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Sit-lie ban extended throughout PA downtown

Original post made on Jun 5, 2007

Ruling that a person sitting on a crowded sidewalk is a safety hazard, the Palo Alto City Council extended its "sit-lie" ban beyond University Avenue Monday evening.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (31)

Posted by Suzie
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2007 at 11:36 am

The Sit-Lie ban cannot begin soon enough. Palo Alto has a terrible reputation as being a city with uncontrolled begging and loitering. I cannot believe the people were against this measure! The city needs to do something!

Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 5, 2007 at 11:45 am

Not sure what it will do regarding panhandling since the article states:

"To accord with the Constitution, the measure cannot ban panhandling, which is protected, and is only valid in areas that are crowded, during the times of crowding, Baum said."

It is a difficult issue to address because of constitutional issues and issues of perception of the individuals involved.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2007 at 12:32 pm

The city follows the wrong theory here.
The streets and sidewalks were originally under private ownership but were conveyed to the city for an explicit purpose, to allow shoppers and workers to go to and from their business. Obviously you can not erect a tent in the middle of the street because that would be contrary to the grant. I believe it is time to revisit the vagrancy laws, and to also provide caravansaries outside town where otherwise homeless can find minimum shelters and sanitary facilities.

Posted by An Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2007 at 1:53 pm

I have seen at least one resturant set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk for diners. Is this practice going to continue? Does the city collect a "rent"for allowing this to happen. It's on public property and blocks the sidewald far more than a person sitting on the curb or sidewalk. There should be many more benches around for all to use as elderly and other shoppers get tired and need a place to sit down.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Observer needs to be more observant. The city regulates tables and displays on the sidewalk so as to keep a clear right of way. There is a clear, readily discernable difference between street folk and elderly shoppers needing to rest.

Posted by anon.
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 5, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Some of those dinning establishments have claimed the sidewalk space and they
are just as obstructive as a person resting on their posterior. Although I do realize that
by ridding the streets of people who are "loitering" will make it easier for others who are
not so fortunate to go about their business as if all is well in tinseltown, banishing the economically deprived a front row seat in a public space seems like we are trying to brush the issue under the rug. Out of sight, out of mind. What problem?

Posted by nami
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2007 at 10:40 pm

In one of the wealthiest communities in the US I think it is sad that people cannot have more compassion for those less fortunate. Many of the "bannished" are war veterans and/or mentally ill. Their presence serves to remind of us of how fortunate we are, and of how little we do to support those that have served our country and have suffered irreparable damage as a result. In addition, lack of federal and state funding for the mentally ill (because they are not physically disabled) has turned many into "loiterers".

Rather than forcing the police to enforce our lack of compassion, wouldn't it be more productive to work for alternative to solutions for helping these people move to better places in their lives? Shelters would benefit from monetary gifts, or people who could volunteer their expertise towards writing grants and developing programs. If these people bother you, then why not write letters to your important friends and ask them to make a real difference, rather than exporting the homeless to other communities that don't have our resources. I don't know what form "Care not Cash" will take, but I hope it is not a euphimism for "out of sight out mind". The presence of those less fortunate is a reminder of an entire community that cannot serve itself, largely because of true disability of one form or another. This is a community that has been largely abondoned by government and citizens alike. I am not advocating a welfare state, just compassion from our citizens. If a way to achieve that is making our lives unconfortable everytime we leave Whole Foods, then maybe this is something we should value not banish. The downfall of great civilizations has always been a result of "rusting from the inside".

Posted by Sally
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2007 at 11:15 pm

I am appalled. The city is making it illegal for people to even exist. This is not a safety issue as the city likes to call it. This is about panhandlers on the street and the fact that the city doesnt want to look at them anymore.

but you know what, that panhandler sitting on University could have easily been you.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:31 am

It is illegal for me to "exist" inside a hotel except as a paid guest. Don't believe me? Just try making yourself at home in a local hotel without registering and paying.
"I believe it is time to revisit the vagrancy laws, and to also provide caravansaries outside town where otherwise homeless can find minimum shelters and sanitary facilities."
Downtown streets are not appropriate places for the homeless because of the lack of sanitary facilities. You can posture or you can offer a solution as I did. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Nathaniel Flick
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:41 am

Please. So now you can get arrested by falling down on the street, or stopping to tie your shoe. Do we live in America still? This new law is a piece of crap.

