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Palo Alto opens its first 'safe parking' site for unhoused residents

Original post made on Feb 19, 2021

Responding to a steady increase of residents living in vehicles, Palo Alto on Friday opened its first "safe parking" site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 19, 2021, 4:44 PM

Comments (33)

Posted by felix
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2021 at 6:34 pm

felix is a registered user.

Great work. Thank you Lydia Kou, Tom DuBois and Joe Simitian - this is putting our votes for you to good use!

Now we just need more safe sites such as this one, used by folks till permanent housing is found.


Posted by Easy8
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 19, 2021 at 9:02 pm

Easy8 is a registered user.

Why not open up the whole area East of 101 to high density housing? The pressure to build housing from the State, etc will only continue to grow, and a couple of high density complexes here would make significant headway into our "quotas." This area has offices and commercial, but there is still open land and underdeveloped areas. Granted, there is no public transportation currently, but public transportation is lousy just about everywhere in the city.


Posted by Rupert Johnson
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 20, 2021 at 7:10 am

Rupert Johnson is a registered user.

Good to see Palo Alto stepping up to address this issue of accommodating vehicle residencies.

The only other option would have been to outlaw these kinds of transient settlements which Los Altos and the township of Los Altos Hills effectively enforces.

Palo Alto is far better suited to assist RV/car campers and their needs based on
ease of accessibility to shopping, public transportation and social services in Mountain View.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2021 at 10:39 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Rupert noted Los Altos. Los Altos is on the flat land and has all of the markets and services the same as PA. There is a continual trend to shoehorn all of these type activities which other cities do not allow into PA. Duly noted. That is a trend that cannot keep happening. If any of the Santa Clara County legislators have agreed to shoehorn costly welfare activities into this city then watch out because you will not have a job the next time arounds.

The worst problem on this whole situation is the people trying to tie support from home owners instead of using city, county, state, and federal land for these activities. There is commercial property that is sitting there "for lease' signs abound. Empty commercial buildings yet you all keep trying to tie this all to church parking lots. Note - a church is a business that has to pay insurance and upkeep of their buildings - bathrooms and kitchens. Continual off-loading of this problem onto individual home owners is not acceptable. The state created this problem due to incompetence. At least this is good news that a small spot has been created with toilets and services.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2021 at 9:06 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

I strenuously oppose this. No logic to inviting random persons to reside in vehicles in the Palo Alto Baylands.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:01 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

There is the Palo Alto Business Park east of 101 at San Antonio. It has a huge parking lot that is empty all of the time. There is a city of PA office on Ewell Court. There is plenty of room to install some temporary bathrooms and sanitization stations in that area. But the city prefers to offload this problem on to church parking lots, and the baseball field where children are going to look to be playing ball. What is wrong with this picture? The city is doing something but the something is coming up short.


Posted by Bob Ohlmann
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 11:04 am

Bob Ohlmann is a registered user.

I strongly support this program by the City and think it needs to do more as compassionate help to thse who have to live in their vehicles, perhaps beause they work here but can't afford any nearby housing. I'm working with one of the several churches that will allow some vehicles to park in their parking lot, but that is only a minimum help and the City can do a lot more. I don't see RVs parked along El Camino in Mountain View or Meno Park. Why Palo Alto? Let's act.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2021 at 11:14 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I think they should put more homeless parking in the parking lots of the companies who spent $220,000,000 to ensure gig workers get less than minimum wage and no benefits, especially InstaCart which just raised its rates to cover lobbying costs.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 11:26 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I attended a meeting in which church parking lots were the subject. The participants were concerned that they had to have their own people on-site all of the time. And their buildings would be open 24/7. They did not have the resources at the time and would require some facility upgrades to their churches for the 24/7 use. Most churches are part of a bigger company of churches and some of their funding comes from a "corporate" entity - top level. Then you have the services in which the members of the church participate. You have now coopted the parking lot for others as opposed to the people who are members of the church. This is another example of the city and county off-loading their responsibility onto private entities and residents for the situation that they created.


Posted by Bob Ohlmann
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 11:45 am

Bob Ohlmann is a registered user.

I believe the Resident-1 of Adobe Meadows has his/her facts mixed up. the parking on church lots will not cost the churches anything as all financial support is from the county via Move Moutain View, the NGO supporting this effort. No facility upgrades are required. Furthermore, parking is limited to 6 PM to 8 AM or shorter hours when a church needs its parking lot for evening events or early morning service. So members of the church will not be inconvenienced.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 11:58 am

Anonymous is a registered user.

If there had not been so many NIMBYs around here who oppose any high-density or even just medium-density developments, more housing would have been built and no one would have needed to live in a car.

The support shown to this program by certain "residentialist" council members is especially curious: They seem to be perfectly fine with people living in cars on the other side of 101. Why not this side of 101?


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:16 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Once again, there's no proof that increasing density lowers prices. Just look at Vancouver.

