No Living in a Van by the River in Palo Alto

"And don't even get me started on how ugly their cars are, am I right?"Credit: Don Hankins / Foter / CC BYSome residents in Palo Alto, Calif., (population about 65,000, median income about $118,000 in 2009) really don’t like have folks living in their cars in their city, so Monday night its City Council — all the while claiming they care about the homeless, they really, really do — banned it. Courtesy of the Daily News:

At a meeting punctuated by emotional cries for compassion, the Palo Alto City Council voted late Monday night to pass an ordinance that would make it illegal for people to use their cars as dwellings.

Diane Jones choked back tears as she told council members that she only recently became homeless and couldn't afford to put a roof over her son's head with the monthly $1,200 disability benefit she receives.

"Me and my son live in a car and we're not bad people. I'm so afraid what will happen if we lose that," said Jones.

"I'm begging you to just please have a heart," she added to thunderous applause from a packed council chambers.

Nuts to her! They voted for it anyway, while claiming to have to do a “balancing act” of caring about the homeless versus caring about the “safety” of people in the community who, one council member says, “have told us they are uncomfortable with the situation that we now find ourselves in.”

But that’s okay. Even though they passed the law, they really, really don’t want to have to enforce it:

According to a city staff report, the ordinance would be rolled out over a six-month period, focus on connecting offenders with social services and be enforced on a complaint-only basis.

The estimated 30 to 50 people who live in their cars in Palo Alto could potentially be charged with a misdemeanor and face a maximum penalty of six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both. City officials, however, stressed that the legal system would only be used as a last resort.

"I believe that this is an appropriate action at this moment with the proviso that we will be looking at the next steps and looking at resources and productive ways of addressing this problem," said Council Member Gail Price.

I’m fascinated when legislative bodies pass laws and then think they’ll actually be able to control how they’re enforced after the fact. Is Price going to be showing up at these vehicles with the cops to listen to these homeless people’s stories to help decide what to do? Will she be in court to request the judge not to sentence Jones to six months in jail? No, of course not. If you don’t want to send a homeless person to jail for six months for being homeless, then perhaps don’t pass a law that allows it to happen?

It’s all just lip service anyway. The whole deal is because Palo Alto is one of the only communities in that area that hasn’t already banned living in a vehicle. So, obviously, what was going to happen is that any homeless person who has a vehicle in the area is going to end up there. And that’s what residents don’t like:

Barron Park resident Bob Moss, who was among the 50-plus people who addressed the city council about the ordinance, said most of Palo Alto's vehicle dwellers are "perfectly normal," but as their numbers have increased at Cubberley, so has the percentage of "weirdoes."

"They're not the kind of people you want to have living in your neighborhood," Moss said.

Maybe they should pass a law against being a “weirdo.”

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  • Jon Lester||

    I'm glad it's still legal to sleep in my vehicle here in Athens, because it's often necessary after a night on the town.

    As for Palo Alto, can't they give these people credit for having a car to sleep in?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Sort of a tough libertarian nut to crack, though, what with the fact the cars are more than likely parked on public property.

  • Almanian!||

    ROADZ!!!1!

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    The existence of public property is a tough nut to crack for libertarianism, not what people do on public property if it exists.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The estimated 30 to 50 people who live in their cars in Palo Alto could potentially be charged with a misdemeanor and face a maximum penalty of six months in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

    Bingo! Roof over their heads for six months. Problem solved!

  • ||

    That's what I was gonna say. Except the kids would probably be put in foster homes, leading to their eventual death.

  • Almanian!||

    So everybody wins!

    Oh, wait...

  • Diane Jones||

    And what about my kid in jail hmmmm? We are disabled not criminals.

  • Eitan||

    That's my city :-D

  • Nazdrakke||

    and couldn't afford to put a roof over her son's head with the monthly $1,200 disability benefit she receives

    Bullshit. If you get 1200 a month and are living in a car your problem isn't homelessness it's either addiction, mental illness, or abject stupidity.

