News

Palo Alto looks to scrap ban on car camping

Expecting legal challenge, City Council prepares to repeal controversial law

After lingering in legal limbo for nearly a year, Palo Alto's controversial ban on car camping is now heading toward repeal.

The law, which the council adopted in August 2013 after a heated community debate, has been on shaky legal footing since June, when the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a similar law in Los Angeles. While enforcement of the Palo Alto ordinance was initially slated to begin in February 2014, the council agreed in December to suspend it for a year while the city waits for the Los Angeles case to be resolved.

Now, with the case's resolution at hand and the Los Angeles law deemed illegal, City Attorney Molly Stump is recommending repealing the law. The City Council is set to vote on this recommendation Monday night.

Under the recommendation, the city will continue to monitor the problems that have prompted the adoption in the first place. The ban was adopted after years of complaints from residents about disturbance from people living in cars outside their homes. In addition to banning car camping, the council also agreed last year to keep Cubberley Community Center closed at night after the center transformed into what City Manager James Keene called an "ad hoc homeless shelter."

Both restrictions, particularly the car-camping ban, met with heavy resistance from many residents, homeless vehicle dwellers and advocates for the homeless. In addition to banning car camping, the council allocated $250,000 for housing subsidies for the homeless.

The city has also recently awarded a contract to he Peninsula Healthcare Connections for an intensive case manager, who has been conducting outreach to the homeless and working toward housing solutions, according to a report from Stump.

Stump recommends in repealing the car-camping ban and "continuing to monitor conditions and impacts to residents." In light of the Los Angeles decision, Stump wrote in the report, "many cities' vehicle habitation ordinances are now subject to legal challenges on similar grounds to that of Los Angeles.

"While Palo Alto's ordinance is different from the Los Angeles ordinance and is consistent, in our view, with constitutional requirements, a decision to retain and enforce the ordinance will likely result in litigation that will be both resource intensive and expensive," Stump wrote. "Accordingly, staff recommends that the City direct its resources toward proactive solutions such as social services and outreach rather than litigation costs."

Comments

7 people like this
Posted by Christian Straight
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2014 at 9:29 am

Finally some sense and enlightment overcomes the City Council...we've been sharing neighborhood space with car campers for over 10 years without a single incident. I was completely baffled as to how this ordinance was even promulgated. Hooray for common sense and compassion.


5 people like this
Posted by Great news
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 13, 2014 at 9:59 am

Kudos to the citizens who banded together to press for the suspension of the ban, including the Stop the Ban group. A great example of citizen action.


1 person likes this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2014 at 10:08 am

Is regular camping on city streets or sidewalks (tents, sleeping bags, etc.) banned in Palo Alto? If so, why should camping in cars be different, under the law? Camping is camping.

I see several vehicles (some with trailers) in the same spots along El Camino. I guess this is better than setting up right outside a home.


11 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2014 at 10:14 am

This is predictable. Our city council lacks the intestinal fortitude to enforce most things that don't affect them directly. They don't want car campers in their own elite neighborhoods, but the campers are fine in the non-elite neighborhoods.

[Portion removed.] There have been many complaints, over the years, about car campers in College Terrace. Although the parking restrictions have helped quite a bit, the car campers are starting to return. In fact they are blatantly violating the no parking signs. I have notified the city about them, but to no avail.

Molly Stump's opinion is that the car camping ban in PA is constitutional...but that it will be challenged. Oh, how frightening!

Outreach programs that PA is throwing money at will act as an additional magnet to bring even more car campers and homeless to PA. If the campers are told that they should set up shop in some of the elite neighborhoods, with supportive services like all night portable bathrooms, this repeal would never be considered. Remember that nice little bench at the corner of Churchill and Bryant...the one where a homeless man decided to rest many days? It got removed when the elites didn't like it, even though it was tasteful, and had been there many decades.

Complete hypocrisy on the part of the city council.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2014 at 10:31 am

How do people manage to camp on the street outside the Apple store ahead of their product launches?

And what about the news trucks that spend hours at a time covering them?


2 people like this
Posted by not exactly pro campers
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:06 am

I'm all for supporting the down and under, but I'm not thrilled about driving/walking by campers in my neighborhood and I"m particularly appalled buy the 3 that sit at the end of Chestnut and run their diesel generators but the TODDLER park. Really, a little neighborly consideration would be nice! No they probably are not breaking any laws, but they are not improving anyones quality of life!


