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

Last week,Palo Alto City Council voted to begin the Santa Cruz tradition of banning overnight parking ( ).   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 (  ).

Please e-mail the Palo Alto City Council at   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 .

The staff report on the new “no homeless” hours for three Community Centers is at  .  


Palo Alto City Council to declare “de facto” martial law hours on the homeless

by  • August 14, 2013

De facto homeless lawsPalo 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.
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.

Policing the the homeless in Palo Alto Policing the the homeless costs in Palo Alto to skyrocket

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.”

Two Comments:

Tony Ciampi August 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm
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:

Anonymous  August 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm

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.
tsk tsk…

Ordinance that would displace homeless at Cubberley headed to Palo Alto City Council

By Jason Green
Daily News Staff Writer

Posted:   08/16/2013 10:38:05 PM PDT | Updated:   about 12 hours ago



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.
Email Jason Green at; follow him at

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.