middle of downtown. Palo Alto has nothing to feel guilty about. It already carries more than its share of the load in terms of providing social services and outreach.

Now is the time to think about the people who have invested a great deal in creating homes in this community and their quality of life. It is absurd to have to contend with anyone living out of their car in one's neighborhood. There are health issues and a myriad of other problems that are created by this practice. Just about every other city has an ordinance prohibiting this practice and for good reason. Enough is enough.


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 10:02 am

"Ken, they are welcome to park on any public road"

get real,

After the new ordiance passes (it will, btw), they will still be able to park on our public streets (subject to various parking restrictions), but they will not be allowed to sleep in their cars on our public streets. If this concerns you, you can always invite them to stay with you, in your home, as a way of expressing your personal compassion.


Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

Can't this spineless city council EVER take a firm stand on anything. It blows with the wind because of whoever is yelling the loudest, how many TV stations get on its case, how many people crowd a meeting, how many 'bleeding hearts' sob on the carpet. Next thing you know the Stanford band will come to a meeting to protest some issue again along with students who don't even live here. This city is far more concerned with those who do not live here than those who do and far more concerned with maintaining its liberal Berkeley reputation. Palo Alto is the only city on the Peninsula which allows sleeping in cars!! Get real.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

"If this concerns you, you can always invite them to stay with you, in your home, as a way of expressing your personal compassion. "

Ken, been there, doing that, check out the opportunity center in DTN. What is CT doing apart from pushing the problem onto someone else?


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm

"check out the opportunity center in DTN"

Huh? The OC is not in any recognized neighborhood in Palo Alto, and certainly not DTN. It is much closer to University South. However, the OC has acted as a magnet to entice even more homeless to Palo Alto, and CT (and DTN) are suffering the consequences. This was all predicted (even by Victor Frost), before the OC was approved.

The era of liberal guilt is, finally, coming to a close in Palo Alto. CT is leading the way, but many of us in other neighborhoods fully support their leadership.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Ken, CT's problems have nothing to do with the Opportunity Center and DTN is happily taking the hit. Unlike CT that continues to want to privatize their roads at other people's expense.


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm

"... Opportunity Center and DTN is happily taking the hit"

get real...uh, duh, how many people, living in DTN have you aked about how happey they are? I know quite a few of them, and they are NOT so happy.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Ken, I know plenty and I actually live here.


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm

"Ken, I know plenty and I actually live here."

get real, then you would be confident if the ordinance went to a vote, right? After the ordinance passes, overwhelmingly, we could break down the vote by neighborhoods. Feel lucky?


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Ken, what you fail to appreciate is that discrimination is discrimination. If any vote happens to be successful, it is still discrimination. Contrary to your tea-party views, turning homeless people into criminals helps no one.


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm

get real, of course it is discriminating to reject those who cannot afford to live where they cannot afford to live. The logical extension of "non discrimination" is that all of our public streets can be filled up with homeless campers. Duh?

Our surrounding cities have come to terms with discriminating decisions. It is long past time that Palo Alto do the same.

Trust me, the vote will be very successful, even (especially?) in DTN. In fact, I suggest that our city council put it on this coming November's ballot.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm

As much as you wish to deny it homelessness is a protected class under the First Amendment. This proposal is discriminatory.

Fortunately there aren't many of your tea-party brethren in DTN.


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm

"homelessness is a protected class under the First Amendment"

Probably, but not sleeping in cars on public streets, if such sleeping is banned.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

It is when it is targeting a protected class.


Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm

People die on the streets. The OC does not take everyone, and people who do not follow the "rules" have to go. We need to remember that those of us who can follow all the rules and do not have a drinking or any mental problems usually DO NOT end up homeless. In a way, the OC does not serve those who need help the most.

Who remembers Marian Morgan who was asked to leave the OC because she was unable to quit her drinking problem? She died in the streets of downtown Palo Alto a couple of weeks after she left. She could not stop drinking, so she needed help. She did not need to be on the streets.