3 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:12 am

The city should enforce its ordinances that limit the amount of time a vehicle can be parked in any location - this might deter some car campers. Further, we all pay a lot of property taxes or rent to live in this great city, but car campers get to live here for free? If we are going to turn Palo Alto into one big mobile home park, maybe we should charge car campers rent for the privilege to live in our city, just like everyone else.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dorothy Black
a resident of another community
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:31 am

Would someone run a little survey? How many of these campers, live-in cars, are presently on streets in Palo Alto?
Just a few pertinent facts would be helpful. I live in Oakland altho I did spend fifty years in Palo Alto and Stanford just so you know where I am coming from. There are laws on the books which go after abandoned vehicles. I do not know statistics on lived-in vehicles. Whether they are a problem here is unknown to me. But no one has made an issue of them. Who are these people who need to be in Palo Alto? And are otherwise unable to live there? A few facts would be helpful before you ask city employees to take time away from more important matters. dorothy black


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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:37 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

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Instead of tearing the mobile home park in Barron Park down the city should quadruple it in size. That way the car campers will have a formal place to park and they'll have hookups for power, water and sewage disposal.


Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park

on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:45 am

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7 people like this
Posted by long view
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:46 am

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My vision of a Palo Alto vehicle dweller is someone who lived in Palo Alto in normal housing in their past, but who is now unemployed, underemployed, or receiving a very low amount of disability income. It would be hard for them to make it in normal housing in even much cheaper locations, and they would lose all their connections. Economics makes them homeless. Why be homeless in a community you don't know? And why be an unsheltered homeless person, when taking shelter in a vehicle is available. Palo Alto should enforce its existing laws such as the need to move vehicles periodically. I could support a law that says no running generators at certain times. I could support limits on parking large vehicles in Palo Alto. But I cannot support a complete ban that says homeless people are not allowed to sleep in vehicles in this city. That is equivalent to saying no homeless in this town, and that goes too far.


Posted by Jerry99
a resident of Barron Park

on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:47 am

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3 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2014 at 11:59 am

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Great news! I am deeply grateful for the committed community activists who worked so hard to resist this unjust ordinance.


3 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

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And why is car dwelling illegal in neighboring towns? How can they sustain their ordinances?

Dorothy, your question, "Who are these people who need to be in Palo Alto?" No one "needs" to live in Palo Alto. There are plenty of other cities where these people can live.

Doubtful that the homeless supporters allow them to park on their driveways or streets. After asking all the churches, only one church in town volunteered their parking lot for the vehicle dwellers. It's easy to have sympathy when it's not affecting your lifestyle.

Surely, the City Council can think of any other ordinance that is more PC: Residents must live in an area that's at least 10'x10' on land owned by the city or property owners.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm

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Oh there definitely should be a noise ordinance - that includes generators. State campgrounds allow generators to operate from 10am - 8pm. Or you can apply construction hours to noise --- construction sites can only operate between 8am and 6pm (think compressors, air hammers, etc.) weekdays, 8-5 Saturdays and no operation on Sundays.

And there is no reason why you can't prohibit overnight RV street parking in residential neighborhoods. This would have to apply to everyone - including the residents of the neighborhood. And the city can still close their parking lots at night (incl. Cubberly) - just close them to all vehicles (except for evening/maint. staff).

And the city can still enforce its dumping laws, drug/alcohol in public laws, harassment laws, loitering laws, etc. Those laws/ordinances apply to everyone.

And the city will have to lock down Cubberly each night (even with an all-vehicle parking ban). Lock the bathrooms before sundown and then require renters to purchase/deposit for keys --- then use the keys as you would at most gas stations.

Of course, the ultimate solution is not to allow overnight parking at all...just like Menlo Park. Fat chance on that (given everyone uses their garages for storage).


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

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This is a clear example where the issue should be put on the ballot, as a referendum. It affects the entire city, and neither the city council nor Molly Stump should be trusted to divine what the registered voters of PA want.


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Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Can we not call this car camping? These people are not on holiday.

How many people on this forum would be in favor of stricter regulations in residential neighborhoods if it was tied to a program for supporting people living in cars in other parts of the city?

I am concerned we are quickly expanding the no overnight parking ordinance in Crescent Park while doing nothing in COllege Terrace, Ventura, and other neighborhoods.

Other cities run strict programs with rules like you must be out by 7AM, the vehicle must be registered and in working order, you must follow all laws and additional rules related to noise, littering, etc. For those PA residents who are down to their vehicle and trying to make it, I would like to see a program like this. It would also help to direct vehicle dwellers to specified lots and areas, rather than neighborhoods with less clout than others.


