Defend those without homes! campaign page [link]
NOTES BY NORSE are from Robert Norse, who is an organizer for "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom - Santa Cruz" [huffsantacruz.org] [email@example.com] [831-423-HUFF]. He writes, "I regularly provide commentary like this to stories I post on the HUFF e-mail list. For those who want it, drop me an e-mail at [rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com]."
2013-05-26 word from the streets: City of Palo Alto intends to take working mom's car from her, kicking her and her four kids out of their car and into the streets.
Palo Alto's practice of harassing residents living in the vehicles postponed until final hearing for lawsuit against the practice in Los Angeles.
2013-12-15 NOTES BY NORSE: Palo Alto--faced with massive activist organizing and lawsuits--is now about to hold off on its attempt to run homeless vehicle dwellers out of town. They still have in place ordinances to drive away those without vehicles from unused community centers and parks at night. The enclosed attachment describes the latest retreat by the gentrification gurus in the face of the likely L.A. 9th Circuit Court hearing d
Santa Cruz for decades (since 1978) has enforced its "sleep in a vehicle at night, get hassled and fined" law in spite of repeatedly-declared Housing Emergencies by the City Council. A pittance of relief was made in 1995 by "allowing" churches to shelter three vehicles of sleepers, in 1999 by "allowing" businesses and non-profits to shelter two vehicles of sleepers and in 2010 by asserting that all Sleeping Ban citations (including vehicles) would be dismissed for those on the waiting lists of the HLOSC--the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center and/or the River St. Shelter. All of this was done in response to activist pressure where many people risked fines and jail to bring this to public view.
Yet the bucks-and-bigotry-backked riptide against poor people outside has swept forward. Over the same period, the use of "permit parking" restrictions banning vehicles at night without permits was used to drive away homeless vehicles (explicitly). "Loitering" in public parking lots was made a crime--in spite of constitutional findings back in the Larson case in the 80's that barres such anti-homeless laws (a special gift of Supervisorial candidate Ryan Coonerty when he was Council member). The harsh and erroneous demonization of homeless people (in spite of rhetorical "concern") along with sweeps and crackdowns by the Rotkin, Lane, Bryant, and now Robinson City Councils with no meaningful expansion of shelter space has further heightened the emergency.
Local activists and attorneys failed to effectively mount a legal challenge using arguments like those that overturned the L.A. law against sleeping and sitting in L.A. in the Jones decision and subsequent settlement. Local ACLU remaining deafeningly silent in spite of repeated pleas to supposed homeless sympathizers on their Board of Directors Steve Pleich.
Still, the waves in Los Angeles and Palo Alto coming on the heels of homeless hypothermia centers are a wake-up call to activists who have in the past used winter weather and Xmas sentiments to expose the toxic abuses. Charity drives aren't enough. Should protests take place in places like the Metro Center (where reportedly 'No Loitering" signs have recently been posted) to open up warming centers at night? We'll see.
Thanks to Palo Alto activists Tony Ciampi and Chuck Jagoda for forwarding the attachment and article.
Looks like Palo Alto will be staying the VHO. See Attachment.
CITY OF PALO ALTO OFFICE OF THE CITY MANAGER
December 16, 2013
The Honorable City Council Palo Alto,
California Request Direction to Staff to Stay Enforcement of Vehicle Habitation Enforcement Ban Ordinance, [http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/18929686/1656283593/name/Stay%20of%20VHO.pdf]:
Staff Recommendation -
Staff recommends that the Council direct City staff to stay enforcement of the Vehicle Habitation Ban Ordinance (Ordinance No. 5206), adding Section 9.06.010 to the Palo Alto Municipal Code – Human Habitation of Vehicles Prohibited, for an additional period of one year or until the resolution of Cheyenne Desertrain, et al v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Case No. 11-56957, a case currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, whichever is sooner.
On August 5, 2013, the City Council passed on first reading an ordinance amending the Palo Alto Municipal Code, Chapter 9, to add Section 9.06.010, prohibiting the human habitation of vehicles. At that time, by motion, Council directed City staff to stay enforcement of the ordinance for six months from the date of adoption to allow for public education and outreach regarding the ordinance. The ordinance passed on second reading on August 19, 2013, and became effective September 19, 2013. At that time, City staff prepared for a period of education and outreach, and prepared to stay enforcement of the ordinance until February 10, 2014.
Two developments suggest that it would be beneficial to extend the stay of enforcement for an additional period of time. First, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently heard argument in the matter of Cheyenne Desertrain, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Case No. 11-56957, a case whose decision may provide further clarification regarding legal requirements governing ordinances prohibiting vehicle habitation. Second, some members of the public have questions regarding the scope of the ordinance, which suggests that an additional period of outreach and review would be beneficial.
For these reasons, staff recommends that the Council continue the stay of enforcement for an additional period of time. Staff recommends the Council adopt the attached resolution, which would continue the stay of enforcement for an additional year or until the resolution of the matter of Cheyenne Desertrain, et al v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Case No. 11-56957, whichever is sooner.
Resource Impact -
The stay of enforcement of the ordinance previously passed will incur no additional resource impact.
ATTACHMENT A -
Draft Resolution Vehicle Habitation Ban
* Not Yet Approved *
RESOLUTION NO. _________
Resolution of the Council of the City of Palo Alto Extending the Stay of Enforcement of Palo Alto Municipal Code Section 9.06.010, Prohibiting the Human Habitation of Vehicles
WHEREAS, on August 19, 2013, the Palo Alto City Council adopted an ordinance amending the Palo Alto Municipal Code, Chapter 9, by adding Section 9.06.010, prohibiting the human habitation of vehicles; and
WHEREAS, by motion of the City Council at the first reading of the ordinance on August 5, 2013, Council directed that City staff stay enforcement of the ordinance for six months from the date of its adoption to allow for education and outreach; and
WHEREAS, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently heard argument in a matter currently pending before it, Cheyenne Desertrain, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Case No. 11-56957, the resolution of which may provide further clarification regarding legal requirements applicable to ordinances regulating vehicle habitation; and
WHEREAS, the Palo Alto Council finds that a further period of outreach and review may be beneficial;
NOW, THEREFORE, the Council of the City of Palo Alto does hereby RESOLVE as follows:
SECTION 1. Enforcement of Palo Alto Municipal Code Section 9.06.010 (Prohibiting Human Habitation of Vehicles) shall be stayed for one additional year or until the matter of Cheyenne Desertrain, et al v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Case No. 11-56957, is resolved, whichever is sooner.
ATTACHMENT B -
Doc. letters to Council, re: Vehicle Habitation
Recieved by Palo Alto City Clerk
From: Crittenden <southsfbayarea@gmail,com>
Sent: Wednesday, December 11, 201312:1~lQEC II AN 7: 52
To: Tony Ciampi
Cc: Council, City; City Attorney; Stump, Molly; Keene, James; Klein, Larry; nhn.familyambassador@gmail,com ; HRC; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: City of Palo Alto Could Be Held Accountable For the Death of Vehicle Dwellers
Does anyone know the identities of those who died of exposure I hypothermia?
Tony Ciampi <email@example.com> wrote:
I've never heard of a vehicle dweller dieing of exposure/hypothermia. Given that 4 homeless people died of
exposure last week in Santa Clara County the city of Palo Alto now has been provided the real world consequences and warning of taking away vehicle dwellers' vehicles.
The City of Palo Alto could be held accountable for the death of any Palo Alto vehicle dweller that results from the vehicle dweller being forced out of his/her vehicle in compliance with Palo Alto's Vehicle Habitation
Ordinance exposed to the elements incurring hypothermia or some other exposure related trauma.
Four homeless people dead of exposure, Santa Clara County officials say
- In a late-day news conference, Santa Clara County sheriff Lt. Dave Lera said all the exposure victims were men in their 40s and 50s, and that hypothermia was a factor in the deaths of each. No other personal information was being released pending notification of families. "You can't really compel a person to go into a sleeping arrangement," Bramson said. "It's a very gray area when it comes to a person wanting to stay outside. It's unlawful detainment for an officer to force somebody into a shelter." Ray Bramson, homelessness response manager with the San Jose Department of Housing.
Then there are the rules. Shelters often don't allow dogs. Some don't allow people to come and go at'
night after a certain hour.
"A federal appeals court panel appeared skeptical about a Los Angeles city ordinance that bans people from living in their car. Above, a homeless resident pushes a cart along a downtown street"
2013-12-05 by Gale Holland [http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-78447865/]:
A federal appeals court on Thursday appeared to be leaning toward striking down a Los Angeles city ban on homeless people living in their cars or recreational vehicles on public streets and in parking lots.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, meeting in Pasadena, seemed to embrace arguments from civil rights attorney Carol Sobel that the criminal law was unconstitutionally vague.
"It's very hard to figure out what you're talking about," Judge Marsha Berzon told the lawyer for the city.
The city's ordinance dates back to 1983, but came under fire in 2010 when a special Los Angeles police task force, responding to neighborhood complaints, began aggressive enforcement in Venice.
A group of homeless car dwellers filed suit in 2011 challenging the law. U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner dismissed the suit, and the plaintiffs appealed.
Unlike other cities, which bar sleeping in vehicles or overnight parking, Los Angeles prohibits using cars as "living quarters" both overnight and "day-by-day, or otherwise."
Deputy City Atty. Blithe Bock told the court that police determined a vehicle was lived in by the "totality of circumstances," including whether it appeared to be operating.
Drivers were ticketed if police found things in their car such as bottles of urine, clothing and open food that suggested it was a "living quarters," she said.
"You're using your car as a living space, you're using your car as a toilet, you're using your car as a kitchen," Bock said.
Sobel said there were no clear standards for what property or items you could keep, or for how long you could rest in your vehicle.
"So you can't just sit in your car and nod off?" Judge Harry Pregerson asked Bock.
"He was wrapped in a blanket," Bock responded, referring to one of the plaintiffs.
"What's wrong with that?" Pregerson said.
Judges also questioned the rationale for the stepped-up enforcement. Bock said it came in response to a spike in crime by young transients and complaints of trash being dumped on neighbors' property.
"People were coming home and finding refuse on their front lawn," Bock said.
Sobel suggested that gentrification and tension between new and old residents were the real drivers of the heightened enforcement, and Pregerson seemed to agree.
"Tell me if I'm wrong," Pregerson told Bock. "You had a task force of police officers who were told their job was to clean up the Venice area of all these homeless people because people in the neighborhood didn't like it."
Pregerson also suggested there are better ways to handle homeless people than rousting them from their cars.
"Long Beach treats people differently," he said. "If they find a family, they take the kids and get them in a facility and make sure they're enrolled in school.... The next thing they do is try to find housing for them.... Why can't the city of Los Angeles do that?"
"The situation is heartbreaking," Bock answered. "But it is a question for legislators."
"That's a cop-out," Pregerson shot back.
After the hearing, Bock said police referred car dwellers to shelters and other services that could help them get off the streets.
"Homelessness is a horrible problem, we're all aware of that," she said. "But we have a whole city to take care of."
A police spokeswoman said the department is continuing to enforce the vehicle habitation ban. Outside court, some of the homeless plaintiffs and their supporters accused the city of trying to drive them out of town.
"They're intimidating people, driving up and making a lot of noise," said plaintiff Steve Jacobs, who lives in his SUV in Venice. "There are fewer and fewer RVs there all the time."
The court is likely to rule on the case in the next few months.
"Palo Alto: Opposition Produces Results--Legal Fightback against Anti-Homeless Bigotry"
2013-11-20 NOTES BY NORSE: Attorneys in Palo Alto previously stepped up to the microphone when the ban was being debated several months ago and warned the city they would take every case, challenge every arrest, and fight the ban. Since then, activists in Santa Cruz and Palo Alto have urged attorneys to preemptively seek an injunction and not wait until police actually wrote tickets.
The suit is gratifying news to those interested in an immediate and pre-emptive strike to stop the further criminalization of the homeless. No evidence was presented of car-camper problems except in one area (the Cubberly Community Center) where the city had failed to provide adequate oversight and there the problems were hugely inflated by NIMBY community members concerned with disappearing homeless people from their neighborhood as an aesthetic problem and "perceptual" threat (i.e. no indication of serious crimes but a fear of such).
The arguments used supporting the Ban are similar to those used in Santa Cruz before the rise of the "homeless are criminals and a Public Safety menace" Big Lie. "Why don't those who support homeless rights, simply provide private space for them?"
"The homeless aren't parking in front of their homes!" "Banning the right to sleep is perfectly legal." "City Council knows best." etc.
Palo Alto activists, lawyers, and attorneys, however, are fighting back unlike Santa Cruz--which sinks more deeply into paranoia, repression, and bigotry. See the infamous Task Farce for Public Hysteria (aka the Task Force on Public Safety)'s proposed recommendations at http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=1924 ).
"Suit threatened over city's car-camping ban: Coalition of pro bono attorneys argues that Palo Alto's new ordinance is cruel, unconstitutional"
2013-11-18 by Gennady Sheyner from "Palo Alto Weekly"[http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2013/11/18/suit-threatened-over-citys-car-camping-ban]:
A group of Palo Alto attorneys is threatening to sue the city over a recently adopted ban on vehicle habitation, a law that they claim effectively criminalizes homelessness and that is far more draconian than car-dwelling restrictions in other jurisdiction. The coalition, led by local attorney Carrie LeRoy, is working pro bono and is representing several homeless residents who will lose the right to live in their cars when the car ban takes effect on Jan. 6. The plaintiffs include James and Suzan Russaw, a couple who the attorneys say wish to stay in the area to be close to their grandchildren. James Russaw, 84, is also receiving regular kidney dialysis and needs to be able to get to his medical appointments, the attorneys said in a letter to City Attorney Molly Stump.