Please remember that there is no shelter in our city, and people are sleeping in our parks.... and not everyone is healthy to be out there sleeping in the parks. Some people need a place to stay, we need a shelter for those who need it the most.

People that have a car should be able to sleep in it. What do you want them to do? Park and leave the car for the night?

Some of the services our city offers does not help people like Ms. Moran or Mr. Frost. Not everyone can work for Downtown Streets Team picking up after the rich residents... Some people already have very low self-esteeem, they need counselors/psychiatrists, they need to be loved by someone, they need to know that we care.

Homeless people are PEOPLE who need help. No one wants to live inside a car or on the streets... They need help! They need people to advocate for them. They do not need to be sent elsewhere just because we don't want to deal with them.

Let's figure it out how to help, really help, those in need.


Like this comment
Posted by MM
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm

You can be evicted in fewer than 30 days for not paying your apartment rent, but if you sleep overnight in your car (under the porposed ordinance), you get a 30 day warning. That is NOT FAIR! I propose that tenants in apartments have the SAME rights as the homeless who sleep overnight in their cars. Why should the homeless get more protection than those who are (struggling) to pay rent?
How come the city takes three years to develop this ordinance to hold long term freeloaders to some accountability, and
then turns chicken and wants to STUDY IT some more? Do you think some
people have the right to free rent, while another class has to pay?
Who's on top here?

"The last shall be first" principle has been perverted to endow the fools and punish the earnest.


Like this comment
Posted by PA Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm

PA Dad is a registered user.

So we've now polarized a public safety issue into "love them all, show them that we care" or "send them out on the streets to DIE"? Really? Those are our choices?

How about a more moderate position where we provide many many services of which some -- but not all -- will avail themselves. And for those who have made choices that in the professional opinion of our law enforcement community require more than encouragement, an ordinance at parity with the surrounding cities?

We don't need to be either Woodstock *or* the Gulag. We could be another city in the Bay Area with a complete set of tools to deal with the many different people who are here.

But perhaps this is the wrong forum for an appeal to reasonableness.

<sigh>

- PA Dad


Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm

"It is when it is targeting a protected class."

Oh really? When did car camping in front of peoples' homes and businesses become a protected class? Name the Supreme Court case that defined it that way.


Like this comment
Posted by Aram James
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 22, 2011 at 12:36 am

Dear Mayor Espinosa:

Re: Monday’s (July 18, 2011) city council meeting and related First Amendment issues.

I very much appreciated the manner in which you conducted Monday’s city council meeting and the care and attention you gave to all of the speakers—who came before the council to speak re the issue of the proposed ban on people living in their vehicles.

I do, however–wish to make a few brief comments re the way you handled the oral communication of one of the speakers, specifically Mark Petersen-Perez:

(1) I appreciated the fact that you did not attempt to stop Mr. Petersen-Perez during his three minute talk/presentation to the city council, the live audience and the TV audience.

I believe that both the First Amendment and case law developed in the nuanced area of symbolic free speech/expression–clearly protects symbolic speech –such as turning one’s back on a government body while speaking–or, in fact simply turning one’s back on a governmental body and remaining absolutely silent during the speakers entire allotted 3 minutes.

(2) Certainly you are aware of other protected forms of symbolic free speech/expression-i.e., flag burning and or giving the middle finger to authority/government officials like a police officer, public defender, mayor, etc.

(3) As I have often been heard to say –the First Amendment was not designed to protect popular speech–such speech needs no protection –but, rather– it was designed to protect exactly the type of arguably unpopular, rude or offensive speech –turning your back on authority figures—that Mr. Petersen-Perez engaged in at Monday night’s council meeting.

(4) Turning one’s back to the council is no more or less offensive (no more or less protected by the First Amendment) than speaking directly to the council and expressing one’s anger and defiance in spoken word form. Both forms of expression are entitled to equal respect and standing under our First Amendment (whether we/you like it or not).