3 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Here are some reasons why the City Council should not vote on Monday to repeal the Prohibition on Human Habitation of Vehicles (Ordinance No. 5206, Codified as Palo Alto Municipal Code Section 9.06.010):
• It Would Be Procedurally Improper. The ordinance was passed only after two-plus years of debate and study about how best to respond to citizen complaints. See Web Link. The Staff recommendation proposes to reverse all of that work and hard-earned compromise without any study or debate whatsoever. Our civic government needs to represent its citizens better than this. At the very least we need the same depth and breadth of discussion that led the Council to appropriately enact the ordinance in the first place.
• Vehicle Dwelling Remains a Serious Problem in Boulware Park and Elsewhere in Palo Alto. The vehicles parked at the bend where Ash meets Chestnut create a now-permanent visual hazard and blight on the area which endangers drivers, bikers, and pedestrians. Gasoline generators with cords strewn across the sidewalk spew noxious fumes into the toddler play area and threaten to trip adults and children alike who dare to pass by. A rotating group of vehicle dwellers cook and eat their breakfast, lunch and dinner at the park, using the picnic areas, tables, trash cans, barbecues, and sidewalks for their own personal living, eating, changing, and dwelling space. They are a constant presence (because they are living there) which effectively deprives (and certainly deters) the rest of us from enjoying our fair share of benefit from these common areas in and around the park. They use tree branches and whatever other fuel they can find to stoke their smoky fires. They bring beer to each other and get high, making for uncomfortable encounters with children and adult residents trying to walk and play in and around the park. This is not the future I see reflected in anyone’s version of the Palo Alto’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Our community suffers because of it.
• Social Services Outreach Is No Substitute for the Ordinance. The recommendation to repeal the ordinance does not claim that the vehicle dwelling problems have been solved by outreach efforts. In fact, the situation is worse than ever. The report notes that a quarter-million dollars have been spent on outreach, but there is no evidence that any of this money has helped a single vehicle dweller move off of the street. This social services outreach effort was approved together with the ordinance, not as a substitute for it. The fact that money has now been spent does not support repeal of the ordinance. Nor does the report provide any reason to believe that pouring more money into these services will address residents’ complaints. If anything, the repeal of the type of ordinance already on the books in neighboring cities and the promise of more services will only serve to attract more vehicle dwellers and exacerbate the situation in Palo Alto.
• Palo Alto Should Protect Its Neighborhoods. The presence of vehicular inhabitants at Boulware Park constitutes an ongoing nuisance, safety hazard, zoning violation, and degradation of the residential neighborhood incompatible with its traditional and intended character. The ordinance was enacted to address these problems. Those problems remain, and there has been no suggestion, much less a showing, to the contrary. Repeal is a step in the wrong direction.
• The Ordinance Is Constitutional. The City Attorney’s report concludes that, even when viewed in light of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Cheyenne Desertrain, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al., 754 F.3d 1147 (9th Cir. 2014), Palo Alto Ordinance No. 5206 “is consistent, in our view, with constitutional requirements.” The conclusion that the ordinance is fully lawful and enforceable is correct. Nothing in the Desertrain opinion or in any other precedent prevents enforcement of an ordinance like Palo Alto’s whose aim is to prohibit the use of a vehicle as a place to live. Palo Alto’s ordinance does not suffer from the vagueness and arbitrary enforcement the Ninth Circuit identified with respect to the Los Angeles ordinance at issue in Desertrain, and even if it did, there is no reason to believe that legally sound enforcement instructions could not be crafted in a manner consistent with the Ninth Circuit’s guidance.
• The Ordinance Should Not Be Repealed Simply Because a Lawsuit Could Be Filed. The City Attorney recommends repeal of the ordinance because costly litigation is likely, and that expense could be used instead to pursue other solutions. Repealing an ordinance anytime someone threatens to bring a lawsuit sets a dangerous and ultimately paralyzing precedent. If the city had to choose, there is a good argument that litigation costs would be a better way to address resident concerns than ineffectual outreach services. But that is not a choice that needs to be made. The opinion of the City Attorney, both now and at the time the ordinance was enacted, is that the ordinance is lawful. It is the job of the City Attorney to defend the City against lawsuits. Funds for legal disputes are built into the budget as a necessary part of running a city. Further, the risk of this very litigation was factored into the decision to pass the ordinance and to make additional funds available for outreach. Outreach of a different kind—to legal professionals in the community willing to help the city on a pro bono basis—would reduce any litigation costs even further. Neither vehicle dwellers nor any other special interest group should have veto power to repeal the reasonable rules by which all citizens in a civilized society governed by the rule of law must live.
• Palo Alto Should Work with Willing Citizens to Craft Solutions. I have been communicating with Palo Alto Councilmembers, Staff, Police, parking enforcement, code enforcement, and city managerial personnel for over two years, at all times volunteering to work with them on developing workable solutions. I am not alone in having done so. Unfortunately, most of this communication has been one-way: no one from the city has engaged me in any significant way. This engagement should at least be attempted before unilaterally enacting major legislation that ignores all of the concerns that have been voiced. Apart from the Palo Alto ordinance, other ideas for reversing what remains a significant decline in the quality of life for those living around Boulware Park and other locations n Palo Alto remain on the table: overnight parking restrictions, zoning enforcement, regulation of fumes spewing into the little kids’ play area from vehicle dwellers’ generators, and many more.