[The text of the letter can be found at http://www.paloaltoonline.com/media/reports/1384880185.pdf ]
Fred Smith, a homeless man who had spoken publicly against the ban, is also a client. At the Aug. 5 meeting, shortly before the council voted 7-2 – with Karen Holman and Marc Berman dissenting – to approve the ban, Smith urged the council to reconsider.
"I recently lost my job, my wife and my house. I now live in an RV in a commercial zone. Please don't criminalize me," Smith said, drawing an applause.
LeRoy said in an interview Monday that the list of people represented by the group may further expand as she and her colleagues in the effort proceed with their legal opposition to the ban. Other attorneys involved in challenging the ban are William Abrams and Paul Johnson, both of the firm King & Spalding, Stanford University professors Juliet Brodie and Michele Dauber, Menlo Park-based attorney Jeff Koppelmaa, criminal attorney William Safford and Nick Selby. The group contends that the city's new ban is far too broad and that staff has misrepresented other cities' ordinances to the City Council before the vote.
"There were an number of attorneys who expressed real concerns and had deep reservations over whether this was actually a constitutional ordinance," LaRoy said.
Abrams, a partner at King & Spalding with a long history of pro bono work and high-profile cases involving civil rights intellectual property, called Palo Alto's new ordinance "overbroad." The effect of the law, he said, will be to force homeless individuals who own or lease vehicles to leave Palo Alto or risk arrest. It will target the city's "invisible" population, he said, people who don't have any other options for shelter.
In their letter, the attorneys request a meeting with Stump by Dec. 5. Unless the request is met, the letter states, "We will proceed with filing a complaint in court against Defendants on behalf of the Plaintiffs." The defendants in this case would be the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Police Department and Police Chief Dennis Burns.
The attorneys are challenging an ordinance that the council adopted on Aug. 5 after nearly two years of community meetings, outreach efforts and persistent criticism from the homeless community. The ordinance makes it illegal for individuals to use "a vehicle for a dwelling place" (it makes exception for mobile-home parks and for guests of city residents). The council adopted it largely in response to a growing encampment of homeless residents at the Cubberley Community Center and the resulting increase of police complaints about what city officials dubbed a "de facto homeless shelter."
According to police data, the number of complaints about Cubberley dwellers had risen from 10 in 2010, to 16 in 2011 and to 39 in 2012. An August staff report noted that in some cases, vehicle dwelling has resulted in "nuisances or more serious disturbance to residents and businesses." The passed ordinance states that vehicle habitation causes the city to "incur increased costs for policing, maintenance, sanitation, garbage removal and animal control" and that it "creates a risk to the health, safety, and welfare of those persons in the vehicles, as well as the public at large."
Abrams rejected this argument. The city, he said, already has plenty of ordinances in places for addressing incidents in which people disturb the peace, engage in violent conduct or engage in public drug or alcohol use.
"This is directed toward getting rid of homeless people in Palo Alto," Abrams told the Weekly.
At the Aug. 5 meeting, Stump told the council that violation of the car-dwelling ordinance would in most cases result in an infraction, though it could be turned into a misdemeanor at the city attorney's discretion. Staff noted that enforcement would be largely based on complaints. The most severe penalty would be a fine of $1,000, Stump told the council.
Critics contend that this proposed punishment is not only draconian but illegal. In her letter, LeRoy argues that the new ordinance will "cause the poorest and most vulnerable among us to lose the only protection that they have from exposure to the elements and to ensure some measure of personal safety."
"It cannot be disputed that sleeping in a vehicle affords better protection for homeless persons' health and safety than living or sleeping outdoors on streets, sidewalks, benches, or the ground," LeRoy wrote. "Enforcement of VHO (vehicle habitation ordinance) will exacerbate serious health issues and disabilities prevalent among Plaintiffs, who will be forced out of their vehicles or Palo Alto altogether to avoid criminal liability."
In recommending the vehicle-ban ordinance, staff from the planning department from the city attorneys office cited similar bans in other neighboring jurisdictions and noted that 92 percent of the cities in Santa Clara County (all except Monte Serreno) have restrictions of some sort in place. In San Mateo County, all cities except for Colma, East Palo Alto and Portola Valley regulate vehicle habitation, a report from city staff states. Not having such an ordinance makes Palo Alto a "magnet" for vehicle dwellers, proponents of the ban argued.
Before voting for the ordinance on Aug. 5, Councilman Larry Klein talked about the city's "obligation to protect our neighborhoods." He told his colleagues that he had seen dozens of homeless campers during two recent tours of Cubberley.
"The dramatic increase in homeless in Cubberley sleeping in their vehicles shows that we have inadvertently become a magnet," Klein said. "That has to come to an end."
The attorneys contend that this argument -- other cities have such ordinances and so should Palo Alto – is a misrepresentation. While most cities do indeed have restrictions, Palo Alto's new law is both broader and more punitive than those elsewhere, LeRoy said. In Mountain View and Menlo Park, for instance, vehicle bans are limited to residential areas (in Menlo Park, this includes 300 feet within a residential zone). In Los Altos, it is illegal to "stop, stand or park a vehicle" for longer than 30 minutes between 2 and 6 a.m., when a notice is posted on the block. Palo Alto's law, meanwhile, applies to all streets, all the time.
Furthermore, punishment for violating this ordinance in other cities is a parking citation. In Palo Alto, it could potentially be incarceration, LeRoy said. The difference between a parking ticket and possible jail time, is huge, she said. Palo Alto's ordinance, she argued, effectively makes homelessness a crime.
"Cities across our nation have come up with restrictions that may be directed at homeless residents, but include exceptions so as to avoid punishing homeless residents for involuntary acts necessary to human survival, such as the acts of resting or sleeping," her letter stated. "The VHO, on the other hand, is one of the most punitive ordinances in the area and it has the effect of criminalizing the status of homelessness."
In addition to the vehicle-habitation ordinance, the council adopted a separate law on Aug. 19, mandating that all community centers, including Cubberley, be closed between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise.
LeRoy noted in an interview that the council's ban on overnight parking at Cubberley and other community centers already addressed the major problem that the city was trying to solve in banning vehicle habitation. Given the new restriction on community-center hours, the broader ban on vehicle dwelling wasn't tailored to address any legitimate concerns, she said.
"If vehicle dwellers can't be here at night during normal sleeping hours, do you still need to ban vehicle habitation throughout the city?" she asked.
She contended that if the City Council knew that the proposed ordinance goes far beyond those of neighboring cities, it may have been less likely to support the proposed vehicle-habitation ban. She couldn't say Monday what an acceptable alternative ordinance would be, noting that this might be the subject of settlement discussions.
"I think the effort now is to repeal the vehicle ordinance," LeRoy said.
Though Stump said on Aug. 5 that violations would only be prosecuted as misdemeanors as a "last resort," Abrams said the assurance is insufficient. The attorneys may be open at a future date to discuss alternative ordinances, but that's a "different conversation." The goal now is to get the recently passed ordinance off the books.
"Now, we have an ordinance that is illegal, that is unconstitutional and that needs to be stricken down," Abrams said.
Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North on Nov 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm
No worries. Law suit away if you'd like. San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz are three of the most open and liberal cities in the country. They have all have overnight camping/parking bans which have all been tested and successfully defended in a civil court. Like I said, no worries. It also leaves me to think how quick one of these attorneys crying foul would be the first to call the police if someone was sleeping in a car in front of their house every night. A perfect example of compassionate and open when convenient. If they're that concerned, then these attorneys and advocates should open up their personal driveways and homes to give these folks somewhere to sleep.
Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto 22 hours ago
They way I see it, as long as financial institutions are still allowed to sell and trade junk mortgages, as long as not one Wall Street conman has gone to prison, car-camping should not be criminalized. Once the big criminals are punished, I'd be willing to deal with car-camping. Speaking of double standards, how interesting that the already existing leaf-blower ban ordinance isn't enforced, unrelated of course to the pressure by the manufacturers and landscape contractors, who promised demonstrations and hunger strikes in front of city hall if the ordinance is enforced.
Posted by Very Simple, a resident of Midtown 22 hours ago
If all of these attorneys and others are so concerned, they can open up their own personal property and have the homeless live there. We don't have that many homeless in Palo Alto that they couldn't all be accommodated in this easily by a small subset of ban opponents. That's what real generosity is-- giving of yourself to the less fortunate. Not morally preening and harassing the overwhelming majority of residents who don't want our city turned into an open-air homeless encampment, don't want the "San Franciscoization" of Palo Alto and are concerned about the safety of say, their kids (as mine do) going to preschool right next to a site of a homeless encampment.
Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis 20 hours ago
I applaud Carrie Leroy and her coalition for challenging this ordinance. This incredibly well-off community with its sky-high home prices and outrageous rents should find ways to help people on the margins, not threaten them with fines and jail. Many of the so-called affordable housing projects are well out of the reach of the homeless--we need more places like 801 Alma. Meanwhile, we should find more humane ways to manage the problems that do often accompany homelessness.
The suggestion that anyone who is concerned about the homeless should take them into their own homes or let them camp out in front of their homes is clearly an attempt to confuse the issue. Taking care of the less fortunate is not just the job for a few concerned people. It's the responsibility of our entire society, and right now, we're doing a lousy job of it.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of Greenmeadow 19 hours ago
I've had people living in front of my house. It was especially unsettling when my daughter was 2 years old and I couldn't let her play outside and had to keep the drapes closed because the guy would watch us. More unsettling when we would jugs of undefined liquid on the ground, some knocked over, between his vehicle and the curb. Totally unsettling when we came home once to find the guy having a seizure on our front door steps, with paramedics attending. Disgusting when I had to go out and clean up after both the medics and the homeless person, gloves, needles and booze bottles.
I wouldn't object if an area with a sort of rest stop with shower and toilets and cameras were to be established.
Meanwhile, the attorney's who brought the suit are welcome to offer their driveways to anybody they please!
Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown 18 hours ago
Homeless means that these people do not have a home, place to live. Therefore, they are NOT "residents" of Palo Alto and are not entitled to the same rights residents are. They are also not entitled to be a nuisance or a danger to said residents. If these lawyers bringing the suit feel so strongly about the plight of the homeless, they should work with non-profits -- the churches for example -- which pay no taxes because of their supposed public benefits and services and get them to cooperate in finding a solution. I do not want a homeless family or persons living on my street and I am glad that the City Council has finally done something to see that this does not happen.
Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown 18 hours ago
Palo Alto is generally a well-educated community, however there seems to be a significant lack of compassion in evidence. Perhaps it's time to offer some free classes (open to all ages) on the subject.
All of those who think this ban is fair and wise really need to open their hearts. Sending a check off to some distant place to help others doesn't buy you freedom from concern for those closer to home.
Get a heart!
Posted by JoAnn, a resident of Ventura 17 hours ago
Another basic human need is elimination. If porta potties were installed in a few commercial (non-residential) areas, the cars would go there. I agree it doesn't solve the drug/alcohol problems though. A lot of these people were Palo Alto residents until skunked out of their homes by the banksters or just going broke due to divorce, layoffs, etc. They shouldn't have to skulk away from their home town, too. What I hear about shelters is they are dangerous and people get robbed there. Would all night security help? It might be cheaper to fund. Of course, those with cars would still need a place to park them. I don't see that the RV's parked along Park Blvd. hurt anyone. I've ridden my scooter there many times and never seen an actual person, nor jugs of urine left at the curb.
Posted by Sensible, a resident of Crescent Park 17 hours ago
A real issue is simply taking a persons shelter, in this case a car, and depriving them of no other option for freedom from harm. If a city blankets a wholesale requirement then it should be at the forefront to provide an equal and opposite opportunity to balance the deprivation of a constitutional right. Even in a government shutdown when employees are deprived of their right to work and pay, they are latter paid what they are entitled to. Now I know that is a horrible example of entitlement for many who don't like that sort of thing, but this is one of the reasons people all over the world come to enjoy the rights Americans still have...
2013-08-25 "Legal Eagles Gather to Defend Palo Alto Vehicle Dwellers"
NOTE BY NORSE: I'm passing on some of the e-mail I received today. Linda Jolly is a Redwood City activist who lives in her vehicle. I'd like to hear more details from her on her own successful appeals of vehicular habitation cites. Santa Cruz has an ordinance banning sleeping in one's vehicle from 11 PM to 8:30 AM which is frequently enforced. If any folks have information to add about successful challenges or activist response to this attack on people whose only homes are their vehicles, please let us know (at firstname.lastname@example.org ).
2013-08-25 "Did u tell listeners about legal help for car-dwellers??" message from Linda Jolly to Robert Norse: A friend of mine beat the City of Palo and got a hundred citations dismissed, that he got for parking his motor home there. And I beat the City of Redwood City in 2008, on appeal, in a charge of "living" in my truck. Several things helped:
 I went to the local newspaper and got page-1 coverage.
 My appeal stressed "Equal Protection" -- truckers everywhere eat-sleep, etc. in their trucks. They are not cited, but I was cited while napping in my truck. This was so egregious that a friend suggested I go into court with a crowd waving signs saying "Let the mother-trucker go free!"
If it happened today I would also insist on the TRADITIONAL RIGHT of the people to live in vehicles and boats, and to camp on unused land. People did this freely throughout history until snooty city councils copied each other in an effort to exterminate the poor. This traditional right should be protected by the 9th Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
Living where you have to live is an inherent, self-evident right that goes along with Right to Life.