(5) Immediately after Mr. Petersen-Perez spoke you made some comments to the live audience, other council members and the TV audience (and correct me here if I am wrong re your words—since I do not recall the exact words— but rather the sentiment expressed) that suggested that Mr. Petersen-Perez had acted inappropriately in not communicating directly with the council when he spoke.

(6) Mr. Petersen-Perez did in fact speak directly to you, albeit–symbolically and arguably defiantly–when he turned his back on the council and spoke directly to the live audience.

Your suggestion that Mr. Petersen-Perez acted inappropriately has a direct and potential impact of chilling not only Mr. Petersen-Perez’s chosen form of First Amendment speech/expression in the future–but that of others who may choose to come before the council and exercise their protected right of free speech in a less than conventional manner.

(7) It would also appear that you did not act in an even handed fashion in your apparent attempt to discipline Mr. Petersen-Perez indirectly by your comments. From my observation–at least 3 members of the city council turned their backs on Mr. Petersen-Perez and the live audience–and then walked off the bench—during his presentation.

Yet at no time did you comment re their symbolic speech/expression. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander—Mr. Mayor—wouldn’t you agree? If not, you leave the distinct impression that you have two sets of rules–one for us—members of public–and another for your cronies on the bench.

****I believe you should make some type of clarifying comment re the above described situation to prevent chilling the speech of future members of the public who come to speak before the council.

****As an aside—although I think it is in bad form– I think the case law is clear that government officials have a First Amendment right not to listen to those who are speaking to them. As offensive as I might find it–when our elected officials walk out on a speaker- I believe such conduct is fully protected by the First Amendment.

***I do, however, have a choice in the matter—not to vote for these three council members in the future, organize a campaign to recall them—or just let them make fools out of themselves any time they get ready.

Sincerely,

Aram James

****P.S. Ms. Stump [Chief attorney for the city of Palo Alto] please consider jumping into this conversation with your legal views on the issues I have attempted to raise. Thanks.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

Ken, it's in your own words. You clearly state you're targeting the protected homeless class:
"The logical extension of "non discrimination" is that all of our public streets can be filled up with homeless campers. Duh?"

Then this ordinance you're trying to pass specifically targets this protected class: "Probably, but not sleeping in cars on public streets, if such sleeping is banned"

You couldn't get much more blatant discrimination than if you claimed everyone with a dark skin pigment have to sit at the back of the bus for health reasons as they need to get more sun!


Like this comment
Posted by Stick-To-The-Topic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2011 at 8:26 am

Aram James letter to Mayor Sid Espinoza about Mark Peterson-Perez's boorish behavior is off-topic. Mr. James, please create a new topic when for these sorts of postings, rather than "clutter" up the field with non-topical discussion.


Like this comment
Posted by PAPD-Critic
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 22, 2011 at 8:56 am

You just added to the "clutter" didn't you....and besides, It's Mr. James First Amendment Right. Perhaps you would also like to take that away as well. This is a "BLOG" where the topic goes anywhere it wishes...Get real..while I Stick-It-To-You...LOL

Posted by Stick-To-The-Topic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 22 minutes ago

Aram James letter to Mayor Sid Espinoza about Mark Peterson-Perez's boorish behavior is off-topic. Mr. James, please create a new topic when for these sorts of postings, rather than "clutter" up the field with non-topical discussion.


Like this comment
Posted by danny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

A couple years ago I was told that someone (a developer?) was buying a lot of properties in College Terrace. Can anyone here give the details?


Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 22, 2011 at 9:55 am

Who is Aran James? Who is Mr. Perez? Is he a homeless guy? What happened in the meeting? Why is off topic?


Like this comment
Posted by sorry
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

I think both the mayor and aram should say sorry to each other.