  • Jon Lester||

    Without taking away from the main point of the story, I do believe that I would put some of that $1200 towards a tank of gas and renting a post office box in another city. I don't know what Palo Alto rents are, but I have looked up rents in the nicer parts of Oakland in the past year, and found plenty of places where $1200/mo would cover rent and a frugal lifestyle.

  • Sevo||

    ..."I have looked up rents in the nicer parts of Oakland in the past year, and found plenty of places where $1200/mo would cover rent and a frugal lifestyle."

    As regards living in a car, it's none of my business.
    But PA is prolly one of the most expensive cities in the Bay Area. Even that true Scottsman wouldn't claim you get to live where you can't afford.

  • doorcheese||

    "prolly"? Sevo must be a fine example of the public school system...and unable to locate spell check on your computer.

  • Agammamon||

    I'd have to agree. Not that I particularly want her to come here but, When I first came to Yuma (as my last duty station in the Navy) I went on Craigslist and rented a room in a house for $300 a month - utilities and internet included. I shared a 4 bedroom house with 1-2 other people who had completely different work schedules than I. It was almost like having the place to myself 2/3 of the time.

    Apartments out here rent for $450 for a single bedroom.

    I mean, its not like she's got a job keeping her in CA is it?

  • Agammamon||

    As a matter of fact, that 4 bedroom I lived in - the guy who owned it had a $900 mortgage payment and he bought it at the *top* of the real estate boom.

    1300-1500 sqft are going for around $90k now.

  • ||

    It's possible she's trying to get a job and get off disability.

    If I was homeless and living in my car, I would probably drive it to some place where the economy is booming and look for work.

  • ||

    As a side note, where the fuck is CPS? They take kids away from people who smoke weed, but a disabled homeless woman living in her car? Pfft...

    Not that I'm saying they should take her kid away, I'm just noting the ridiculous discrepancy.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Budget restraints.

  • Dweebston||

    They haven't got an address for her, so nowhere to bust down the door and forcibly abduct the child from the arms of his crying mother. Robs it of any fun they might have storming the place.

  • Diane Jones||

    I have been living & working in the Bay Area for 27 years. Rentals cost on average 1600 plus to rent here in the Bay Area. And that is cheap.

    Math lesson:
    3 times the amount of monthly rent to income qualify for most rentals.

    Good credit and no evictions

    Most humans do not want a kid and a women renting a room (believe me I have tried).

  • feudalserf||

    yeah, pretty much any sympathy i had for these people left when I read that

  • Diane Jones||

    I suffer a mental illness due to mold exposure from an apartment. My son and I have been sick for years and the social services do not offer any help. We have been on every help list for years. Ask me any questions and I hope to help you grow some understanding and compassion. Internet is free here so ask away.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    According to a city staff report, the ordinance would be rolled out over a six-month period, focus on connecting offenders with social services and be enforced on a complaint-only basis.

    Not a chance that the cops are just going tap the windshield, order you out of your car and haul you off.

    No siree.

  • Almanian!||

    Like that's ever happened. Sheesh.

  • Atanarjuat||

    ...then tow your car to the county impound lot and sell it at auction.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    Free country my ass.

  • R C Dean||

    be enforced on a complaint-only basis

    Is that in the ordinance? I didn't think so.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Law enforcement can complain, too.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Of course, any contact with police will result in impounding the car. Since they're homeless, these folks won't have the $400 to get the car out of the police lot. So this law will take away their shelter, and most of their personal property, too.

    Nice job, Palo Alto.

    And progressives say libertarians lack empathy.

  • ||

    They have empathy as long as they can get somebody else to pay for it. If they have to pay for (for instance, by having homeless people around town), the empathy is *poof* gone. Simple!

  • ||

    They've always been NIMBYs. They want "clean" power, but none of those unsightly windmills or hydroelectric dams or solar farms near their house. They want homeless shelters so long as they're on the far side of town.

  • Loki||

    Since they're homeless, these folks won't have the $400 to get the car out of the police lot.