When are people going to actually start dealing with the homeless issue with something other than the NIMBY principal?

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:46 am

Um, Walt, you do understand the difference between private property and public streets, yes?

Palo Alto is showing its true self with this one. I guess compassion is something to talk about, not act upon.

Posted by just thinking
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2007 at 11:56 am

What is the legal defininition of a "vargrant" in California?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2007 at 1:02 pm

If someone sitting or lying on the sidewalk is a safety hazard, then there are many other things that are safety hazards in Palo Alto. How about the way PASCO leaves our collection bins all over the sidewalk, causing safety hazards. How about all the overgrown bushes, etc. blocking our sidewalks, causing safety hazards. How about all the cars parked half on/half off sidewalks, causing safety hazards.

No this is nothing about safety in the sense that blocked sidewalks are safety hazards. This is all to do with having the homeless sleeping or passed out drunk lying on our sidewalks having nowhere else to go. We should be dealing with this as a homeless issue, not a safety issue. Come to think of it, we should be dealing with all the blocked sidewalks as safety hazards and ticketing those responsible!!

Posted by Porsche
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2007 at 2:18 pm

I grew up in Palo Alto and could not ask for more beautiful of a city, community, and neighborhood. Now as an adult, I work in Downtown Palo Alto and often take a walk (which is due in the next 15 minutes) and I have never been bothered or offended or defensive towards the homeless population here. Cities like SF are spending $200 mil a year to get the homeless off of the streets. A city such as Palo Alto which is very rich with resources and is in the heart of the Silicon Valley I would like to know what we are doing to address this great need. They live on the streets, we know that. I don't think its fair to ban them from sitting on public benches. Am I going to get a ticket for sitting on a bench for too long - or for taking a break at a park for a little nap & sunshine? Whats next??

Posted by local resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 6, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Resident writes that we should be dealing with this as a homeless issue....well, we put in the Opportunity Center here in Palo Alto, why don't they use the resources there? It must be a fantastic support system, one doesn't see such systems in other local cities, do they?

Eric from Mountain View, you post various observations about Palo Alto and you are familiar with both cities. Can you check the law in the city of Mountain View to see how your local laws compare to Palo Alto with regards to loitering/homeless/etc.? Just wondering why your downtown is safer and more conducive to visitors, shoppers, diners that ours? There has to be *some* reason why Palo Alto is the place to be for the homeless, not your city.

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2007 at 4:44 pm

local res, I dont know the laws, but I will look into it (reasonable request...). I truly doubt that the laws are as draconian as PA's, since such measures are usually reactive, not proactive, and dt. MV had not in my memory had a significant homeless presence.

I will tell you that Mtn View does offer excellent support to low-income residents.

Posted by local resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 6, 2007 at 6:53 pm

yeah, but Palo Alto has the Opportunity Center -- I haven't been to see it but I understood they offer "one stop" support for the unhoused/those needing public services -- so, is the target group not utilizing this resource?

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:22 pm

I posted my definition of public property at the head of this topic. I have also posted my recommendation. I don't believe California has a definition of vagrant any more. Those who sympathize with the homeless can invite them to set up camp in their front yard.

Posted by Sonia
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:54 pm

Another Palo Alto citizen advocating compassion. I'm not going to invite homeless people to camp in my front yard, but I believe tax dollars need to go to helping the homeless rather than kicking them off the streets. The only way this new ban could have been more blunt is if it was called the "Pretend Homeless People Don't Exist And Make Them Go Away to Where We Don't Have To Deal With Them" measure. Homeless people are not safety threats; I have yet to hear of anyone being hurt or injured in any way due to their prescence on the sidewalk. I mean, are people tripping over them or something?

Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2007 at 7:59 pm

The OC is a joke. Alot of the "homeless" and "panhandlers" you see on the streets of PA actually live there (for free)....and most live better than people who have jobs and struggle to pay rent. And that "contract" they have to sign stating no drug use, etc...what a joke. I'll sign anything to get a posh apartment.

I have been verbally assaulted by the panhandlers when I choose (i still believe it is my right) not to give them money.