Like this comment
Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 22, 2011 at 10:35 pm

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." (Le Lys Rouge) -- Anatole France


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Toto, mon petite chien (my leetle dog), we are not in Paree anymore!


Like this comment
Posted by Oh, Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2011 at 11:40 am

The homeless are here because they know Palo Alto is a haven for them. They have networks. They tell each other to come here. How many of them even have a connection to Palo Alto until they heard it was a good to populate our streets with abandon.

I'm the one being run out and I live here and pay taxes. There is only one store I go to on University; I park as close to it as I can and run in and go directly back to my car. I stopped shopping or going to restaurants on University after two incidents. First a homeless man pulled a machete (I kid you not) out of his pants and waved it at another homeless man and secondly a homeless woman dropped her pants and defecated on the sidewalk right in front of my 9 year old son and I.

I'm the one who is no longer welcome in my own city. I'm sick of the homeless taking over and all saps assuaging their guilt at being rich by fostering them. The people who really need our help are all the hardworking people who are just scraping by to live in the city for the sake of their children. They need our help!! Not the bums who are camping out in their cars and our streets.

Vote this ban in now!!


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm

And, of course this will only get worse if we have a pot dispensary!!


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm

"Oh, Please", just listen to yourself. Do yourself a favor and change "homeless" to another protected class and re-read your post.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm

If other protected classes start pulling machetes & doing their bidness on the sidewalk, they deserve criticism. Being in a protected class doesn't protect you from being prosecuted for committing crimes.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm

No, Observer, being in a protected class doesn't protect you from being prosecuted for committing crimes, it protects you from being prosecuted for simply being a member of the protected class.


Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm

We're not talking about them being homeless, we're talking about their illegal activities as homeless people, including loitering. I grew up with a person now homeless and I know for a fact he breaks the law constantly and the public literally pays for it. He hangs out downtown and gets arrested regularly.


Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2011 at 8:20 am

No, Observer, we are talking about introducing an ordinance that directly targets a protected class regardless of whether they have committed a crime.
Or are you posting on the wrong thread?


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2011 at 9:43 am

"Oh please" made a very valid point - residents of Palo Alto should be able to feel welcome in their own city and their own homes and businesses. If I have someone hassling me as I walk downtown, living in their vehicle in front of my house, using my yard as a latrine, sleeping in the park my children play in, "showering" in the library, how can I feel welcome and comfortable in the place I live?

If church leaders feel strongly that people should be allowed to live in their vehicles, please open your church parking lots to them and have the police direct them there. Start a fund for the support of the security and sanitary facilities that would be needed. I would be happy to contribute to a safe, sanitary solution to people living in cars.

Please don't call me selfish because I want to be able to walk down the streets of my own town without being yelled at or asked for money. Or that I want my kids to play in their own front yard without someone staring out the car/home windows at them. Or that my kids can go to the park without being harrassed by the guys sleeping on the bench that they are making too much noise. And no - I don't consider a homeless person a resident.


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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2011 at 10:16 am

PA Mom, you're reaching the wrong conclusion. I should feel safe going shopping and yet I encounter a rampaging teen smashing up the shop (Web Link). Following your logic, we should ban all *your* children from the downtown area.
The bottom line is that targeting a protected class is discrimination regardless of how you try to dress it up.
The only feasible ordinance here is one that targets vehicles as Menlo Park has. All others will fail on appeal if they ever get a conviction.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2011 at 11:39 am

While the first amendment protects the homeless' right to be homeless - it does not prevent us from passing laws protecting the rest of the community. Keeping a community safe is not discrimination. Other communities have laws preventing living in your car, somehow they manage to enforce them without appeals.

Just curious - how can a homeless person have a valid car registration, insurance etc. without an address?


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Posted by donotforget
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jul 26, 2011 at 11:45 am

do not forget,palo alto is palo alto, palt altan is palo altan,or otherwise it won't be called palo alto.the same is true with homeless in palo alto,may be he has ph.d degree


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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

"it does not prevent us from passing laws protecting the rest of the community."