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Bru is a registered user.

Always a great subject for controversy and arguments.

It may well be that the City Council is not to blame in this or marginally to blame. Throw up your hands and blame it on the council. Usually a good bet, and the simple way to look at things.

[Portion removed.]

No one ever made a convincing evidence backed case that car-camping was a problem that even deserved city wide attention. A few on here went hyperbolic on the subject, and low and behold since the ordinance was not a fair and well thought out solution to a real measurable problem, now it comes back a year later and a lot of energy and emotion has just been wasted.

It might be worth it if anyone learned anything from the experience ... you know who you are.

Not one policeman would talk about or generalize his experience with the homeless or car campers in Palo Alto. No one came forward with any data that said there were problems and then connected them with the homeless or car camping.

No one explained any shortcomings in our existing laws except in terms that were unbelievable. If someone is being a pain in the neck or disturbing the community or a resident's home the police take action.

When I first got to Palo Alto in Crescent Park you could get a ticket for parking your own car in front of your own house all night. I got a ticket for failing to move my car 10 feet one night into our driveway. Hundred of people had to add shuffling cars in and out of their driveways all night if someone wanted to take their own car out. It was ridiculous. That is until everyone started converting their garages and there was no space in their garages to park, and people got tired of the inconveniences of parking in a serial FIFO driveway.

Since I go out to the Badlands so often I noticed someone parking an RV out there bothering no one. Then whoop ... they were gone. Probably someone complained, Problem solved. Why do we need an ordinance about this. Why can't people who own their own RV park their RV or trailer in their own driveway? It's so funny how it's always those who otherwise filibuster about property rights that are the first to tell others what they can do with their own driveways or cars.

If someone parks in a car in a place that does not bother people for a few days what is the harm. If my friend from out of state wants to park his RV on the street for a visit, why is that a problem ... and if it is a problem, what is the problem and what is a good way to solve it?


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 5:22 pm

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Jonathan Brown said > Vehicle Dwelling Remains a Serious Problem in Boulware Park and Elsewhere in Palo Alto.

Can you qualify that? By serious problem, what do you mean?


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Bru is a registered user.

> And why is car dwelling illegal in neighboring towns? How can they sustain their ordinances?

When I drive through Mountain View I see a hell of a lot more cars, campers, RVs etc than Palo Alto. Just because an ordiance exists does not mean it is used, or works or can be enforced all the time.

I have seen it in Palo Alto over the last year and we supposedly have an ordinance.


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm

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[Portion removed.] I am all for reasonable laws to support Palo Alto resident's rights and keeping our city clean and safe. I have not heard of a single case of anything that has required a new law to handle.

I have to wonder why Craig Lawton indicates he has called the police many times on people in College Terrance, and the police do not respond? Does it have something to do with him, or the lack of a problem that he might be reporting? Or are the police responding but just not at the red alert status that he seems to want to demand?


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:39 pm

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>>serious problem, what do you mean?
Serious as reflected in my descriptions. I've have mothers too scared to comment in forums like this say they're afraid strangers living in vehicles will grab their kids on the way to or from the park. Irrational fear? Maybe. But it's real fear, and it's justified given some of the characters that are attracted to what Larry Klein described as an ad hoc homeless shelter. You can't just pretend it's not a problem when people can't use the park because others are always in it.


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:43 pm

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>>why is car dwelling illegal in neighboring towns?
I can't speak for all of the rationales, but there are many. For one thing, it's similar to zoning laws designed to protect health and human safety. Camping in a car is not a human housing option for homeless. Providing real housing is. Also, it's within city discretion to regulate the character of neighborhoods in the same way it's legal for them to pass zoning laws. There are rules on minimum lot size, water, heat, etc., and the vehicles violate many of these most basic rules. It's within the City's discretion to say that people living in vehicles take up parking spaces that ought not to be used for that purpose but instead should be used for residents in zoned dwellings and park visitors. The list could go on quite long. None of these are unconstitutional.