Posted by a palo alto homeless guy
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 6, 2007 at 10:50 pm

It's a shame that everyone who wants to set up a table and chair for a cause is going to be nabbed under this ordinance. Girl Scout cookies, anti-Hillary, you name it. All because of a handful of drunks, drug addicts, and nut cases.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:09 am

Homeless folk are usually those who reject the rules governing staying in the usual public shelters. The solution for some is a campground with sanitary features, rudamentary shelters, accomodation of cars and tents, and absolute minimum rules. Drunks and dopers, keep it down. Those who cannot hack that are beyond help and appropriate for involuntary commitment. I am aware that locating such caravansaries would be contentious, but it is an obligation we took when we got rid of vagrancy laws.

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:07 am

Local resident, thank you for illustration my point

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:08 am

um, illustrating. Need more coffee

Posted by a palo alto homeless guy
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 7, 2007 at 7:08 pm

Opportunity Center? Here is what I wrote in the other forum:

-----Begin Repost-----

Apr 14, 2007
Web Link

"mary menlo park wrote:
No one has mentioned the fact that Palo Alto has recently built and opened the Opportunity Center. It is a beautiful building meant to meet the needs of the homeless. This was voted on and approved by the citizens of Palo Alto, a caring bunch!"

As (was) notably said,'There is a sucker born every (minute)'. Many folks with money want to be bamboozled. This is how the so-called Opportunity Center received its $25 million dollars in funding. Where is that money now?

As one homeless person said to me, "For every dollar they give to us, they give $10,000 to someone else."

Why would anyone think that the so-called Opportunity Center would be better than the old open-air drop in center behind the Red Cross building? As one long term volunteer middle class homemaker answered, "We can have our office in an enclosed building."

It's true that the Opportunity Center has some housing for the homeless. But those 89 Opportunity Center units appear to have become fairly permanent housing. Living there, I'm told, is like living in a police state snakepit. As far as housing is concerned, in Palo Alto there were previous housing projects supposedly for the poor and disadvantaged, such as the huge 753 Alma project, the Barker Hotel, and a few flop houses. A couple years ago there was a street project in Palo Alto that was able to fund about 15 chronics off the streets into flop units before the waiting list jumped to about 200 when the project stopped. I'm told now that the Opportunity Center now has a wait list of about 500.

The Opportunity Center still has enough space to store some material donations, like clothes, but it looks like the "drop in center" part of the operation may have to move elsewhere in time. The social workers have noticed that the residents do not want to associate with the "drop ins".
Actually, the facility is poorly designed for a homeless drop in center. The extra rooms on the ground floor would better serve the residents.

The token homeless person for the Opportunity Center fundraisers was an alcoholic.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:24 pm

Homeless guy, thank you for making my point. You need a place to unroll your bindle and take care of nature without being hastled. Sacramento used to have the world's largest hobo jungle between 16th and 19th, the SP and the river. We also had some fine flop houses, 50 cents a night [that tells you when]. Sadly, you can get 25 mil for a half way house but nothing for a Gypsy caravansary. Slip covering the homeless. Sometimes perfection is the enemy of just good enough.
If the city is serious in concern for the homeless, let them get outside the box and discuss stuff that has a chance of working.

Posted by Lisa Simons
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 10:03 pm

I am puzzled by the "sit-lie" ban...are we asking our panhandlers to kneel?

Posted by terri
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 26, 2007 at 7:05 am

There are quite a few hypocrites here. Take all those panhandlers and let them sit in front of your doors all day. They can walk on the side of your house and urinate. When they are done for the day, you go out and pick up their garbage and milk crates (which they steal). I am sure then you would all be screaming for them to leave.

Posted by terri
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 26, 2007 at 7:10 am

For those of you that do not mind the so called homeless, how often do you have them sleep in your home or at least let them come in to take a shower? Some of those homeless people drive up in their cars, take off their shoes and sit on the sidewalk and pretend to be starving. All the pictures I have seen of starving people, show very, very thin people. Some of them are obviously not hungry,

Posted by Norm
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2007 at 2:34 pm

The point has ben many times in the past - not all of the panhandlers are actually unhoused/homeless, not all homeless panhandle, neither group are all druggies, drunks, mentally ill, or peeing in alleys.

Fact is, most of the druggies and drunk in this or any city are housed people.

Posted by uiuiuiu
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Jun 27, 2007 at 4:29 am

Anyone asked these homeless to act non-homeless.

The problem could be mitigated.

Ask them to shave, shower sh*t, and shine...And please I am not joking here. I think the real problem is not homelessness it may be mental illness or a severe lack of motivation.

And... please dont sit on road... dont give alms.

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