Government has arrogated unto itself the alleged "right" to confiscate a huge check of people's incomes as "social security" and then returns to us, in our old age, not even enough money to rent a small room.
This calls for a broad uprising of the people.
2013-08-19 "Palo Alto: 2nd Anti-Homeless Ordinance Heads for Vote"
NOTE BY NORSE: "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." - @AnatoleFrance.
The Palo Alto City Council is using problems created at the Cubberly Community Center through malign neglect by City Manager James Keene to rush through a second anti-homeless ordinance that will criminalize homeless sleepers on the grounds. His law establishes a 10:30 PM to dawn curfew for all city libraries, community centers, theaters and their grounds.
The law is reminiscent of the Santa Cruz curfews--which spread from parks, the Pogonip, and the river levee to centers of government to crush first the PeaceCamp2010 protest against the City's homeless Sleeping Ban and then the 2011 Occupy movement which had broader objectives but included the largest sustained homeless encampment in Santa Cruz recent history.
Simultaneously, the Palo Alto City Council will be voting on a grim historic reversal of the traditional right to sleep in a vehicle in Palo Alto (unlike in Santa Cruz where it's illegal at night, even if shelters are full). The Palo Alto Vehicle Habitation Ban passed 7-2 two weeks ago and will be undergoing what is likely to be a pro forma second reading on the Consent Agenda, though activists will be speaking against it as unjustified, abusive, and bigoted in a city where for many the only available shelter is a vehicle.
The lack of homeless input and homeless resources are both telling in these two ordinances. No specific housing, campground, or shelter expansions are explicitly provided for to relieve homeless people currently sleeping on the ground at Cubberly. The criminalization of the protective cover of the homeless vehicles parked there seems likely to drive away homeless people, even without an additional "no homeless at night" law.
I'm not aware that Palo Alto has a local equivalent of the Santa Cruz City Sleeping Ban (MC 6.36.010) which bans sleeping and covering up with blankets after 11 PM throughout the City on all public property. However Palo Alto has used the infamous state penal code PC 647e--the anti-lodging misdemeanor law under which Santa Cruz activist "Ground Zero" Gary Johnson was sentenced to two years in jail for sleeping on a bench with a "Sleep is Not a Crime" placard next to the courthouse in protest of the 2011 curfew declared there (See "SleepCrime Prisoner Faces Four Years in "Lodging" Trial" at [https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/03/19/18709700.php]).
Last week,Palo Alto City Council voted to begin the Santa Cruz tradition of banning overnight parking [https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/35334]. In Santa Cruz this kind of permit parking ordinance has been explicitly used to sweep the streets of homeless vehicles at night, even without homeless people sleeping in them.
A second blow against the homeless community was the "No Smoking in Parks" law, also passed last week, which bans smoking totally in 21 of the city's 24 parks but makes an exception for the golf course--for all of those homeless golfers, of course (https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/35457 ).
Please e-mail the Palo Alto City Council at [email@example.com] and declare your opposition to both the Homeless Vehicle Ban and the Community Center Curfew laws. Act quickly. The Council meets today (Monday August 19) at 7 PM.
The staff report on the Vehicle Habitation Law is at [cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/35333].
The staff report on the new "no homeless" hours for three Community Centers is at [cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/35531].
2013-08-16 NOTE BY NORSE: Homeless folks living in vehicles will be facing a confirmed crackdown in Palo Alto as well when the Habitation Ban comes up for a final vote Monday August 19 shortly after 7 PM at City Council there. Folks are encouraged to e-mail their outrage at this attempt to criminalize the only affordable housing available to most homeless people--a vehicle. E-Mail the Palo Alto City Council can be e-mailed at [firstname.lastname@example.org]. For more information in the issues there, go to [indybay.org/newsitems/2013/08/07/18741134.php?show_comments=1#18741374] and check out other stories on the thread.
2013-08-16 "Ordinance that would displace homeless at Cubberley headed to Palo Alto City Council"
by Jason Green from "Palo Alto Daily News" [mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_23882519/ordinance-that-would-displace-homeless-at-cubberley-headed]:
The Palo Alto City Council is scheduled to review an ordinance Monday that if passed would effectively prevent the homeless from using the Cubberley Community Center as a de facto shelter.
The new law would make it illegal for a person without permission to step foot on the campus at 4000 Middlefield Road between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise. It would also apply to other community centers.
The Policy and Services Committee reviewed the ordinance Tuesday and voted 3-1 to recommend that it be adopted by the city council. The majority reasoned that it was needed to address concerns users and neighbors of Cubberley have voiced about the behavior of some transients.
"The homeless in my view have the same rights as other citizens and we do also need to express compassion for citizens ... who do not have the same abilities to have housing that most of us have," Council Member Larry Klein said at the meeting.
"But the homeless do not have more rights than the rest of us. None of us has the right to declare or make Cubberley or any other community center into a homeless shelter. And that's precisely what's happened here."
An average of 20 people use Cubberley for shelter, according to a city staff report prepared for the council meeting. That's in addition to another 10 to 18 people who live in their cars.
Drug use and fights among some of the homeless individuals have turned Cubberley into an inhospitable place, Penny Elson, a resident of the surrounding Greenmeadow neighborhood, told the committee.
"This is not appropriate activity for a community center that primarily serves children," she said.
But other members of the public said the ordinance shouldn't be enacted until more programs are put in place to help the homeless, if at all.
"It's not a bad thing," vehicle dweller Chuck Jagoda said about Cubberley's role as a de factor shelter. "Sheltering your fellow human beings is a good thing. It would be a better thing if Palo Alto had an adequate shelter system, but it doesn't. The fact that you can get some shelter out of Cubberley is really a good idea."
That wasn't necessarily why Council Member Karen Holman cast the lone dissenting vote. She was actually in favor of a more comprehensive ordinance to rein in bad behavior at Cubberley.
"I'm OK being in the minority on this," said Holman, who also wanted to involve the city's Human Relations Commission in a parallel effort to create new programs to help the homeless.
The ordinance would build on another law the city council passed earlier this month that bans people from living in their cars.
A violation would be punishable by up to six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
In addition to reviewing the new law, the city council is scheduled to receive an update on the development of a "homeless outreach team" and a housing subsidy program, which together would cost a total of $250,000.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Palo Alto City Council is scheduled to consider an ordinance that would establish hours for community facilities as well as receive an update on programs to help the homeless.
WHEN: Monday, at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Council Chambers, City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.
2013-08-14 "Palo Alto City Council to declare “de facto” martial law hours on the homeless"
by Chad Brunswick [paloaltofreepress.com/palo-alto-city-council-to-declare-de-facto-martial-law-hours-on-the-homeless]:
Palo Alto’s Cubberley Community Center, which city manager James Keene called a “de facto homeless shelter,” could soon be closed to the public after 10:30 p.m in an attempt stop camping of any sort on campus.
Policing the the homeless costs in Palo Alto to skyrocket -
Extra policing of ‘de facto homeless shelter’ costs city $3,000 week -
A city council subcommittee proposed the closure last night and said the city should also consider spend $250,000 on new homeless programs.
The recommendation by the policy and services committee follows the Council’s controversial August 5 vote to ban car camping and an announcement last week the city plans to close the public showers at Cubberley by August 31.
The idea to close the campus at night came as Capt. police Ron Watson told the panel, which consists of councilmembers Larry Klein, Liz kiss, Karen Holman and Gail Price, that the city is spending an additional $3,500 a week to police the area.
The amount of money that could be earmarked for helping the homeless does not include $7,000 that has already been spent by the police department, or the funds that will be likely be spent in the coming weeks on extra policing.
Watson, who spoke on behalf of police at the meeting, said that the department has assigned officers to police the community center between midnight and 6 a.m. each day for the past two weeks and will likely continue to do so for at least two more.
At that rate, the additional police force needed at Cubberely will cost the city $14,000 a month.
As Klein proposed that the dual solution be recommended to the city Council, he said that he believed the homeless deserve help and compassion but shouldn’t have “more rights” than anyone else.
“The homeless have the same rights as other citizens, and we also need to express compassion for the other residents of our community. But the homeless do not have more rights than the rest of us -none of us has the right to declare or make Cubberley or any other community center into a homeless shelter.”
Klein’s motion was supported by Price and Kniss and opposed by Holman, who wanted even more restrictions and policing Cubberley and other community centers.
It recommends that the city spent $150,000 on the homeless outreach team and $100,000 over two years on a county-run, case-management program to help some of the homeless people find housing.
It also proposed that it be illegal for anyone to be at Cubberley for any other community center between 10:30 p.m and sunrise.
When he addressed the Council, Watson said that at one point during the past two weeks, police had counted 30 homeless sleeping outside at Cubberley and 20 people camping in their cars.
Recent police patrols there however, seem to have diminished the numbers of campers somewhat.
Echoing homeless advocates, Watson said that many people live at the center peacefully, but some present a serious danger.
“A small number of those people are in fact creating some significant problems. It’s almost like the more time we spend down there the more we see of this,” he said.
Watson mentioned that police have arrested a woman with baggies full of methamphetamine, and said “she was probably selling it.”
2013-08-14 Comment from Tony Ciampi:
It is utterly amazing to the extent that Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns, city Attorney Molly Stump, City Manager James Keene, City Councilman Larry Klein will go to twist reality and manipulate the public’s perceptions with fabrications and scheming.
Just a week ago Larry Klein stated that there were 27 vehicle dwellers at Cubberley with about 15 homeless sleeping on the grounds and now there are only 20 vehicle dwellers and 30 homeless people sleeping outside at Cubberley.
Which is it?
It is clear that the numbers change at will to benefit the agenda of Burns, Keene, Klein and others.
Section 1 (c) of the 8/15/13 City Council Staff Report (3965) states that the City has incurred significant costs associated with policing vehicle dwellers, yet the city refused to reveal those costs pursuant to a California Public Records Act request.
Unable to produce anything, the city and PAPD are now attempting to generate costs to cover their lie and justify the VHO and the closing of Cubberley by sending patrol units over to Cubberley.
How much does it cost to police the bars in downtown Palo Alto or Happy Donuts in south Palo Alto?
Once again the local media fails at being journalists exposing the truth and instead becomes the vehicle of propaganda by simply restating what the city officials want them to.
Good journalists ask probing questions to unearth the truth regardless of the consequences for there are no consequences to revealing the truth unless one has a conflict of interest, something to lose are gain by doing so and if reporters allows such conflicts of interest to influence what they say and how they say it then they are no longer journalists enlightening the public with the truth allowing the public to make up its own mind regarding the issue, but the reporters becomes a manipulators of public opinion by the use of inaccurate information, which can easily be achieved by simply not reporting all of the facts.
Staff Report: https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/35333
2013-08-25 comment from Anonymous:
Why antagonize the Homeless? They need a place to shower and a safe place to sleep the same as you and I. So why bother them? And why in the world would it cost they City $14,000 to police Cubberly? What do they do, drive by with searchlights? Gas prices have risen, but they haven’t gone up that high.
It seems to me that there a few people who are irritated by the presence of the homeless and have incited council so, that they’ve decided to bar the homeless from one of the few habitable places they could find.
2013-08-05 "Fighting Lies with Facts and Compassion: the Palo Alto Struggle"
NOTES BY NORSE: Two strong articles by homeless activists in Palo Alto correct the misstatements of bigot-friendly authorities and reveal the human dimensions of the proposed attack on the main affordable housing for homeless people in California (vehicles).
Tony Ciampi presents his research on the status of anti-vehicular housing laws in the South Bay (in sharp contrast to the claims of the staff report). Staff and Council camper-crushers are insisting all other cities and counties neighboring have anti-habitation laws. Ciampi's report disputes this.
Santa Cruz, of course, continues to explicitly criminalize sleeping in vehicles--though only at night (11 PM to 8:30 AM--see [codepublishing.com/CA/SantaCruz] MC 6.36.010a).
An unholy alliance of the Seaside Company, the SCPD, the City Council, gentrification-zealous neighborhood groups like Santa Cruz Neighbors, the "tourists-are-us" Downtown Association, and outright bigoted Take-Back-Santa-Cruz-style groups have combined on the mayor-appointed Public Safety Citizen's Task Force. The Public Hysteria Task Farce (as I call it) meets every other Wednesday 6 PM at the SCPD Community Room It's open to the public (though they usually don't allow you to speak or present testimony). Its agendas, staff reports, and minutes are available at [cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?page=1924]. So far the City has refused to provide access to audios of the past meetings.
The head of this "Homeless Crimes" group is Seaside Company PR huckster Kris Reyes and includes "let the addicts die!" stalwart Steve Schlicht, vice-chair retired anti-homeless cop Jim Howes, Take-Back-Santa-Cruz sympathizer Renee Golder, and a host of other disreputables (see [cityofsantacruz.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=32263] for the full list), hand-picked by Mayor "Bullwhip" Bryant, whose idea of law enforcement is being brutal to homeless people (destroying their camps, property, dignity, & rights).
I'll hope to have a report out on the Palo Alto City Council cabal's plan to criminalize homeless people in vehicles either on this e-mail list or through my radio show Thursday night 6-8 PM at [http://tunein.com/radio/FRSC-s47254/]
ACTIVIST TONY CIAMPI'S RESEARCH ON THE REAL SITUATION REGARDING HOMELESS VEHICLE LAWS IN NEARBY CITIES -
2013-08-05 "Signage Required Prior To Enforcement of VHO"
message from Tony Ciampi to Palo Alto City Council:
Please Be Advised that prior to enforcing the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance, the City of Palo Alto will be required to erect signage on every block in the city that the city wants to enforce the ordinance pursuant to CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE 22507 [leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=veh&group=22001-23000&file=22500-22526], corroborated by
* the case law "SLO HOMELESS ALLIANCE; V. CITY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO"
* the article "Judge orders police to stop citing homeless for sleeping in cars" [sanluisobispo.com/2012/07/03/2130796/judge-homeless-sleeping-cars.html].