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:48 pm

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>>why ... the police do not respond
The police were told not to enforce the ordinance. Plus, the police should be doing more to respond in my opinion. They've consistently underwhelmed in patrolling Boulware Park for years. Ventura has the highest concentration of less wealthy, more blue-collar types who work all day and don't have time to keep calling the police over and over. We're working to earn enough to pay taxes and pay for real housing. It's unfair to have someone say they can ignore all that and just live outside my house on the street paying no taxes and stretching power cords and belongings periodically all over the sidewalk.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Why don't the vehicle dwellers move to non-residential areas of Palo Alto? They insist on living right where they are because they "like it here." Of course they do. It's a nice neighborhood. But I don't get to live anywhere I choose without playing by the rules everyone else plays by. Maybe I'd love to live in Pacific Heights, but I can't unless I find a legitimate place to live there. This truth also reveals why this is not a homeless issue. If it were, the vehicle dwellers would have taken advantage of the innumerable services offered to move into regular housing. They've refused because they choose not to live in those places. I'm sorry, but you don't get to make a choice to camp in a car on a residential street when other options are available just because that's your preference.


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:53 pm

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[Post removed.]


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:57 pm

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>They've refused because they choose not to live in those places. I'm sorry, but you don't get to make a choice to camp in a car on a residential street when other options are available just because that's your preference.

Yep. Just send them over to Crescent Park...there will be an immediate police response at that point. The city council will climb over each other to ban car camping, without any concerns about lawsuits...just watch!


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2014 at 8:59 pm

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>>No one ever made a convincing evidence backed case that car-camping was a problem that even deserved city wide attention.
Actually, we had two years of debate on this, and when Larry Klein finally went out to see the evidence at Cubberley for himself, the tide finally turned toward action rather than ignorance. No one wins when we allow car camping to continue and pretend that doing so is more humane than making sure those people get off the streets.


1 person likes this
Posted by long view
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:12 pm

long view is a registered user.

I do feel for the neighbors of Boulware Park. Jonathan - do you live in Barron Park, as your login says, or in Ventura? I did hear hearsay that one of the big RV dwellers had been offered housing they could afford, and declined it. But that does not mean that all the RV dwellers have been offered housing they can afford. There are long wait lists for affordable housing, and I'm sure you have been reading about local rents. Most car dwellers have not been offered regular housing that they can afford. Some car dwellers keep a low profile and don't burden anyone. To address the burden at Boulware park, get the neighbors to support a petition against large vehicle parking in that neighborhood. Boulware problem solved, and low impact car dwellers who lack better options are not run out of town.


1 person likes this
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:15 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm

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Sorry, just reporting the facts on the mothers. You can disagree with them, but belittling their point of view does not help your argument or make their fear less valid.

Re Ventura/Barron Park. I live in Ventura. My recollection is that when I signed up for this years ago there was not a Ventura option. I saw a few minutes ago that now there is, so I updated my profile.


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:31 pm

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>>I did hear hearsay that one of the big RV dwellers had been offered housing they could afford, and declined it.
You don't have to rely on hearsay. One of the self-proclaimed vehicle dwellers spoke at the hearing before the ordinance was enacted and told the City Council that he did not prefer the free housing options he was offered.


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Bru is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Jonathan Brown, are you suggesting we should run the City based on the fears of paranoid shut ins or just prioritize any small number people who profess to be scared?

Notice that there are never solid fact based answers from these guys to any of my comments? No idea of how many car campers there are. No count of police records of arrests or actions of "car campers". The joining of all kinds of crimes and blaming it on car campers. Craig Laughton had a problem with one guy years ago who parked on his block that he apparently could not handle by getting the police involved ( wonder why ) and now every time the subject comes up if you disagree he says some variation of have them over to your house, thus sounding tough but evading the issue.

By the way, I am not supporting or advocating car camping, I just think a new confused law is not the way to handle it. The law in other cities doesn't seem to be working, I see RV's and campers in other towns that Laughton seems to think have solved the problem. This seems to just be an ego thing with CL, more than an actual focus the right solution to the problem.