How many times do I need to repeat this for it to sink in?
You cannot pass laws that target a protected class.
You can pass laws such as "you aren't allowed to have a weapon in public" (though even that one you'll have trouble) or "you can't defecate on the sidewalk". However, you can't pass a law that targets only "homeless defecating on the sidewalk" or "homeless having a weapon in public".
If you had an ordinance, such as Menlo Park's, that prevented *any* overnight parking on the street, with each car (not person) getting ticketed, then it isn't discrimination.

This ordinance is specifically targeting homeless people sleeping in cars.

Do you get it now?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm

"You cannot pass laws that target a protected class."

There you go again. Show all of us the Supreme Court case that makes the currents laws in Menlo Park, and other cities surrounding Palo Alto, banning overnight car camping on public streets, illegal.

According to your legal theory, I could by a large RV and park anywhere on any public street in this country, declare it my residence, vote in that city, send my kids to local schools, pay no property taxes and laugh at all the fools who are stupid enough to buy the house that I am parking in front of.

Pigs don't fly.


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Posted by just thinkin'
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm


READ a voter registration form...........
Guessing you signed on - UNDER PENTALTY OF PREJURY - that you understood it...........
Seems not.........


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Posted by Norm
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Norm is a registered user.



Interesting thing about Palo Alto is it has an ordinance AND a commission that apparently has no bearing on the situation…. unless the CMR lacked mention of the HRC input, assuming it went past them, or considered existing policy (yeah, it is a new guy)…………..

Their charge , as required by the city, is defined in the Muni Code Section 2.22.050 which says:

“Jurisdiction.

(a) The human relations commission has the discretion to act with respect to any human relations matter when the commission finds that any person or group does not benefit fully from public or private opportunities or resources in the community, or is unfairly or differently treated due to factors of concern to the commission.

(1) Public or private opportunities or resources in the community include, but are not limited to,
those associated with ownership and rental of housing, employment, education and governmental services and benefits.

(2) Factors of concern to the commission include, but are not limited to, socioeconomic class or status, physical condition or handicap, married or unmarried state, emotional condition, intellectual ability, age, sex, sexual preference, race, cultural characteristics, ethnic background, ancestry, citizenship, and religious, conscientious or philosophical belief.

(b) The commission shall conduct such studies and undertake such responsibilities as the council may direct.”

Perhaps they were directed to disregard………………………………..

Ohhhhhhhhhhh……. The City has a haggled over discrimination ordinance that says….

“9.73.010 Statements of policy.

(a) Human Rights. It is the policy of the city of Palo Alto to affirm, support and protect the human rights of every person within its jurisdiction. These rights include, but are not limited to, equal economic, political, and educational opportunity; equal accommodations in all business establishments in the city; and, equal service and protection by all public agencies of the city.

(b) Freedom from Arbitrary Discrimination. It is the policy of the city of Palo Alto to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of every person to be free from arbitrary discrimination on the basis of their race, skin color, gender, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, housing status, marital status, familial status, weight or height.”

Perhaps that was a bad idea as will………….

TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!!!!!!

What is is ---- not my idea.......................




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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Ken, targeting a law at a protected class doesn't make them illegal, it makes them discriminatory and hence unenforceable. Any conviction would be thrown out on appeal.
Now, your eagerness to support discrimination is something you need to address when you look in the mirror.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm

get real, It is way too long for you to identify the Supreme Court case that supports your legal theory. The reason for this is that there is no such case. All laws discriminate.

Palo Alto can, and will, control its own streets, whether you like it or not.


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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Ken, you obviously haven't lived here long.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

get real, I don't know how you define "lived here long", since you clearly have no grounded legal definitions to support your notions. I am still waiting for that Supreme Court case that supports your position.