"City of SLO ordered to pay $133,880 over homeless citations" [sanluisobispo.com/2013/01/17/2360432/city-of-slo-ordered-to-pay-133880.html]: [begin excerpt] The city of San Luis Obispo was ordered Thursday by a Superior Court judge to pay $133,880 in legal fees and other associated costs to the two attorneys who sued the city over its treatment of homeless people living and sleeping in their vehicles. The ruling brings the city’s cost to settle the lawsuit to more than $270,000. [end excerpt]
If the city of Palo Alto erects signs at Cubberley Center the vehicle dwellers will move to Gereenmeadow necessitating signs in Greenmeadow. After signs are erected in Greenmeadow the vehicle dwellers will move to Fairmeadow and then on to Adobe Meadow and Palo Verde. After signs are erected in those neighborhoods the vehicle dwellers will move to Midtown and Barron Park eventually settling down in Old Palo Alto and Professorville. In the end there will be thousands of signs on every block in Palo Alto to deal with 30 cars.
Councilman Larry Klein, my apologies, I was incorrect about Pacifica and San Francisco not having a Vehicle Habitation Ordinance as I was misinformed by local homeless advocates there. However I have recently been informed that it is still legal to live in a vehicle in most places in San Francisco and Pacifica because there are no signs posted in the majority of those districts, only a few small areas is living in a vehicle prohibited
It should also be noted that Mountain View allows Vehicle Habitation in commercial areas and prohibits Vehicle Habitation in residential areas.
SEC. 19.111. Regulation of storage or parking of vehicles in residential areas. "No vehicle parked upon any public street shall be occupied or used for dwelling purpose." ONLY REFERS TO RESIDENTIAL AREAS [library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=16508].
I've heard reports as many as 70 vehicle dwellers living in Mtn. View's commercial areas.
I spoke with Mountain View Community Service Officer Leslie Ota on May 15, 2013. Ms. Ota supplied me with Mtn. View's current muni-code SEC. 19.111. (c) regarding the use of vehicles in residential areas. She also informed me that the city/police department were receiving numerous complaints from businesses in commercial areas regarding people sleeping/living in their vehicles.
She also stated to me that she was tasked to investigate the expansion of Mtn. View's vehicle habitation ordinance to include all commercial areas as a result of Palo Alto enacting a Vehicle Habitation Ordinance. A response to the belief that Palo Alto's vehicle dwellers will move to Mtn. View. I believe she stated that she conducted an preliminary report during last fall and early winter, Oct-Dec. 2012.
Mr. Klein you are doing to Mountain View what you have been complaining about that other cities have been doing to Palo Alto, force the homeless to move Palo Alto.
* San Jose: based upon the ordinance, 6.46.040, cited in the staff report, 3965, it is NOT ILLEGAL live in a car in San Jose. 6.46.040 only refers to trailers and house cars- VC 362 not regular cars.
* Menlo Park: Chapter 8.04 - NUISANCES1: (18) Human occupation as a dwelling or residence of a motor vehicle, recreation vehicle or a structure not qualified as a dwelling unit under Title 16 of this code;
All that this ordinance states is that a motor vehicles such as an RVs or Campers are not subject to the zoning codes listed in Title 16: Menlo Park does not have an ordinance as confirmed by the Menlo PD (message below).
2013-07-09 message from Nicole Acker [email@example.com], Management Analyst – Training/Hiring/Public Information for Menlo Park Police Department [701 Laurel Street, Menlo Park, CA 94025] [www.menloparkpolice.org]
to Tony Ciampi: It is not illegal to sleep in your vehicle (except in trailers – see below) in the City of Menlo Park; however, we do discourage it for safety reasons. The exception to this is in the following ordinances from our municipal code which addresses sleeping in a trailer coach. In addition there is an overnight parking ordinance for parked vehicles in Menlo Park overnight, which I have included below (Chapter 7.20 – TRAILER AND TRAILER CAMPS; 7.20.010 Definitions).
I will be sending out a training bulletin to the police officers and sergeants of our department as a reminder. We realize that the City of Palo Alto is working on an ordinance to ban sleeping in vehicles, which does not impact our City. Best Regards, [signed] Nicole
CHUCK JAGODA PRESENTS AN SERIES OF ALTERNATIVES TO CRIMINALIZATION
2013-08-04 "Alternative Suggestions--some examples"
message from Chuck Jagoda to Tony Ciampi:
I sent this out originally and the Pastor Greg wrote back and asked if I'd sent it to the City Council. I hadn't. So I added a few things--especially to the Suggested Alternatives section near the end and sent it to the City Council.
I'm resending it to you all again--I know I did already did resend it---but I'm not sure that people noticed the added Suggested Alternatives. Now there are 10.
I'm suggesting we all come up with 10 new ideas. Only out of A LOT of ideas--including bad ones--can we get a list of ones we like.
The City Council keeps LOOKING and ASKING for alternative suggestions. We have to start the ball rolling, prime the pump, model the behavior we want to see.
So, I've put the Suggested Alternatives in blue type (like this) to make them easier to find. You might even want to reread this whole, new, and improved email (posted below).
First, thanks to the neighbor who wrote the original email for this opportunity to discuss the issue at hand.
I am a sometime-Cubberley car camper. I know many of the people who live there on a regular basis--in their cars or on the ground. (Instead of "regular" I was going to say "normally" but it's not anything like normal living.)
Here's my thing: we car campers have already lost resources--jobs, homes, family. To take away what few resources we have left means you really don't get it. You think it's a game or a con job or just "bad people." You don't realize we are you, just a few bad breaks from where you are now. We're not bad people, any more than your nephew or daughter-in-law who was in an abusive relationship or an older worker who helped make Silicon Valley so silky and is now a burden are "bad people."
Lots of inflated rumors are going around about Cubberley. The populations ebbs and flows. Over the winter before last (11/12), the populations went down.
There are not "bad people doing bad things" at Cubberley. Some who camp there have worked in this area for many years and now are suffering from the second worse economic downturn in anyone's memory.
I challenge any one to come up with a list of crimes or offenses or even real complaints at Cubberley. There have lots of false complaints about Cubberley campers--but FOUNDED complaints, where some wrong doing was found or an arrest was made or even evidence of a crime being committed---those seem to be very hard to find evidence of. Except in the newspaper or the mouths of those who support the ordinance.
To the parent who worries about her kids at Cubberley--take a few minutes to go around and introduce yourself to the people who you see nearby and are afraid of. Introduce your kids to them. Or, do you want your kids to grow up afraid for the rest of their lives? It doesn't have to be like that. Parents at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church sign up months in advance to come--and BRING THEIR KIDS--and sit with homeless people when the Hotel de Zink is at their church. Why can't you be like that? Didn't you hear Christ say, "as you do unto the least of my brethren, you do unto Me"? What did you think he was talking about when he said that?
You know that messy old yellow van in the Cubberley lot? It belongs to Eleanor an older woman who taught the children of Silicon Valley for years and now is not in such good shape. Where do you want her to go if you succeed in throwing her out of Cubberley?
Get a clue Palo Alto: You have gotten rid of single room occupancy hotels in downtown Palo Alto and the cheap motels along El Camino. You've closed Clare Mateo Shelter. Instead of talking about "referrals" for the car campers, realize there ARE NO SHELTERS to refer people too. If you go through the exercise of calling the listed "resources" for homeless people, you'll find that they are only part of a great round robin calling circle. You will get referred from one to the other to the other and after you've run around to them all--you will find no shelters in Palo Alto and darned few in Santa Clara County.
So if you close up the low cost, semi-affordable housing, then build no new affordable housing--and when a developer DOES build something and asks for a variance to NOT build the affordable apartments part of the deal, you give it to him/her--and then tell the displaced homeless they can't live in vehicles any more--what do you think the result will be?
The result will be no places, no facilities, for us/them, and YOU when you need shelter. Think you're insulated and will never need shelter? We used to think that too. We got a surprise. Unfortunately, some of you will also. And you'll not be so happy to be on the other end of an ordinance that means you do not even have your vehicle to sleep in.
I don't want this--but it is a given that some homeowners reading these words will someday be on the wrong end of a vehicle habitation ordinance--IF you all are so ostrich-like as to not smell the lawsuits that will be upheld. Such law suits would waste a LOT of tax payers money trying to make invisible what is real and won't go away. That money that this ordinance will waste COULD be used to help solve the problem and do what we all know is right.
Do you know that some of the car-campers at Cubbeley make a point of going around the area and cleaning up their own trash as well as the food wrappers, condoms, and diapers that people from all over the area and even the region come and throw it as they use the facilities?
WHY do we clean up the messes of others? Because the messes will be blamed on us whether we made them or not. So we clean them up.
Unfortunately Cubberley is owned by a city (Palo Alto) with insufficient social conscience and broad vision to deal with its homeless population. They just wish they'd go away and try to accomplish this by making the City so inhospitable that we will go away. They worry it they're TOO generous, more and more homeless will be attracted.
I'd love to know in what church or religion people learned that there was such a thing as being TOO generous and how it could harm you.
What HAS Palo Alto done? What IS Palo Alto doing? Worrying about what other cities are doing and insisting on living down to their level is unworthy of a city like Palo Alto. Palo Alto may have some mean, stingy streaks to its nature, but it also has a great tradition of social leadership. It's Down Town Streets Program is imitated all over the world.
You know what those other cities we're so fond of comparing ourselves to have been doing? Establishing services, programs, even HOUSING the homeless! What a concept!
Anyone who thinks you can just wipe away homelessness with one ordinance is extremely naive, cut off from the world around them, and living in a cocoon.
We are living in time of the greatest transfer of wealth ever in the history of the world. That transfer is going from poor to rich. There used to a class of people called the working poor--some of them are now living in vehicles in Cubberley. They may never get back to the standard of living they (we all) enjoyed in the years after WWII.
There have been an additional 150 homeless in Santa Clara County in the last year. The homeless population of the whole country and all it's cities has increased. Palo Alto has not seen a proportional increase. If homeless people are a curse, Palo Alto ought to be very thankful for its low numbers.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors is a group here in Palo Alto that helps about a dozen families ease their transition from homes to homelessness in Palo Alto every month. Yet there are not a dozen new Cubberley campers.
The neighbor who wrote the original letter is very accurate when he says Palo Alto won't build shelters but in fact have made Cubberley into a shelter for homeless people. I say, "Thank God for at least THAT bit of compassion. And let's get busy on the shelter/affordable housing front. What IS the delay? What does it take to get it across that the need is long standing and the solutions not even on the horizon.
No one is talking about solutions other than more mean-spirited, un-Christian hating of one's fellow citizens.
When the Working Group that the City Council set up would meet, we were repeatedly reminded that the City would spend no money, allow use of NO city resources to help solve the attendant problems.
Santa Barbara has a lot more success with their homeless population because they actually dedicate resources--yes, even MONEY--AND the use of city parking lots--to solving problems.
While Palo Alto "saves" money on the homeless--let's not forget the Downtown Streets Team which saves the City a fortune on street cleaning--other more serious and interested cities are actually making progress. Instead of debating how harsh to be to their brothers and sisters, OTHER cities are taking this sad song and making it better.
All of the homelessness will not stop or go away or even stay out of your field of vision just because the City Council passes another nail in the coffin of the poor.
If there were one half of a brain at work on this issue, we would be discussing practical (if unusual) solutions. But THAT'S how problems get solved--NOT by isolation from "the other side." (That is a special note for the Greenmeadow Association.)
Why do we only debate only one lame proposal? How would banning car camping help one person? Where do you think we'll all sleep when you take our cars away? On the lawns of the City buildings? In the streets?
Is that where you want you daughter sleeping? Some of us ARE, literally, your sons and daughters. Do you really want us not even to have the protection of a locked car?
Why does no one bring up suggestions like:
1. Using NASA/Ames as a homeless shelter
2. Using the PO on Hamilton as a homeless shelter (like San Diego does)
3. Using city, county, state, and private lots for homeless parking at night (like Santa Barbara does)
4 Incentivizing, nagging, encouraging the other 33 faith communities in PA that currently don't participate in the Hotel de Zink to get busy
5 Allow use of city parking garages for overnight parking
6 Stop allowing developers to "change their minds" and build fountains instead of the affordable housing they agreed to when their project got approved
7 Tipi village of, by, and for homeless people on the Stanford vast campus
8 Buying cars and giving them to homeless people so they HAVE SHELTER.
9 Instituting a Guardian-Camper program so people could park their vehicle on the site of a business or construction site and keep the crime, vandalism, and trespassing down.
10 Instead of making the churches jump through so many hoops to help the poor, INCENTIVIZE them for hosting the homeless in parking lots, etc.
If all you think and talk about is negativity--then that's all you'll have in your life.
If you look for solutions--you find solutions.
Palo Alto is a really great place, full of people with a lot of great brains. They know that diversity is an important element of thriving and surviving. Yet they (you, we) ignore the need for diversity.
Just think of this practical situation. No matter what happens about this ban, you will have lawns to be cut and restaurants will have dishes to be washed.
If the few remaining poor are completely marginalized and excluded--who to you think is going to wash those dishes and mow those lawns? Workers who commute in from Merced and the Central Valley? Don't you think that will make life even more expensive here? Not to mention culturally poorer?