His claim was that since Palo Alto was less strict on car campers we would have them coming here from all over California. Has that happened. Is there any evidence of that? Not that I have heard. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm

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>>the Ninth Circuit is right
If the Ninth Circuit is right, then as the City Attorney acknowledges, the Palo Alto ordinance is constitutional. It suffers from none of the infirmities identified by the Ninth Circuit relative to the Los Angeles ordinance. It defines "human habitation," there's no evidence of arbitrary enforcement, and we have not even gotten to the need for further enforcement instructions which the Ninth Circuit stated could redeem an otherwise impermissibly vague statute. That's why the City Attorney's recommendation to repeal makes no sense. It's not based on any opinion that the ordinance is illegal. It's based on an unwillingness to defend a statute that some people don't support.


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

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[Post removed.]


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:40 pm

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>> You don't have to rely on hearsay. One of the self-proclaimed vehicle dwellers spoke at the hearing before the ordinance was enacted and told the City Council that he did not prefer the free housing options he was offered.

That's interesting. You show the part of the story that makes them look unreasonable. What else did he say? What was this person's reasoning? What would you expect is someone has some kind of mental health issue? Change is hard for the best of us. Rather than present this person's dilemma, which is what it takes - looking at these people as individual cases and seeing if there is anything productive to be done, we just hear this person even refused free housing,

No, these folks should not be parking in front of people's houses, and I don't think many are if any. Most of the RVs and campers I see around town are in places that seem to be trying to be out of the way and to least attract attention. It is not like these people flaunt their problems. I'm guessing but I would guess that most are alone and scared and would like to find some way to coexist within the law.


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:46 pm

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>>Has that happened. Is there any evidence of that?
Yes, for the first ten years I lived here, there were no vehicle dwellers in the neighborhood. Since at least 2012, here some of the vehicles that have lingered with their occupants near Boulware Park, so the increase in vehicle dwellers in my immediate neighborhood has been infinite in percentage terms:

White Bus (with "Furthur" written above the windshield): 6WGK702
VW Bus (green): 4WBA713
Winnebago: 6LFJ022
Trail Gator: 4LY6716
Commander: 6UFP065
Ford Truck (with cover): 3U51521
Mitsubishi (green): 4W35626


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Bru is a registered user.

> when Larry Klein finally went out to see the evidence at Cubberley for himself, the tide finally turned toward action rather than ignorance.

Cubberly was a special case of a mismanaged situation that got dealt with - and within current laws ... no? It was closed before there were any car camping bans or anything else if I recall correctly.

The opposite of action is inaction, not ignorance, and what was happening around this issue was that there was not a clear statement of the problem or a good idea of what a law was needed for.

Again, not against a law is it is there for some reason other than to give Craig Laughton validation that his life has meaning? ;-)

We all should find out more about the problem, and listen to people's ideas. Until them though using negative anecdotes our of context to tar all of these people as criminals or anti-social is wrong. If someone is violent, or breaking the law, arrest them in the current legal framework.


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Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 14, 2014 at 9:58 pm

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>>No idea of how many car campers there are. No count of police records of arrests or actions of "car campers".
There was a count estimated at the August 5, 2013, meeting, but I am not immediately recalling what it was. Other hard evidence and data has certainly been collected over the years.

"Police Chief Dennis Burns said that in 2010, police had been summoned to Cubberley Community Center, where vehicle dwellers often camp, for complaints involving the homeless 10 times. The number went up to 16 in 2011 and to 39 last year. So far this year, police have made 12 contacts with homeless at Cubberley."
Web Link
See also Web Link

This problem has been plaguing us, and potential solutions other than a vehicle dwelling ban have been explored, for much longer than I had suggested above. "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."
Web Link


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Posted by Travelingman
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Travelingman is a registered user.

jonathan Brown
You seem to have a strong opinion about those of us who can not participate in the real estate market here in Palo Alto, which is by the way, within the United States of America. We the people were granted
certain "rights" under the constitution. But your new constitution simply
proclaims; "he who has alot of material wealth may dictate law to those who do not"
Your constitution has one problem JB, that is: it is bigoted!
Palo Alto is not and will never be a "magnet for homeless" if it is a magnet, how come the 7,000 homeless in San Jose have not all come here?
Answer: they have better services in San Jose than in Palo Alto.
Also, I wonder who mows your lawn, who washes your car and who you hire
to do any home repair jobs? Never mind, I already know that answer!


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2014 at 11:17 am

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

The situation at Boulware Park is ignored, because it is in the Ventura neighborhood. Such a mess would never be allowed at Johnson Park or Heritage Park or Pardee Park. Ventura, College Terrace, Barron Park and Park Blvd. are seen as convenient dumping grounds for car campers by the city council. Until this elitist attitude changes, the issue will continue. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Bru is a registered user.