And of course people need cars here; even if public transit went everywhere in this spread-out area -- which it doesn't -- it would take hours and hours to get there from here.

Besides, how else would the underpaid drivers for InstaCart, Doordash, UberEats, etc. be able to deliver the food and other goods?


Posted by R. Cavendish
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:22 pm

R. Cavendish is a registered user.

quotation...."The support shown to this program by certain "residentialist" council members is especially curious: They seem to be perfectly fine with people living in cars on the other side of 101. Why not this side of 101?"

∆ Because a slew of RVs parked along more 'visible' streets makes Palo Alto appear less desirable to visitors, potential home buyers and real estate agents.

Palo Alto is very concerned about maintaining its upscale image as a professional and college town.


Posted by Midtown Local
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:27 pm

Midtown Local is a registered user.

I'm glad we're doing something to help the people who are living in their cars, both with short-term living logistics and with case management and support.

But I'm wondering how the RVs fit in. Is this lot meant for them, too? Living in an RV isn't as unsafe, uncomfortable, or unsanitary as living in a car. I wonder if these folks are satisfied enough in their RVs, although they may like being in a lot over parking on a street. Or are they like the car dwellers and would really prefer to switch to an apartment or whatever?


Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:28 pm

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

Maybe the city council could cut a deal with Castilleja for approval of the school's controversial expansion plans as long as car dwellers are allowed to park in the proposed garage from 10pm to 6am. Students could help with cleaning, cooking and tuneups as their required community service.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

More information is required here.

Are these vehicles roadworthy? Will they be moved each day to enable the occupants to drive to their place of work? Will they be required to move each day? Will they be required to be taxed and insured? If taxed, will the registered addresses of the vehicles have to be Palo Alto addresses?

I think that while it is commendable to do something along these lines, I have concerns about what will happen when children are using the athletic fields, particularly if the occupants of the vehicles are there during the time the children are practicing.

I also think we have to ask whether the vehicles using the lot will be towed to get there and/or dumped unroadworthy vehicles that are basically rotting away and will never be moved.

There is also the question of whether this will become a magnet encouraging more vehicle dwellers into Palo Alto in the hopes they will be given a similar benefit/perk.


Posted by Stepheny McGraw
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Stepheny McGraw is a registered user.

Why does everyone have to live in Palo Alto? Housing should be a regional responsibility. We should not have to take in everyone, in our backyard, either literally with ADUs and mandated overlays to single family housing because of ABAG or those with more guilt than pragmatism.

Oracle, Tesla, HP, Palintir have moved all our much of their business out of state. Those that remain in force here -- Amazon, Google etc. -- should be helping provide housing in the area as they are in San Jose, particularly now that so many are working at least part time from home. Even in the 80's companies subsidized housing for employees. In 2020 and beyond, companies are leaving Palo Alto and Silicon Valley in droves (pun intended) because of the high cost of living and decreasing quality of life.

In Seattle, the houses of worship earn their tax free status by providing spaces in their parking lots for the homeless and RV dwellers. Why don't the churches, mosques, synagogues in Palo Alto earn their tax free status and help with the issues of today, here where they are based?

It should not be left up to the City of Palo Alto alone to provide housing and help by itself.





Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 22, 2021 at 12:46 pm

vmshadle is a registered user.

@Anonymous from Duveneck/St. Francis above: "I strenuously oppose this. No logic to inviting random persons to reside in vehicles in the Palo Alto Baylands."

Your "logic" appears to be animus. Your characterization appears to dehumanize people who have less than you do. Where should these people go, then?

PA Weekly has published a number of articles on this subject in recent years. Please educate yourself on who these "random" (and non-criminal) people are.

Web Link


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2021 at 1:01 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Bill Bucy's proposal bears repeating:

"Maybe the city council could cut a deal with Castilleja for approval of the school's controversial expansion plans as long as car dwellers are allowed to park in the proposed garage from 10pm to 6am. Students could help with cleaning, cooking and tuneups as their required community service."

City Council members, thoughts?


Posted by Aletheia
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 1:22 pm

Aletheia is a registered user.

Los Altos wins again! In addition to flooding our once beloved Foothills Park with vehicles, hikers, and trash, they have now imported their car campers to Palo Alto as well. I bet when they were kids, Los Altos used to pants and steal Palo Alto's lunch money every day. Poor hapless Palo Alto.


Posted by David V
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 2:29 pm

David V is a registered user.

Get up close, these are not stable people. A problem of this sort needs a solution, not accommodation for it to grow.


Posted by edith hensley
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2021 at 2:41 pm

edith hensley is a registered user.

"Why don't the churches, mosques, synagogues in Palo Alto earn their tax free status and help with the issues of today, here where they are based?"

I agree. Palo Alto could also consider buying some of the motels along ECR to house the homeless and various Palo Alto churches should consider modeling their humanitarian efforts like those of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco by serving three meals a day to all of the homeless and indigent people in need of healthy and nutritious meals and/or by providing a warm and safe place to sleep overnight.