I know Palo Altans are not so stupid and mean spirited as to really want such a mean and harmful ban. People are frightened and they do stupid things when they're frightened. They even consider doing things in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees that citizens shall be secure in their homes--not have flash lights shined in their faces in the middle of the night as is the norm at Cubberley.
As some one said above, meet and talk. Problems don't get solved with long distance hating. Sit together. Eat together. Take each other's side. Work together on solutions.
I was once told that the Greenmeadow Association was concerned about where we went to the bathroom at Cubberley. I investigated and found out that the bathrooms were closed only at night from 10-6. I wrote to the Greenmeadow Associaton and asked to meet with those who were concerned in hopes we could work together to get the bathrooms opened at night.
The Greenmeadow folks would not meet and would not discuss. To me that is not really trying to solve a problem, it's holding on to the problem so you have something to complain about.
Is that really who you are and what you want to be--O Friends of Cubberley?
I sincerely hope not.
[signed] Chuck Jagoda --sometime Cubberley car camper
2013-08-02 "Car dwelling ban would demonize the homeless"
by Aram James [www.mercurynews.com/ci_23789219/aram-james-car-dwelling-ban-would-demonize-homeless]:
On Monday, the Palo Alto City Council will consider passing an ordinance that would criminalize living in one's vehicle in the city. If passed, the ordinance would carry upon conviction up to six months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
After it appeared that the council had abandoned such an ordinance following a 1½-year battle between homeless activists and city government, a reconfigured council -- with newly elected member Liz Kniss leading the charge -- earlier this year began anew an attempt to foist this draconian, hate-filled legislation down the throats of the good people of this community.
Prosecutions under this ban would have extremely adverse consequences on an already overburdened criminal justice system in Santa Clara County.
Given the innocuous nature of the conduct that can trigger charges under this new law, judges, juries and public defenders likely would become extraordinarily displeased to see these cases substantially increase their caseload, flood their courtrooms and drain limited judicial resources that are needed to defend and prosecute serious cases.
Outside of Palo Alto City Hall is King Plaza, so named in January 2008 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
On a plaque in their honor are two quotes that are extraordinarily relevant to the campaign to convince at least five council members to oppose the proposed ordinance:
• "Somewhere we must come to see that social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless effort and persistent work of dedicated individuals; and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation and irrational emotionalism. We must realize that the time is always ripe to do right." -- A speech by Martin Luther King at Stanford University in 1967
• "The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members ... a heart of grace and a soul generated by love." -- A speech at Georgia State University in 2000 by Coretta Scott King
In April, the city council gave City Manager James Keene the discretion to raise the banner for gay pride and passed a resolution recognizing that 76 percent of voters in the city rejected Proposition 8. In The April 13 Daily News story on this action, Mayor Greg Scharff was quoted saying: "This is the civil rights issue of our time. I see no possible argument why people should not be allowed to marry whoever they wish."
I believe the same arguments and logic can be applied to the struggle to end homelessness here in Palo Alto and across this country. It is incontrovertible that the fight to end homelessness is equally the civil rights issue of our time. To state otherwise requires a total denial of the facts surrounding the current crisis regarding homelessness in this country.
I can think of no greater irony and hypocrisy than for Palo Alto's leaders, who pride themselves for honoring the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the more recent civil rights struggle for gay rights, to now pass an ordinance that is contrary to every notion of civil rights and equal protection of the law. The proposed ban would demonize, marginalize and criminalize the most vulnerable among us -- the unhoused and vehicle dwellers.
In the end, the only right, moral and constitutionally appropriate action to take is to table this misguided and mean-spirited proposed vehicle habitation ordinance forever.
Anyone who opposes this ordinance should attend the city council meeting Monday to speak out against this unconscionable hate law.
2013-07-26 "New vehicle-dwelling ban might push homeless into southern San Mateo"
by Rachel Swan [http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/new-vehicle-dwelling-ban-might-push-homeless-into-southern-san-mateo/Content?oid=2522758]:
Chuck Jagoda hasn't had a roof over his head in six years, unless you count church roofs, or the one at the armory in Sunnyvale.
The 70-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native hit hard times during the recession and says he's had no luck finding a job. He ultimately resigned himself to sleeping in the back seat of his 1989 Dodge Spirit. Four years ago, Jagoda secured a permanent parking spot outside a Happy Donuts in Palo Alto.
He's also become a polarizing figure in a debate that's roiled the city for months. Despite the booming economy, a large swath of the population in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties is falling behind. The new homeless rove through city parks, shower in public restrooms and sleep inside their cars.
Palo Alto sought to address the issue with a new ordinance on sleeping in vehicles, which will go on the ballot next month and likely be enacted in January. It's a complaint-citation system, said Palo Alto spokeswoman Claudia Keith, which means cops won't actually be patrolling parking lots for vehicle dwellers.
"It just gives our law enforcement folks a tool to go out and address the situation," she explained. "We think of Palo Alto as a nice city."
But critics worry that bandage solutions might wind up pushing Palo Alto's homeless into southern San Mateo County cities, including Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, which don't have similar ordinances.
And East Palo Alto certainly isn't equipped to handle another city's poor, said Redwood City activist James Lee, who is steering a new group called Stop the Ban Coalition. He considers the new ordinance an example of NIMBY dereliction, rather than a substantive fix.
"It's another instance of Palo Alto shoving its problems into East Palo Alto, and East Palo Alto unfortunately bears a long history of that," Lee said. "All the quality-of-life issues that wealthy people in Palo Alto raise a stink about get sent over there."
A spokesman from East Palo Alto demurred, saying that while the city has no explicit prohibition on sleeping in cars, cops could apply other relevant laws — such as the one against loitering — to combat the problem. A spokeswoman from the Menlo Park Police Department said she didn't have enough data to determine where the Peninsula's homeless are concentrated, or whether they move in response to vehicle-dwelling bans.
Keith cautioned that the vehicle-dwelling ban is just one piece of a larger, more comprehensive plan. Palo Alto also plans to ramp up its social services, she said.
But Jagoda isn't holding his breath.
"I think it makes a nice sound bite," he said of the city's plans.
"DO NOT ENACT A VEHICLE HABITATION ORDINANCE"
Petition to the Palo Alto City Council
TO SIGN OR FOR MORE COMMENTS GO TO: [link]
Dear Mayor and City Council of Palo Alto, California DO NOT ENACT A VEHICLE HABITATION ORDINANCE:
We the undersigned to hereby declare that the City of Palo Alto should abandon its efforts to enact a Vehicle Habitation Ordinance based upon but not limited to the following facts:
A vehicle habitation ordinance will be in violation of Palo Alto’s Muni-Code.
Palo Alto’s Muni-Codes 9.37.010 and 9.74.010 state that housing is a “fundamental necessity of life,” and that the human and equal rights of every person within the city of Palo Alto’s jurisdiction shall be safeguarded and protected which includes “freedom from arbitrary discrimination on the basis of housing status.”
The state of being in which a person is using a vehicle as housing/habitation is a form of “housing status.”
The state of being homeless or un-housed is a form of “housing status.”
To deny the use of vehicles for any use based upon the housing status would be a violation of the City of Palo Alto’s Muni-Code 9.37.010.
Therefore the city of Palo Alto is prohibited from denying the use of vehicles by the un-housed by the City’s own Muni-Code.
A vehicle habitation ordinance will not solve the problems that city staff claims that it wants to solve.
Since the vehicle habitation ordinance will not solve the problems that city staff desires to abate there is no logical reason to enact a vehicle habitation ordinance.
Given that a vehicle habitation ordinance will not solve the problems that city staff desires to abate, and given that a vehicle habitation ordinance will cause significant harm to un-housed residents who habitate their vehicles, the enactment of a vehicle habitation ordinance will be regarded as a malicious act.
This is further corroborated by the fact that city staff has deliberately given immunity to any and all housed people to continue to habitate their vehicles while denying the same activity to un-housed people verifying the discriminatory nature of the ordinance.
The discriminatory nature of the ordinance and the malicious intent to harm residents who do not possess fixed addresses is validated by the proposed vehicle habitation ordinance.
City staff and proponents of the ordinance have fabricated and or have grossly exaggerated problems caused by vehicle dwellers.
City staff has refused to implement solutions to solve the problems that it claims that it wants to solve. For example enforcing current rules, (Sections 6, 7, 14 and 18 of Palo Alto Muni-Code 2.08.050 under “...Prohibited Conduct at or in Community Centers…”) at Cubberely Center. By refusing to enforce these rules, city staff has created an unnecessary problem in order to justify a vehicle habitation ordinance that will not address any of the real or imagined problems at Cubberely Center.
The City Of Palo Alto has failed to demonstrate any harm vehicle dwellers are causing anyone by the act of habitating a vehicle.
Lastly, taking away vehicles from the homeless will cause significant irreparable harm to the homeless.
DO NOT ENACT A VEHICLE HABITATION ORDINANCE:
HUFF opposes passage of Palo Alto's Living in Vehicles ordinance
FROM: Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom
309 Cedar St. PMB 14B
Santa Cruz, Ca. 95060
TO: Palo Alto City Council
250 Hamilton Avenue
Palo Alto, CA
re: Item # 17 on Action Agenda for Aug 5 2013 meeting
MC 9.06.010 "Living in Vehicles" ordinance proposal
August 2, 2013
Dear Mayor Gregory Scharff and members of the Palo Alto City Council,
Our organization, Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom has met & discussed the proposed MC 9.06.010 "Living in Vehicles" ordinance which will be on your Monday, August 5th agenda. Under this ordinance, what constitutes illegal behavior is defined as follows: For purposes of this section, “human habitation” means the use of a vehicle for a dwelling place, including but not limited to, sleeping, eating or resting, either single or in groups...
HUFF finds this to be an overly-broad definition of illegal behavior which could be practiced by nearly every citizen of Palo Alto at some point or other, but is likely to be selectively enforced against poor, houseless, disabled, or people of color. The only remedy is punishment by fine or jail. In the former, this will only drive an already impoverished individual into deeper poverty and in the latter will overburden our already overburdened justice system adding to the already record levels of those incarcerated at huge public expense for little value in return. Can you really use your government power of citation, arrest, fines or jail to dissuade people from sleeping, eating, or resting? Why would you want to?
Finally, since a housed person who eats, sleeps, or rests in his/her vehicle is not "dwelling" in their vehicle, these activities by definition are intended to be enforced differently against homeless people than against housed people who engage in the exact same behavior.
This makes your ordinance unconstitutional on its face.
For these and other reasons HUFF passed the following resolution:
HUFF opposes passage of the Living in Vehicles ordinance as overly broad, not providing alternatives,
adding to the criminalization of the homeless by trying to solve complex economic problems with the stroke of the pen.
Passed unanimously on July 31, 2013 by the HUFF membership
Becky Johnson of HUFF
Please reply by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or by telephone at (831) 423 - 4833
2013-07-13 "Palo Alto PowWow: Fight the Homes-on-Wheels Ban!"
INVITATION TO ATTEND A COMMUNITY DISCUSSION
ON THE HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS
PLACE: UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH, 505 E CHARLESTON RD, PALO ALTO
with speaker: Paul Boden.
As long as the government continues to willfully abdicate its moral responsibility to house the homeless, it has no business enacting oppressive ordinances to hound, harass, and criminalize them. Instead
of attacking the homeless, as people of conscience we have an obligation to join together with them to end the polarization of rich and poor and build a society with true liberty and justice for all.
Those who refuse to be involved, simply deserve whatever comes to them.
2013-07-12 "Making Mountains Out Of Mole Hills"
by Tony Ciampi [paloaltofreepress.com/making-mountains-out-of-mole-hills]:
When it comes to vehicle dwellers, the City of Palo Alto appears to be making mountains out of mole hills.
At the May 14, 2013 and June 25, 2013 Policy and Services Committee Meetings Police Chief Dennis Burns and Assistant Police Chief Bob Beacom presented statistics on calls for service related to vehicle dwellers to the Committee as justification for a Vehicle Habitation Ordinance.
City staff and the police department appeared to be claiming the number of incidents related to vehicle dwellers were significant and therefore require a Vehicle Habitation Ordinance to resolve those problems. These numbers have been widely disseminated to the community in an effort to generate support of an ordinance.
However, what has been brought to light or discovered through a California Public Records Request is that on average, over the last three and half years calls related to vehicle dwellers was only 0.000667% of all calls for service. Based upon these facts, the calls and problems caused by vehicle dwellers when compared to the total number of calls for service and problems caused by all other residents are inconsequential.
These statistics prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Vehicle Habitation is not a problem and that an ordinance is not necessary.
We don’t even know if the calls were legitimate or what the final outcome produced.
The City of Palo Alto and the Police Department has refused to provide the details of the 159 calls for service related to vehicle dwellers even though the city has the information available and provides similar information to the media and public on a regular basis.
A second request has been submitted to the city for the details of the 159 calls for service related to vehicle dwellers. It remains to be seen if the City will comply with the request or perpetuate its secrecy.
Public Records Request and City Stats:
Service Call Data [http://paloaltofreepress.com/wp-content/uploads/Service-Call-Data.pdf]
2013-06-26 "Vehicle Habitation plan, flawed from the beginning?"
by Bruce Ellery Kenyon [paloaltofreepress.com/vehicle-habitation-plan-flawed-from-the-beginning/]:
After many years of kicking around this issue, the current city council may decide the fate of hundreds, while the few bad apples will never be affected, honest working class people will be affected, and not for the better. The problems being brought up by those demanding an ordinance will not disappear, because the problems were never caused by car dwellers, but by other categories of people.