OK, finally I think I see what the issue is, at least with one person here. That the Ventura neighborhood and it's park is not as "toney" as the more hoity-toity areas of Palo Alto so when at least one resident sees homeless or people in their cars it strikes a nerve and is more difficult for him to police and to get a response to the police.

Yes, Palo Alto has some industrial areas or borderline commercial neighborhoods, try not to see that as a bad thing. it really isn't. If you don't like living there, why don't you consider moving across town?

Can these people who say they are being slighted because of where they live prove it?


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>If you don't like living there, why don't you consider moving across town?

Typical condescending attitude.

I have a better idea: Show the same degree of respect to Ventura neighborhood as Crescent Park demands (and gets)from our city council.


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Posted by long view
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm

long view is a registered user.

With all the comments, forgive the repeat, but I want to say again:

To address the burden at Boulware park, get the neighbors to support a petition against large vehicle parking in that neighborhood. Boulware problem solved, and low impact car dwellers who lack better options are not run out of town. Targeted responses are the right dose of medicine - citywide ordinances are too broad.

Council solved the problem at Cubberley with a targeted ordinance about parks close at 10pm. Cubberley is back to being a normal community center. A citywide ordinance banning car dwelling has proven unneeded.

And while the ordinance Palo Alto did pass was worded differently than the southern CA ordinance, Palo Alto's was still crazy broad - which makes it legal kin to the southern CA ordinance. The ordinance Palo Alto council passed and suspended really said that even if you don't sleep here, even you are only here by daylight, that if you don't have an official address elsewhere, it is illegal to be in the city of Palo Alto on a public street, if you can't prove an official address. In transition? You are a car dweller in Palo Alto and that is illegal. Parking to get pizza or go to the library? Oops - unless you have an official address, then you are a car dweller, and we can cite you. Citizen complaint, police must respond, $1,000 fine. It might as well have said homeless get out of town, day or night. Or at least park your car at the city limits and hike in. Constitutional? I don't think so.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>To address the burden at Boulware park, get the neighbors to support a petition against large vehicle parking in that neighborhood

Why should the Ventura neighborhood be required to collect signatures on a petition? The elite neighborhoods are not required to do this. Very biased thinking.

Just enforce the current law, and ban car camping, period. That way, Ventura and Crescent Park (and all other PA neighborhoods) will be equally protected.

Palo Alto needs to shed its liberal elite guilt, and decide to protect ALL of its neighborhoods.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 15, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Phil is a registered user.

Crescent Park Dad, Jonathan Brown and Craig Laughton I fought for your freedom so that you can live in your house so at the very very least you should be willing allow to allow me to exist in my vehicle. Go get help you say.

I have been turned away over and over and over. Social Services for the poor is the most corrupt institution in America so if you think that services will ever solve the problem of poverty, the lack of affordable housing and income inequality than you're living in denial and self-delusion. The poverty pimps have created a never ending industry
because they themselves are not capable of making it in the cut-throat market place just like most public servants in government.

The next time you walk out of your million dollar home and take in a breath of fresh clean air without some commie or nazi dictating whether you get to live there I would a appreciate a "thank you" the next time you walk past my vehicle as apposed to calling the fascist police force you use to remove me from the world that is owned God, and not you.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm

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@ Phil: You're not the only one who has served. No offense, but the last thing I'd ever do is guilt someone over whether they served or not. Not cool.

And I don't expect you to know, so I'll fill you in: back when the camping ban was in the proposal process, I advocated that the city designate an area for camping. The site would be supervised, strict behavior rules, bathrooms and showers, sign in/sign out, as well as counseling services available on-site.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Phil is a registered user.

@ Crescent Park Dad: One, I'm not camping. Two, you don't need an ordinance that prohibits the use of the streets to create an RV site.

Are you willing to have an RV park next to your house? If not then why are trying to impose what you don't want to be subjected to onto other Palo Alto residents and not yourself?

The city of Palo Alto doesn't even want to retain its last mobile home park,
the last thing the city would do is build an RV park.

Right now there are about 30 to 50 vehicle dwellers in a city of 67,000 residents. What's the problem?

For the most part these 30 to 50 vehicles are spread through-out the city and would probably be even more thinly dispersed if the police would allow them to. Which would you rather have, 30 vehicles parked next to your house are 1 to 3 vehicles?

As far as laying down a guilt trip about serving in the military, let me ask you did you serve so that America can create two sets of laws, one for the wealty and one for the poor because based upon your position in denying the poor the right to use public streets just like yourself that is what you want?