I believe that Trinity Methodist Church in MV provides showers, laundromat services and an AM brunch for the homeless + meals on Saturday.

Palo Alto should step up to the plate and welcome those less fortunate.


Posted by Bill Stewart
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Bill Stewart is a registered user.

I'm disappointed that Palo Alto still maintains their pre-pandemic limit of four car residents per church parking lot; that should be up to the church, and businesses, especially in the 101 business parks, have had huge empty parking lots, with campers parked in the streets in the Mountain View side that could be better accommodated in the parking lots of companies that want to allow it. (Stepheny - until this year we weren't even allowed to do that; my church is one of a group that convinced the city to allow them to do that much.)

Even though we may get past this in 6-12 months, we've got a lot of churches in the area and they may find it more efficient to provide services jointly at fewer locations than spread out, and businesses I work with expect that they'll keep a large fraction of their people working from home most of the time even after we restart everything.

And Bystander, it's pretty common for people who live in campers to also have a car that they drive to work, even if the camper stays in one place.


Posted by anonymous123
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:20 pm

anonymous123 is a registered user.

Oh please no more homeless encampment here! Haven't we entertained enough of this nonsense!?

Send them to another city


Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2021 at 3:34 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

I'm okay with helping vehicle dwellers for a limited time until they can get back on their feet. I think that Mountain View nonprofit has a limit of how long they can stay, right? It's not right to just allow people who are lifetime vehicle dwellers to take those spots when others are working hard to get out of living in their cars.


Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2021 at 4:54 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

Ever hear of the "slippery slope to Hell"??? Given them an inch, they'll take a mile. Send them all to tRUMPite states --- one way. They'll get Hell, not us.


Posted by dak
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2021 at 5:25 pm

dak is a registered user.

Now that the city has a solution will they require RVs to move away from residential neighborhoods? If not, this is just an invitation for more cardwellers.

When will Palo Alto realize that it can't take care of all the Bay Area's homeless population and that at some point people would have to be told to move?

Cardwellers in church parking lots is a horrible idea as these are smack in the middle of neighborhoods where our kids play. East of 101, Baylands areas, Stanford or corporate parking lots are much better for this.




Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2021 at 6:05 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

William Hitchens wrote, "Ever hear of the "slippery slope to Hell"??? Given them an inch, they'll take a mile. Send them all to tRUMPite states --- one way."

The Red States used to brag regularly about buying one-way bus tickets to San Francisco for their welfare recipients. That was around the time they started calling Blue States free-loaders without regard to the facts that "rich Blue States" send more $$$$ to them.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2021 at 8:41 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Someone chooses to attack me above. Umm, recall how random vehicle dwellers installed themselves at Cubberley Community Center/school site? It did NOT prove viable. Major issues ensued.
Look it up.


Posted by Bob Ohlmann
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 22, 2021 at 9:28 pm

Bob Ohlmann is a registered user.

I'm so sorry some of the negative commenters seem to misunderstand the situation. These persons who use their cars to sleep in are almost always very reliable, stable persons who have just been priced out of the housing market in this area and so either live in their cars or commute from places like Modesto. They usually have low-paying jobs in this area, or are currently unemployed and can't find anything due to the pandemic. Some are abused women who haven't found a permanent residence. They have to move their cars every 72 hours on the streets, so safe parking just in the late evenings is very helpful and compassionate. They are not there when children are around and do not disturb anyone. What is there to object to except being mean-hearted. We are not the only community faced with this problem, and all nearby ones are addressing this issue in some way. So don't say it is being laid onto Palo Alto.


Posted by Squidsie
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2021 at 10:14 pm

Squidsie is a registered user.

A temporary solution? Since someone living in a car or RV is unlikely to accumulate the cost of local housing, it is likely to be permanent. How will Palo Alto get the occupants to vacate, especially if their vehicle is no longer operable? This is likelt to become a permanent problem.


Posted by Estelle
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2021 at 6:56 am

Estelle is a registered user.

Reading these posts about sending ALL undocumented immigrants back to where they came from, running RV dwellers out of town, and denigrating the continent of Africa etc.

The Lord has his work cut out for him in Palo Alto as few seem to embrace the true spirit of Christ which includes giving and sharing with those less fortunate.

Denials of racism and elitism do not hold any water and it is no wonder Palo Alto is being branded as a city filled with hatred and bigotry.

Trump would be proud.


Posted by Peter Colton
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 23, 2021 at 7:14 am

Peter Colton is a registered user.

"...it is no wonder Palo Alto is being branded as a city filled with hatred and bigotry."

There's an anecdote going around downtown Los Altos. I think it started at the Draegers bakery.

A customer asked a bakery clerk if they get very many customers from Palo Alto and he replied that ones that do generally come in to order 'sheet cakes'.


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