The issue at hand is the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance. This issue has not been resolved although it has come up many times in the past in city counsel meetings. Interest groups, faith based churches, and a working group composed of concerned clergy, city staff and CCT members had over 10 months to work on a plan, yet when it reached the policy and services committee it quickly fizzed out.
The two sides of this issue are:
1. Human rights Advocates who do not want more government interference in our lives and more power given to the police in this society where freedom reigns.
2. People of means who do not want their peace and well being infringed upon by those of lesser means. The demeanor of this group seems to be: “Not in my neighborhood” they pay high taxes to live in Palo Alto and they don’t want to even see one homeless person or car dweller loitering around and feel that this permissive agenda by Palo Alto is just not acceptable.
The city wants to solve the problem by pushing the car dwellers onto the Service Providers. Shelter Network is not equipped to handle yet another 55 to 100 who have needs far different than street people who have lost all their self esteem, and therefore can be treated in any fashion the service provider deems necessary. Car dwellers are accustomed to making their own decisions, they are more independent than street people, some of them hold down a low wage job.
The service provider has a set of standards that most car dwellers do not fit into, and they will not amend these set of standards to qualify for their services.
Service providers exist to get funding and getting results is not imperative to them so they do the least possible because obtaining funding is their primary goal, not finding shelter for the homeless, regardless of their claims. Their results are largely undocumented because failure to achieve is not a good thing to bring about.
Failure of the city government to grasp a clean understanding of the issue is apparent, so the issue remains an issue because nobody has actually determined the root cause of car dwelling and suggested that the root cause be treated instead the symptoms are being experimented with, leading to quick fix solutions.
It has become evident to us that Palo Alto City Council will not spend one dime on “homeless tramps” while supporting Downtown Streets team who are running a economic slavery scheme paying their recruits less than minimum wage and saving the city millions, so the city is happy to get “free labor”.
The Caste System being created by the current attitudes of “Palo Alto affluent” will enable the affluent to keep up their lifestyle at the expense of the impoverished, while supporting a Feudal type concept.
The Barons kept the peasants in line while the Kings lived a life of plenty. It is not imaginary because that is what we are headed for if this ordinance is passed in Palo alto. It is time we take heed to the philosophy of Martin Luther King “Free at last, Free at last, Free at last” instead of “oppress me more, oppress me more, oppress me more”.
Does Palo Alto have an obligation to those of no financial means? No city has an obligation to any certain group of people, whether wealthy or not, instead the city may want to be a role model to other municipalities simply because it’s the right thing to do. When there are billionaire developers wanting special favors from local politicians, the pressures to abide by the wants of the affluent may carry more clout than some group of human rights advocates.
We, however hold onto a glimmer of hope that those decision makers on the city council will see the opportunity to do something positive which will appease both sides and create a real solution. Stanford university social services professor should be consulted, and this resource may come up with a real solution.
Giving the police to power to decide the fate of a category of people is surely NOT THE ANSWER.
Poverty shall not be a crime in the United States of America.
2013-06-26 "Casting democracy to the wind on the homeless in Palo Alto"
by Mark Petersen-Perez [paloaltofreepress.com/casting-democracy-to-the-wind-on-the-homeless-in-palo-alto/]:
Democracy was cast to the wind this evening leaving its citizens voices dead on arrival. The Policy and Service Committee clearly became a Politburo rather then a democratically elected body in its decision to not listen to the citizens it serves. The last time I looked the citizens of Palo Alto were clearly in charge [www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/13772]. Not anymore!
Despite an overwhelming community disapproval displayed during oral communications, the council took upon itself and decided to move forward with the proposed ban making it a misdemeanor for those found inhabiting or living in their vehicle a six month jail sentence if found guilty as noted by former Santa Clara County Public Defender Aram James [www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/34944].
Photo of Attorney Aram James:
Just the first round -
For many in attendance it was what appeared to be a crushing defeat for homeless rights. Not so this is just the first round says Aram James a long time Palo Alto resident and attorney. He relates;
“Folks don’t hold your heads down! Tonight was just the 1st round, the opening arguments. The politicians just played their best hand in full public view like discovery in a criminal trial we (the public) now know their best arguments–very weak at best.
Nearly thirty members of the public spoke all but two oppose this ugly draconian ordinance. Now’s the time to redouble our efforts–the full jury has not yet spoken!! Now we organize remember our weapons, jury nullification, and the defense of necessity, discriminatory enforcement and defenses to this ordinance only limited by our imagination!!! (Jury Nullification explained: [paloaltofreepress.com/why-a-fundamental-understanding-of-jury-nullification-is-so-critical-to-taking-back-our-criminal-justice-system/])
No jury of 12 citizens will ever convict for violation of this immoral proposed ordinance!! The community united will never be defeated by self-serving politicians. It’s time to fight back elect members of the un-housed community–including vehicle dweller–to our city council”.
One thing is for sure the homeless advocates were out in force from PhD’s, lawyers, physiologists to the homeless vehicle dwellers just as predicted in the Daily Post. They really put on a “show” [paloaltofreepress.com/cubberley-shelter-editorial-by-dave-price/].
Mr. Price in his editorial seamed to vilify the homeless but if it were his newspaper racks on the line I’m sure he would be whistling a different tune [paloaltofreepress.com/which-is-the-greater-city-blight-newspaper-racks-or-vehicle-dwellers/]. After all it’s the First Amendment he’s so proud about first and not the horrible state of homelessness on a national level [www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/the-state-of-homelessness-in-america-2012].
Hopefully in round two community voices will rise to the occasion once again when full council is set to bless the ordinance so as to defeat this draconian ordinance and attack on the homeless once and for all.
Suggested legal defense strategies:
* Tobe v. City of Santa Ana (1995) [law.justia.com/cases/california/cal4th/9/1069.html]
* In re Eichorn (1998) 69 Cal. App. 4th 382 [81 Cal. Rptr. 2d 535] [law.justia.com/cases/california/caapp4th/69/382.html]
* Implementation of the necessity defense in case of criminalization of homelessness [www.wcl.american.edu/journal/lawrev/50/fasanelli.pdf]
* Necessary Defense from ending the threat of nuclear war [law.justia.com/cases/california/calapp3d/164/44.html]
* Why a fundamental understanding of jury nullification is so critical to taking back our criminal justice system [paloaltofreepress.com/why-a-fundamental-understanding-of-jury-nullification-is-so-critical-to-taking-back-our-criminal-justice-system/]
* Gideon v. Wainwright – 372 U.S. 335 (1963) [www.uscourts.gov/multimedia/podcasts/Landmarks/GideonvWainwright.aspx]
2013-06-26 comment from Chuck Jagoda:
Thank you Mark and Aram for this fine report of a dismal event. I am glad so many spoke up for the humane point of view.
As Aram James says, it is not the time to hold our heads down. The arguments for the ordinance are paper thin covers for a basic fear. People hope to ward off homelessness, to keep it out of sight, to make it “go away” with this misguided ordinance.
There are NOT more disturbances at Cubberley. There are NOT “a few bad apples” for whom the under armed, inadequately equipped need “another tool” to deal with. These are either piece of misinformation or conscious lies.
The truth is that the police have a history of harassing homeless people. In other California communities, there have been most unfortunate cases where the police have attacked, beaten, and killed unarmed, homeless people. They have come to Cubberley on more than one occasion for no apparent reason and rousted and threatened people who were peacefully sleeping in their homes, such as they are. This is in direct opposition to the Fourth Amendment right to be secure and safe in one’s home–even if that home is a blanket on the ground or the backseat of a car.
If those Palo Altans who believe in the “don’t put milk out for stray cats” philosophy that underlies The Dreaded Ordinance (TDO) visited San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Cruz and viewed the homeless situation in those urban areas– they’d be thankful for the homeless community in Palo Alto.
The homeless community in Palo Alto save the community a fortune in street cleaning. The Downtown Streets Team clean the streets far more cheaply than union wage street cleaners in San Francisco.
Individual members of the Palo Alto community clean up the grounds at Cubberley and other places around town. They clean up after themselves and they clean up the trash that is left behind by others.
One night a couple of summers ago a homeless man called in an alarm that saved the library about $40,000 in books from being burned.
As Aram James says, we have not yet begun to campaign against TDO. There are many people of good will, human feelings, and charitable heart in the Palo Alto community. We will do all we can to rally their support and make our case very clear to the community at large.
There is a good Palo Alto and a more fear-movitvated Palo Alto. We will be appealing to and organizing the good citizens of Palo Alto to follow their better angels and come to the defense of the least of their brethren.
If necessary we will bring suit in court to secure the rights that housed people have and that are denied to those of us without fixed homes. That will be expensive, time consuming, and embarrassing. We do not chose such a path, but if those who insist on solving a social problem with criminal means make it necessary, we will defend our homes and our rights.
2013-06-26 message from Aram James:
Hi Molly and J.J.,
(Molly O’Neal Santa Clara County Public Defender & J.J. Knapp, Assistant Public Defender)
I hope that both of you are doing extremely well and that everything at the office is going as well as expected in this era of limited resources for the entire criminal justice system, but particularly where the limited resources of public defender offices state and nationwide is at a crisis point.
I want to thank both of you for all of your assistance thus far in our community struggle to hold back the City of Palo Alto in its attempt to further criminalize the homeless and more specifically vehicle dwellers.
Last night at the Policy and Services Committee 25 members of the public spoke re the proposed ordinance, 23 in opposition and 2 in support. Ultimately, in a 3-0 vote the committee voted to approve the ordinance and to pass it on to the full city council (9 members) as soon as August, for a final vote on this ugly ordinance.
We will now be redoubling our efforts to fight back against this draconian proposal. I hope to speak to both of you soon. It is my wish that the office take a more visible stand against this proposed ordinance that if passed will surely negatively impact your/our office that is already laboring under immense pressures.
I am sending along a link to a piece written by the editor of the Palo Alto Free Press, Mark Petersen-Perez, describing last night’s meeting and including some of my post meeting comments: [paloaltofreepress.com/casting-democracy-to-the-wind-on-the-homeless-in-palo-alto/].
At the bottom of the article, under the caption Suggested Legal Defense Strategies–you will see links to several important cases and articles related to our current battle.
I invite both of you to read the right on point dissent/analysis of Justice Stanley Mosk in another homeless struggle, [law.justia.com/cases/california/cal4th/9/1069.html].
Please pay particular attention to Mosk’s discussion of the impact of sending such innocuous cases into an already overwhelmed criminal justice system.
Okay, you old warrior public defender self is with both of you –and the entire office–every day.
Best regards, [signed] Aram James
2013-06-25 "Time is running out for those who call the streets of Palo Alto their home" (originally posted 2013-06-20)
by Mark Petersen-Perez from "San Pablo Free Press" [paloaltofreepress.com/time-is-running-out-for-those-who-call-the-streets-of-palo-alto-their-home/]:
In one of the most dramatic and important decisions facing homeless people in Palo Alto is the outright ban of those without traditional housing a unique group of homeless people known as “Vehicle Dwellers” [paloaltofreepress.com/wp-content/uploads/Pending-city-ordinance-not-yet-approved.pdf].
On June 25th at 6:00 PM sharp a special meeting has been called by the Services and Policy Committee [www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/34963] comprising of city council members Liz Kniss, Larry Klein, Gail Price and Karen Holmam who will consider what has been touted as:
The last stand -
The last “Consideration of Ordnance Prohibiting Habitation of Vehicles”. We believe it’s a ruse and a biased forgone conclusion of the city’s ultimate intention to rid the homeless off the streets of Palo Alto. “Consideration” is just a formality in our opinion. The decision has already been decided.
At the last Policy and Services Committee meeting Police Chief Dennis Burns with all his legal weight and credibility, presented data on the number of problem calls concerning vehicle dwellers at the Cubberely Community Center a “Hot” spot of problems to bolster his claim for the need of an outright ban on homeless individuals and families from living in their vehicles.
Flawed data presented -
The problem we see with his analysis is that Chief Burns presented no comparable data on other disturbance calls. Especially within the downtown area where numerous nightlife bars are located.
Of course and without question, the data presented by Chief Burns was soaked up by the committee like a basket of sponges. Besides, who are you going believe the Police Chief or the average citizen when critical police data is presented to a jury or quasi judicial body such as the Policy and Services Committee?
The city of Palo Alto as it stands is the last remaining sanctuary where those who find themselves homeless for what even the reason can live in their vehicles protected from the element and with a real sense of protection from harm.
The last time I checked the unemployment numbers for the State of California, that number has increased to over 1 million [www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/Federal_Unemployment_Insurance_Extensions.htm]. Although our economy has improved we still have a long difficult road to full recovery.
The meeting will take place in city council chambers they do that when they expect large crowds of spectator or what Dave Price of the Daily Post described as homeless advocates putting on a “show” [paloaltofreepress.com/cubberley-shelter-editorial-by-dave-price/].
Wealth vs. Disenfranchised -
In reality, there is no reason to feel optimistic about the ultimate outcome of this planned ordinance to ban the homeless off the streets of Palo Alto.
Its the disenfranchised vs wealth. Those who have been fed with a silver spoon, living a life of privilege and distinction, gone are any traits of compassion or tolerance…..the prevailing attitude rules…”not in our neighborhood” reminiscent of past minorities forced to move elsewhere. Call the ban what you like. In our opinion it’s wrong!
Claims were made by the former Director of Planning and Community Environment Services Curtis Williams, at the last policy meeting that no other solutions were presented on how to deal with the alleged chronic vehicle dwellers plaguing our streets who have consistently violated exciting nuisance laws.