Oh, here comes your response, "I don't live in a vehicle on the public street and neither should you or anyone else." CPD

Then no one should be allowed to eat fast food in their car. Then no one should be able to put make-up on in a car or shave in a car on their way to work. Then no one should be able to change their clothes prior to working out at the baseball, soccer or softball fields. Then no one should be able to change a diaper in a car. Then no one should be able to sit in their car at 3:00 in the morning. Then no one should be allowed to take a nap in their car for any period of time at any time of day.









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Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Great. Given this decision, PA can now reduce the number of "below-market" units by how many? 10? 100? 1000?


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>Then no one should be allowed to eat fast food in their car. Then no one should be able to put make-up on in a car or shave in a car on their way to work...blah, blah....

If they are eating fast food, or putting on makeup, when they wake up in their vehicles, night after night, they are car campers. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that one.

I have no illusions that the city council will actually take into account the true will of the PA citizens tonight. They will probably overturn the car camping ban, due to their self-imposed mandate of liberal guilt, and because their own neighborhoods are not impacted by it. They could care less about the Ventura neighborhood, for example.

The only way to get a true picture of the situation is to have a city-wide referendum.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 17, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Phil is a registered user.

Craig Laughten:
In 2008 the majority of California Citizens voted to ban same sex marriage, Prop 8. First the district court and then the 9th circuit ruled that the majority of California citizens did not have a right to tell someone else what they could do with their property. Though the Supreme Court heard the case it did not rule on its constitutionality, thus the majority were and are denied the right to discriminate against a minority.

In Desertrain vs City of Los Angeles the 9th circuit has already ruled that Vehicle Habitation Ordinances, Bans, are unconstitutional.
Web Link

If you pass a referendum you will be wasting the city's time and the tax payers' money on a losing cause.

Your desire to remove law abiding citizens from society due to their economic status reveals that you are a bigot of which is the umbrella of racism. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what kind of character you have nor the your illogical rationale to justify your bigotry.

What's your response, "homeless people can't live in cars." Oh wait it is not illegal to live in cars at the present time so it is not a crime. You want to make it a crime so that you can remove law abiding citizens from society. That is exactly what Hitler did.


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Go to the next "Coffee with cops" and if you happen to talk to a candid officer, he'll tell you about some of the calls they've gone to to deal with the campers at Cubberly


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Go to the next "Coffee with cops" and if you happen to talk to a candid officer, he'll tell you about some of the calls they've gone to to deal with the campers at Cubberly


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 17, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Phil is a registered user.

Sparty,
most of the problems at Cubberley were caused by people sleeping on the ground not from vehicle dwellers. Plus Cubberley has been closed on a nightly basis for over a year so there have been no vehicle dwellers there in a year, at least legally. As for any other supposed problems caused by homeless people there are numerous laws on the books to deal with disrespectful or illegal behavior.


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Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2014 at 11:05 pm

rick is a registered user.

Well, moot point now. City Council meeting just adjourned. The ban was overturned on a 7-1-1 vote. If I understood correctly, exactly 0.00% of Palo Alto citizenry expressed any support for the ban tonight either in person or by email. 100% of the public who spoke at the microphone were in support of overturning the ban.


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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 6:35 am

Sparty is a registered user.

7-1-1 vote... I'm guessing that any feedback against would have been pointless.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2014 at 8:06 am

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

It would have 8-1 if Karen Holman was there. This does not surprise me, since our city council is full of liberal guilt-laden types. They never intended to enforce their own law, any more than they intend the leaf blower ban to be enforced.

The surprise and ironic vote was Larry Klein. He was the one dissenting vote. This is a complete turn around for Klein, since he initially pooh-poohed the idea that there was any issue of concern. His remarks last night exactly mirror my own. For example, he said that many people he talks to initially think that car campers should be allowed, but when he asks them if they want them on their own streets, the immediate answer is "no!". Klein also dismissed the idea of being worried about lawsuits...nothing new for the city, and PA does quite well in such suits, typically. He also expressed his view that PA has become a refuge for car campers, and it will now get worse.

There wasn't one mention of Ventura neighborhood, only one brief mention of Boulware Park. There were a few mentions of large RVs. A couple of council members mentioned emails that were sent to them, who want to keep the ban.

There was a persistent patter that the ban was unconstitutional, even though our own city attorney said it was constitutional.

Only a city-wide referendum will get to the truth of what our citizens want. Our city council, with the exception of Klein, aren't up to the job. If and when the car campers start showing up in the elite neighborhoods, our council members will be singing a different tune.


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

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