However, just to be factual, I have lived in Palo Alto since 1968. I have seen the various social trends come and go. My experience tells me that the current mix of people are able to say "no" to the 'save-the-world' types, especially since their homes are no longer an infinite piggybank, and they want to preserve the equity that they currently have.


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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Ken, given your argument that laws discriminate so it's OK to discriminate, I doubt you've been here since '68.
To understand why laws that target protected classes are unenforceable, read up on a brief history of the civil rights movement.
If you want to look at cases that specifically target the homeless, search for cities that are currently going through class-actions, repealing discriminatory laws and spending millions of dollars in out of court settlements.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2011 at 3:25 pm

"given your argument that laws discriminate"

NO! I said that ALL laws discriminate.

A pedophile wants to have access to young children. Tax protesters want to pay no taxes. Some people want to own and use explosives and machine guns. Some, like you, want to live on our public streets in vans/RVs, etc. The common denominator is that all of you feel that you are discriminated against, and you are right. So what?

The essential issue is how the Supreme Court decides various cases. There is not a single case that has resulted in the prohibition of bans on street campers. If there was one, you could name it. You can't, becasue there will never be one (you think the Supremes want a ton of campers in front of their homes?).

Palo Alto will get in line with Menlo Park and other surrounding cities. Watch and learn.

Oh, and yes, I have been here since 1968, believe it or not.


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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 27, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Ken, you can't be serious. You really believe since we have laws targeting pedophiles we can have laws targeting blacks, jews, homeless, gays?

Though your post does give an inkling as to why you're persisting with your arguments; you simply don't see the homeless as a protected class and think it's fine to discriminate against them. Try replacing "homeless" with another protected class and see if you would really be willing to post it here and put your name to it.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Get real - why do you consider the homeless a protected class?


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2011 at 8:06 pm

"you can't be serious"

Yes, completely serious. I know some people who think the progressive income tax works against them, and that it discriminates against the relatively wealthy. It is, and it does. So what? The Supreme Court has declared it leagal.

The Supremes have yet to declare the Menlo Park anti-car camping law illegal. And you, get real, provide no evidencde that it has. The reason you persist in avoiding that particular case is that it doesn't exist, no matter how much you wish that it did.

The homeless have the same rights as the homed. But they don't have extra rights. They must obey the same rules and regulations as everybody else. If this means that they cannot sleep in their vans, on our public streets, so what? The Supremes, whether they be liberal or conservative, will not overrule this basic sense of what will be be allowed. Once again, the Supremes do not want to happen to them, what is happening to College Terrace.


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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Wow, Ken, you really have no idea bout civil rights. Amazing.
There once was a law that said blacks had to sit at the back of the bus, do you think it still exists?
I've given you plenty of direction to read up on civil rights. As much as you wish them to go away, civil rights do exist.

PA Mom, check out AB 312.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2011 at 8:27 pm

"you really have no idea bout civil rights. Amazing."

As a federal circuit judge, whom I knew, once told me, "Most people think their Consitutional or civil right are violated, if they lose their case. The issue is not what they think, but what is the established law."

There is no established law that overnight campers are allowed to sleep on public streets. End of story.


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Posted by get real
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Ken, you lost what little credibility you had when you stated that it is fine to create laws that target blacks, jews, homeless, gays,...
Continue with what effectively is a "hate petition"; it will get nowhere in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm

get real, it is completely fine to make laws that prevent street camping.

Name the Supreme Court case that makes it not fine.

When people make desperate statements, like "hate petition", they are admitting that they have already lost the argument.

Palo Alto will pass this ordinance, and be in league with our surrounding cities.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 29, 2011 at 8:32 am

Get Real - AB 312 protects homeless people from "violence, or intimidation by the threat of violence". Making it illegal to live in your vehicle is not violent. AB 312 also says that at "these provisions are not to be construed to prohibit or restrict a public agency from the lawful enforcement of any law".

Palo Alto should pass this ordinance.


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Posted by Edgarpoet
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Edgarpoet is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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

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