Creative ideas ignored -
That’s simply not the case. To address those issues, vehicle dweller and advocate Tony Ciampi put together a series of citation warnings specifically designed to address nuisance complaints and issues [paloaltofreepress.com/wp-content/uploads/Warning-1.pdf]. Those ideas were completely ignored.
We put forth the idea of exploring opening up Foothills Park almost two years ago to vehicle dwellers where there’s ample parking, campgrounds and where restroom facilities are located [paloaltofreepress.com/camp-palo-alto-foothills-park-a-vehicle-alternative-habitation-solution/]. And we sent email with a large distribution to all major stake holders including city council, Mr. Williams and the head of Palo Alto city park services.
We received no response. Talk about being irresponsible and the audacity to say that no other ideas were suggested or presented. That’s simply not true and misleading all soaked up by the Policy and Services Committee. The cards were clearly stacked against the homeless by the collective powers at be.
Open Government and Transparency Questioned -
It’s been a lopsided debate from the very beginning. With the city attorney’s office ordering that the media remain uninvited while the Community Cooperative Team or group tasked with brainstorming for solutions met behind closed doors without public input. Which we believe was a well orchestrated planned event and a complete travesty to democracy, open government and transparency.
This should speak volumes as to the type of attorney Molly Stump is and who runs our local city government on less then equal protection of the homeless and who is unwilling to democratically debate these issue on any level. This planned city ordinance reeks of special wealthy influence.
June 25th marks the culmination of public testimony before the Policy and Services Committee passes on to city council its final version of the vehicle habitation ordinance to be rubber stamped into law. And time is running out for those who call the streets of Palo Alto their home. The clock is ticking…..
Staff Report Policy and Services Committee 6.25.13 [paloaltofreepress.com/wp-content/uploads/Staff-Report-Policy-and-Services-Committee-6.25.13.pdf]
2013-06-20 comment by Chuck Jagoda:
Thank you, Mark, for your support. There are a number of points where I could take issue with you, but the most important thing is that you are right–there IS a strong campaign–apparently stronger than when Policy and Services decided, wisely, to do nothing the last time they took up the issue of an ordinance. It seems this time, instead of the City Council just listening to the opinions of citizens and then making up their minds, a dedicated cabal is purposefully working towards successfully adopting an anti-vehicular habitation ordinance.
You are also right about “problems” at Cubberley. There is very good order at Cubberley. I know of no complaints at Cubberley–except the one where the unsheltered there living in vehicles and camping on the ground were rousted by some rogue police a few times last spring. No one in the Cubberley administrator’s office knew who called the police. No one ever owned up to making such a call.
Chief Burns was very decent–he sat down with some of the Cubberley campers, lawyer-advocate Aram James, and a Cubberley administrator. He listened to the campers side of things and said he would look into who the police were and find out why they came, woke people up, and threatened them if they didn’t move out in a few days. He assured the group that none of us would be evicted by any police from then on without his permission. He seemed most understanding.
The Cubberley campers take their civic responsibilities seriously. We clean up more than our own messes–including the diapers and food wrappers and other garbage left behind by members of the community who come there for ball games, making out, training, and meetings.
One time I asked the president of the Green Meadow Community Association (GMCA) which surrounds Cubberley what the big problem was. He asked his members and the answer came back: “cars parked in the lot looking shabby, defecation, and urination.”
Cubberley campers got together and spoke with the shabby car owners and after a while the cars were cleaned up or gone. The only one left was owned by a homeowner in the community who kept it parked there.
I did a little investigating and found out that the bathrooms of Foothill Community College were open all the time except at night—for no apparent reason other than to deny usage to unsheltered people.
And even at that they were supposed to be open on weekend nights. But one weekend custodian wouldn’t leave the doors unlocked as per the sign on the door. The other custodian lived in his vehicle there and was more sympathetic.
I asked the president of the GMCA if those who were worried would work together with us on getting the bathrooms open EVERY night of the week and then the “problem” would be solved. He wrote back that no one would meet or even talk with us about it.
So I think you have hit the nail on the head when you say there is a plan to bring the ordinance into full blown existence and onto the law books. However, people of good will can still oppose it at this meeting on June 25. And if the P&S Subcommittee do vote to send the ordinance on to the full City Council, people of good will can and will fight it there.
And, God forbid, if some ordinance criminalizing our temporary mobile shelter should be voted in, we will plead our case in civil court and argue there for our right to be secure in our homes from government intrusion as described in the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
2013-05-26 "Palo Alto Battle on Living in Vehicles Draws Nearer"
from NOTES BY NORSE:
Palo Alto City Council is moving in an eerily simultaneous way with Santa Cruz and Monterey City Councils to bring up its own anti-homeless vehicle residency ban, proposing to reverse the unusual but positive policy of legal van dwelling, in effect for many years.
In the homeless-hostile editorial, the police chief notes a rise in police calls (but no stats on arrests, convictions, or serious crimes) in a particular area. With no legal place for those without vehicles to sleep, there are also claims of a "magnet" effect in that more people are gathering there (presumably for the safety and security of a kind of makeshift community). It's interesting that the "crime" or "problem" seems to be homeless people "found" inside empty-at-night buildings (not any theft or vandalism).
There's no indication of a waste problem (perhaps less than elsewhere since many RV's have their own toilets), but rather a concern about the "perception" of residents, the "anxiety" they feel having someone sleeping in a vehicle on their street.
And there's the usual fantasy solution of "stepped-up referrals to agencies that can provide assistance" (when no such assistance in fact exists)--familiar to those in Santa Cruz who have tried to get nightly shelter or drug abuse assistance or other basic services.
Hopefully Palo Alto politicians won't fall for it, and the homeless and supportive housed community there (such as it is) won't allow it.
Meanwhile Santa Cruz proceeds with its new 24-hour-stay-away-from-the-parks law and its no-loitering-on-medians law at the 3 PM session of City Council Tuesday May 28th. The noose draws tighter.
I am forwarding a number of articles on the subject.
One comment following the homeless-hostile editorial:
"I often see a gentleman at the PA Mc Donald's on El Camino. He sits in the television area all the time. Just last week, I went up to him, and sort of joked, "do you own stock in Mc Donald's, I always see you here". He responded, "I have no where else to go, as I live in my RV". He went on to say. "and I am tired of this type of life." He is a senior, and receives social security. I suggested he put his name on one of the PAHC housing lists, preferably the Oak Manor Town House/Scattered site list, as that list is always open. He said he would give it a try.
Seems to me, part of the challenge here is that folks who live in their vehicles either do not know what housing alternatives exist, or they are afraid of the bureaucracy involved with the application process, and possible fear of being denied, based on past circumstances. Perhaps, the Human Relations Commission of PA should make it a goal of its commission to hold a training on housing access for those who need housing.
One little known fact is for those who can be defined as homeless, section 8 vouchers can be obtained through various programs, and the voucher is expedited if the household is homeless; or if there are children in the household, there are transitional housing programs in each county.
In addition, the waiting lists for affordable housing need to reinforce the need to give preference to those without housing first. It is a well known fact that many people who are on the various apartment/project waiting lists are folks who already have affordable housing of some sort, but just like market rate renters, they want choice, and the ability to change housing. I believe that priority and preference should not be primarily based on local live/work criteria, but in the interest of fairness, to give those who do not have housing, the main priority, until everyone who needs/wants housing is served. Let's minimize the musical chair practice in the affordable housing industry of people putting their names on every housing list; getting into housing, and then simply moving to another affordable housing complex.
First, educate folks on their housing options. Secondly, commit to the goal of housing those in need first, and then the musical chair applicants. These wait lists are long not simply because of need, but because they are not carefully scrutinized to service those in real need as a priority. Since the city of Palo Alto often helps affordable housing developers, like PAHC, acquire and build affordable housing projects, the city can require one of the public benefits to be that a certain percentage of of the city's homeless receive priority application wise, prior to the usual "musical chair" applicants.
The homeless population will never decrease, and fully be served if we don't make it a goal to provide equal access to all with respect to affordable housing. The first step is education, and the next, a willingness on the part of the respective property management companies to wholeheartedly address the needs of the under served homeless population in each city and county."
More interesting comments on the (homeless-hostile) Palo Alto article follow at [www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=29734].
2013-05-24 "Editorial: Enact vehicle-dwelling ban After five years, it's long past time for the City Council to take action and prohibit overnight vehicle habitation"
by Palo Alto Weekly Editorial board [http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=29734]:
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.
Spurred on this time by reports of increasing problems at Cubberley Community Center, which in the words of City Manager James Keene is becoming a "de facto homeless shelter," the City Council's Policy and Services Committee voted 2-1 last week to put an ordinance in front of the full council.
Vehicle dwelling, which is against the law in all neighboring communities, is one of those Palo Alto issues that seems to never reach a final resolution.
College Terrace residents tried to get the city to act back in 2008, as they saw first-hand the effects of there being no legal mechanism for preventing someone from deciding to park and spend the night in his or her car or camper directly in front of a home.
Unfortunately, this is a problem that many don't seem to think exists because they haven't personally experienced someone living in a car or camper parked in front of their house. But it is real and the scope of the problem seems to only be growing.
Over the last five years, the city has struggled to find a way to approach the issue in a way that would not simply rely on new laws, but respect and support people who had reached the point where their only place to sleep was in a vehicle.
In 2011, the city staff finally proposed an ordinance to ban sleeping in cars, but brought it to the City Council without outreach to the faith community or homeless advocates. Facing strong push-back from those who found the proposal heavy-handed and premature, City Manager Jim Keene pulled the proposal from the agenda and it disappeared again.
For the last two years, church leaders have explored whether there was enough interest and support for a system used in Eugene, Ore., where overnight vehicle-dwellers are allowed to use church parking lots and have access to bathrooms and other facilities.
The idea has all but fizzled out. After outreach to 42 faith-based organizations last year, only one church committed to the program as others ran up against strong neighborhood and liability concerns.
Last November, there was talk of a pilot program that would allow overnight dwellers to park their vehicles in designated city parking lots, but that too has gone nowhere, and the Cubberley experience suggests that is not a viable option.
City officials, including Police Chief Dennis Burns and Planning Director Curtis Williams, told the Policy and Services Committee last week about the growing homeless problem at Cubberley, including a steady increase in police calls. Burns said police had to respond to problems at Cubberley on 39 occasions last year, more than double the previous year.
Williams said that 20 to 30 people show up every evening, including five to 10 in vehicles, a "fairly significant increase in homeless dwelling at Cubberley." A manager in the city's Community Services Department, which has offices there, told the committee that there is more frequent drug use and fights and said that when custodians go to lock rooms up for the night they often find homeless people inside.
These reports and others were enough to convince the council committee that it's time for action. With Liz Kniss and Larry Klein supporting an ordinance, Gail Price opposing and Karen Holman absent, the matter will now go to the Council, though with unclear prospects.
Up until now most council members have taken a nuanced position on the problem and have emphasized providing support services rather than enacting a law similar to other cities.
Klein and Kniss said they endorse continuing to reach out to the homeless, but Klein, who has previously minimized the problem, now believes that the absence of a vehicle habitation ban may have contributed to making the city a magnet for homeless dwellers.
As we have advocated in earlier editorials, we strongly believe that an ordinance is needed to address this problem, along with stepped-up referrals to agencies that can provide assistance. It is not appropriate, fair or safe to openly permit people to live in their vehicles in a way that imposes on other residents of the community.
A tougher question is whether a ban should be limited only to vehicles in residential neighborhoods, at city parks and other facilities, or whether commercial and industrial areas should also be included.
It is hard to imagine the owners and tenants of offices or stores being any more accepting of a vehicle with someone living in it parked in front of their building than an occupant of a home or apartment.
As the years of delay in coming to a resolution of this issue suggests, there is neither a simple solution nor more ambitious ideas that have proven workable.
It's time to conform to what other cities have on their books and to equip our police with the legal tools they need to take action when vehicle dwellers create a problem for a resident or neighborhood.
2013-05-24 posted by John Barton, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood:
Banning sleeping in cars does not suddenly provide housing for those who are less fortunate. Criminalizing the actions of those who are just trying to survive is cruel and unworthy of a great city.
2013-05-25 posted by FreePress, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood:
I challenge the people below to an open and public debate regarding the vehicle habitation ordinance and the alleged problems related to the issue and the Constitutional rights of the citizens involved. If you have a legitimate position you should want to reveal it while proving that the opposite does not. If you don't want to debate, then you there isn't much substance to what you say proving that there is zero merit to your position.
This challenge is to:
Jay Thorwaldson of the PA Weekly, PA City Attorney Molly Stump, City Manager James Keene, Police Chief Dennis Burns, Council members Liz Kniss and Larry Klein, Craig Laughton and Phil of downtown north, especially you Phil since you seem the most capable of articulating that Palo Alto is only for wealthy Americans.
I'm quit certain that we can get Mark Peterson-Perez the editor of the Palo Alto Free Press to moderate the debate and stream it live (video) over the internet so that the entire world can judge who possess the moral, logical and Constitutional correctness on the issue.
Your opponents will be myself, Tony Ciampi, and any number of individuals opposed to the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance equal to the number of you who are for the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance who decide to engage in the debate.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
2012-07-11 "Vehicle-Dwellers Call Palo Alto Home"
by DEBORAH GAGE from "Wall Street Journal":
PALO ALTO—Kurt Varner moved to Palo Alto from Los Angeles in March to start an Internet company. But instead of renting an apartment, the 25-year-old has been residing in a different kind of abode: his car.
Every 72 hours, Mr. Varner moves his car around Palo Alto to avoid violating the city's parking rules, and he tries to be as inconspicuous as possible to local residents and other car-dwellers. Mr. Varner sometimes does some rudimentary cooking at a co-working space in Mountain View, where he codes during the day. And he showers at a local 24 Hour Fitness gym. His total cost for the gym and co-working space is $139 a month.
Living in his car is the only way he can afford to be in Silicon Valley right now, says Mr. Varner, whose wife, a teacher, lives in Los Angeles. Mr. Varner, who has been effectively homeless for the past few months, says he can't afford to pay rent on two places but will move into an apartment in the area this month when his wife moves up. He says he is excited about working on something he is passionate about, but being homeless is "a little scary."
While Mr. Varner isn't the typical sort of person found living in his car, he is among a group of homeless people who are doing just that in Palo Alto, which is one of the few cities in the Silicon Valley where it is legal to live in a vehicle. The town now has as many as 100 vehicles housing people, says Curtis Williams, Palo Alto's director of planning and community environment.
Whether that number is growing is unclear, he adds, but complaints about the homeless rose last year.
The persistent presence of these vehicle-dwellers has divided Palo Alto residents, sparking community meetings and pitting neighbors who advocate for homeless rights against those who complain about noise and public urination and worry about strangers camping on their streets.
Mr. Varner says he normally parks close to his gym, which is open 24 hours, in case he has to use the bathroom at night.
"I don't think it should be open season for motor homes to park here," says Joy Ogawa, who lives in the College Terrace neighborhood. "Palo Alto needs some protection."
The issue shows the underside of Silicon Valley's latest tech boom. In an area that is home to Stanford University and numerous technology companies, from start-ups to Hewlett-Packard Co., the gulf between the well-off and the not-so-well-off is stark.
Buck, an out-of-work carpenter, is living in his van, seen parked in the back lot of the Palo Alto Main Library.
While freshly graduated engineers can command six-figure salaries, others are dealing with long-term unemployment and struggling to keep up with rising rents and home prices. In May, the median value of a house in Palo Alto was more than $1.34 million, up 11.5% from $1.2 million a year earlier, Zillow says. Rents in June were up as much as 30% from the previous year and are at an all-time high, according to a monthly report compiled from landlord advertisements by Palo Alto Realtor Leon Leong.
At a community forum in Palo Alto City Hall last month, vehicle-dwellers discussed their struggles with long-term unemployment or health issues. Some are working but aren't able to afford the area's rents. They say the city shouldn't punish people who are just trying to survive.
"Palo Alto is safe—that's why we come here," says one man, Tony, who asked that his last name not be published. He says he is a gardener who has lived in Palo Alto for 19 years—12 of them in houses or apartments—and has landscaping clients in Palo Alto that tie him to the city.
Palo Alto officials have struggled to find an effective way of dealing with its homeless problem. Last year, after complaints from several Palo Alto neighborhoods, the city attorney's office prepared an ordinance that would have made it a misdemeanor to live in a vehicle, levying progressively larger fines. But homeless advocates protested and the city backed off.
Since then, a working group of community members has been trying to devise a solution, and is scheduled to give its recommendation to the city on Sept. 11.
"Palo Alto is one of the wealthiest cities on the planet, and we're not carrying our fair share of the burden," says Aram James, a retired public defender who has lived in Palo Alto since the 1950s and is a member of the working group. "We have to have places for homeless people who aren't out on parole who don't have a place to live."
Mr. Williams, the planning director, says the city hasn't offered its property for use by homeless living in vehicles because its budget is too tight to administer such a program. Lately, homeless people have clustered around Cubberley Community Center, in South Palo Alto, where they have access to bathrooms, but area residents have complained, he says.
One church has offered to help and other congregations are considering it, he says. Meanwhile, Palo Alto's one homeless shelter is full. "It's never enough," Mr. Williams says.
Mr. Varner, for his part, says he avoids contact with other vehicle-dwellers. "I want to try and lay low and stay out of their way," he says. "I know why I'm doing this and it was my choice to live like this." He says he expects to launch his new company—Kickmade, an online marketplace for people to sell projects funded through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter—this fall.
Being homeless has been stressful, Mr. Varner says, recalling the time a police officer shined a spotlight on him while he was trying to sleep. In the past few months he has learned to live "minimalistically," he says, and to appreciate the most basic things.
2013-05-17 "Palo Alto re-examines car camping ordinance"
by Jason Green from "Daily News":
An ordinance that would prohibit people from camping out in their cars is back on the table in Palo Alto.
The Policy and Services Committee voted 2-1 this week to send a draft to the city council for review. The decision was driven by both an uptick in the number of homeless people bedding down at Cubberley Community Center and a failed effort to get local faith-based organizations to open their parking lots to vehicle dwellers.
"This is just one more way of handling the problem," Council Member Larry Klein said about the proposed ban Tuesday night.
"We're not turning people into criminals. I think we're giving our police a method to use for those hopefully few -- but apparently not as few as I'd thought -- who are abusing the situation and are troublesome."
Between 20 and 30 homeless people -- five to 10 of them in cars -- can be found at Cubberley on any given night, said Curtis Williams, the city's director of planning and community environment. City staff pointed to the availability of restrooms and showers as the primary draw.
Those amenities, however, have been the scene of a corresponding increase in fights and other troublesome behavior.
Police Chief Dennis Burns said officers were called to Cubberley a total of 10 times in 2010, 16 times in 2011 and 39 times in 2012. So far this year, they've been called nine times.
In one sense, Cubberley has become a de facto homeless shelter, said City Manager James
"We've got to wake up to what we're facing here and deal with it directly and straight on," he said.
The city has been wrestling for nearly two years with what to do about the estimated 30 to 50 people who live in vehicles.
Residents initially complained about the aggressive and unsanitary behavior of some car campers.
In November, the Policy and Services Committee voted in favor of testing out a program that would allow up to three people to sleep overnight in a vehicle in the parking lot of a religious institution, place of worship or business with the written permission of the owner.
However, only one organization, the University Lutheran Church, was willing to open up its parking lot.
George Mills of Palo Alto Friends Meeting told the committee it was obvious to him that "being without a home should not be criminalized." But the outcry from neighbors was too much to ignore and the Quaker congregation had no choice but to withdraw from the program.
"In short, it was NIMBY," he said.
Mills was one of several public speakers who urged the committee not to vote in favor of sending an ordinance to the city council. Brent Barker, president of the College Terrace Residents' Association, said a ban on car camping would do little to address the underlying cause of homelessness.
"One of the things the city should be thinking about longer term is, what is the caring capacity that we have for dealing with this kind of situation?" Barker said. "I think the scarce resources that we have should go to the bottom and let the solution come from the bottom up."
At least one committee member agreed.
"I don't feel the ordinance is going to give us that much leverage," said Council Member Gail Price.
Klein, meanwhile, was not swayed by additional arguments from the public that Palo Alto should remain the only city in Santa Clara County without a vehicle habitation ordinance. Both he and Council Member Liz Kniss said a ban would not preclude the city from continuing to work with homeless advocacy groups like the Downtown Streets Team.
"There's no point, I think, in us being the one exception," Klein said. "We can still be just as compassionate and I hope we are going to continue to be. I don't think this is a retreat from that."
Council Member Karen Holman, who also sits on the committee, was absent from the meeting Tuesday.
2013-05-18 "Bigots in Palo Alto Moving to Ban Vehicular Sleeping"
from NOTES BY NORSE:
Palo Alto activists and supporters have successfully fought to retain the rights of Palo Alto vehicular dwellers to sleep in their vehicles on city streets--up to now. Stubborn activists like Tony Ciampi have courageously resisted police harassment, suffering physical injury, and lengthy court battles. (see "Palo Alto settles Taser suit for $35K " at [paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=22122].
Santa Cruz makes the only affordable housing many poor people have--a vehicle--criminal at night. The City specifically targets homeless people by making it difficult to park in many neighborhoods with NIMBY permit parking schemes. Under staff "guidance", City Council has also made it illegal to even be awake in your vehicle in any of the downtown parking lots (you can only park and/or retrieve your vehicle, but not sit in your car reading a book, socialize with friends, etc.).
Unofficial former police vigilantes like Lt. Joe Haebe have been seen roaming the neighborhood banging on vehicles at 4 AM. Take Back Santa Cruz-inspired thugs video "suspected" vehicles. The police have a special "snitch" line for reporting on "illegal camping." Those churches who do harbor a few vehicles (only 3 per parking lot are allowed) face neighborhood pressure to stop.
Even if you're not homeless, those who are poor and can't afford fines for driving on a suspended license or need to do so to work, can lose their vehicles as many homeless people have.
2013-05-14 "Ban on vehicle dwelling back on the table; Palo Alto committee voices support for prohibiting vehicle habitation"
by Gennady Sheyner from "Palo Alto Weekly" [paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=29631]:
After balking last year, Palo Alto is now once again pursuing a new law that would make it illegal for people to live in vehicles.
Spurred by a growing number of homeless people congregating overnight at Cubberley Community Center and insufficient support from the faith-based community, a committee of the City Council directed staff Tuesday night to draft an ordinance banning vehicle dwelling and to pursue various outreach options to help homeless people get the social services they need.
The Policy and Services Committee voted 2-1, with Chair Liz Kniss and Councilman Larry Klein supporting, Councilwoman Gail Price dissenting and Councilwoman Karen Holman absent, to resurrect the controversial vehicle-dwelling ban, which appeared to have been put to bed just last November.
With only three council members present and only two voting in support of the ban, the new prohibition is still far from a sure thing. But with complaints about vehicle dwellers on the rise, Kniss and Klein both argued that it's time for Palo Alto to join most other cities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in adopting the ban.
Staff had first proposed a prohibition on vehicle dwelling about two years ago, though officials halted the effort after a community outcry and formed a community working group to further study the issue. One idea that gained traction from the exercise was creating a program like one in Eugene, Ore., where churches let vehicle dwellers use their parking lots for shelter. But staff efforts to create a similar system in Palo Alto has fallen flat, with only one local church -- the University Lutheran Church in College Terrace -- agreeing to participate in such a program.
Palo Alto Friends Meeting, a Quaker congregation on Colorado Avenue, also expressed interest but then changed its mind after dozens of neighborhood residents submitted a petition protesting the idea of having homeless dwellers at a nearby lot. George Mills, a member of Palo Alto Friends Meeting, said the congregation "immediately felt compassionate" when the city reached out about participating in the program.
"It seemed obvious for us that living without a home should not be criminalized," Mills said.
Mills said the church had sent out notices to about 120 area residents stating its intention to participate in the process. But after a signed petition and two community meetings, the congregation decided not to follow through, he said. Residents cited everything from potential drug use to violence and mental health issues in explaining their opposition, Mills said.
"In the meetings, there was a lot of praise for our good intentions, but almost everyone who spoke thought that unfortunately our site wasn't the right one for this project," Mills said. "In short, it was NIMBY. Not here but some place else."
While the city's inability to recruit churches was one factor in reviving the ban, the evolving situation at Cubberley was another. According to staff from the Community Services, Police and Planning departments, the community center has been attracting a growing number of homeless dwellers, some of whom have been causing disturbances.
Planning Director Curtis Williams said the city has seen a "fairly significant increase in homeless dwelling in Cubberley." There are now about 20 to 30 people there every evening, he said, about five to 10 of whom are in vehicles.
"There have been more activities of concerns that have drawn police attention and required more of a police presence in Cubberley," Williams said.
Police Chief Dennis Burns said that in 2010, police had been summoned to Cubberley for complaints involving vehicle dwellers 10 times. The number went up to 16 in 2011 and to 39 last year. So far this year, police have made nine contacts with homeless dwellers at Cubberley.
Minka van der Zwaag, a manager in the city's Community Services Department, said there have been numerous incidents of drug use and fights on campus. At times, custodians had arrived to lock up rooms at Cubberley and found people inside. The city has been working with social service providers, including the Downtown Streets Team and InnVision, to provide outreach to the homeless dwellers at Cubberley, she said.
An ordinance banning vehicle dwelling would give officers a new tool to use to address complaints about disturbances at the site, Williams said.
"Enforcement is very difficult without having an ordinance," Williams said.
Not everyone was anxious to revisit the ban. Several residents urged the council not to proceed with the new ordinance and to focus instead on giving homeless dwellers the help they need. Mary Klein, a Ramona Street resident, urged the council to consider more creative solutions.
"I don't think we should feel like we're late to the party in passing an ordinance," said Mary Klein (no relation to Larry Klein). "I think we should feel some pride in that we're looking for a less draconian solution than criminalizing some fact of life that some people have been subjected to."
Brent Barker, president of the College Terrace Residents Association and member of the community group working on the issue, said the ordinance is unlikely to change the situation. Enforcement will be based on complaints, much as it is today, he said. He urged the council to consider broader solutions.
"One of the things the city should be thinking about in the long term is what is the carrying capacity that we have for dealing with this kind of a situation," Barker said. "I think the scarce resources we have should go to the bottom and let the solution come from the bottom up."
Kniss and Klein agreed that continuing outreach to the homeless is important. But they also felt it's time to revisit the proposed ban. Klein suggested that the absence of a vehicle-habitation ban may have contributed to making Palo Alto a magnet for homeless dwellers. He and Kniss both stressed that the city will continue to work with its partners in the nonprofit community to deliver services to the homeless.
"This is just one more way of handling the problem," Kniss said. "We're not turning people into criminals. I think we're giving the police a method to use for those few -- but not as few as I thought -- who are abusing the situation and are troublesome."
Price disagreed and said she's not convinced that the ordinance would accomplish much. The city's emphasis, she said, should be on education, awareness, compassion and support.
"I don't feel the ordinance is going to give us that much leverage," Price said.