    And doesn't that mean that the cops gets to sell it a police auction eventually? So they get the $1000 fine, and whatever money they get for the car at the auction. Nice little racket they've set up there. Way to go, Palo Alto prog-tards. Bra-fucking-o. *sarcastic slowcap*

  • Paul.||

    all the while claiming they care about the homeless, they really, really do — banned it.

    Ahem... caring about the homeless, and inconveniencing your white, progressive constituency to do something about it is... well, let's just say those incumbents don't reelect themselves.

  • Radioactive||

    how do you know they're white...you f'ing racist

  • Paul.||

    According to a city staff report, the ordinance would be rolled out over a six-month period, focus on connecting offenders with social services and be enforced on a complaint-only basis.

    See? Case by case basis! What does reason have against reasonable governance?!

  • Loki||

    people in the community who, one council member says, “have told us they are uncomfortable with the situation that we now find ourselves in.”

    Palo Alto is one of those northern CA cities full of limousine liberal type progtards. More than even most progressives, for them, being a "progressive" is more about brand image and feeling smugly superior to all those bitter clingers in flyover country all while loudly proclaiming that they "care" so much about the less fortunate... just as long as they don't have to actually see or be around any of them. Afterall, that's what the government is for: caring for the homeless with other people's money so that they don't have to.

    focus on connecting offenders with social services

    See what I mean about using other people's money so that they don't have to do shit other than just sit there feeling smug?

    Maybe they should pass a law against being a “weirdo.”

    Don't give them any ideas.

  • Paul.||

    Maybe they should pass a law against being a “weirdo.”
    Don't give them any ideas.

    Just define weirdo down a bit. Done and done.

  • Atanarjuat||

    "weirdo" = person who progressives find icky, obviously. The artsy hipster types who go to bad rock shows at hole-in-the-wall clubs downtown aren't weirdos, they're trendy and quirky. Like Fluffy said, the hipsters and limousine liberals probably shop at the same Whole Foods, but the people living in their cars shop at gas stations.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Those progressive fuckheads would have to be arrested.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    "Barron Park resident Bob Moss, who was among the 50-plus people who addressed the city council about the ordinance, said most of Palo Alto's vehicle dwellers are "perfectly normal," but as their numbers have increased at Cubberley, so has the percentage of "weirdoes."

    "They're not the kind of people you want to have living in your neighborhood," Moss said."

    I googled "Bob Moss Barron Park". I wouldn't want to live in a neighborhood with this ass clown.

    http://www.queeg.com/bobmoss/hell-raiser.pdf

    http://www.mercurynews.com/peninsula/ci_17926688

    He's an old fucking crank, who even as a young man, was an old fucking crank.

  • A Serious Man||

    Luckily he's not actually on the city council, he might try to ban dancing or something.

  • Robert||

    In other words, he's like us.

    Cute javascript comments in that 2nd one.

  • Brandybuck||

    Diane Jones choked back tears as she told council members that she only recently became homeless and couldn't afford to put a roof over her son's head with the monthly $1,200 disability benefit she receives.


    She's right. At only $1200 a month you cannot live in Palo Alto. But it would make a decent living elsewhere. Here's a cluestick to the homeless in Palo Alto: Get the hell out of Palo Alto. Ditto for those of you homeless dudes in San Francisco and the Berkeley/Oakland singularity.

    Why the hell do homeless people gravitate to the most expensive places to live in the US?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    White/liberal guilt means the begging is easier. If you are homeless, wouldn't you want to be in a safe neighborhood, where people have spare money to give you? That's why Santa Monica is "The Home of the Homeless". Being homeless in Compton however will most likely get you robbed, beaten, and killed. And nobody has spare cash to give you anyways; they're poor too!

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    I sincerely doubt that Palo Alto liberals are more giving than average people, even adjusting for their incomes.

    Unless, of course, they can give someone else's money.

  • ||

    Generally, that's where the jobs are.

    Even if you don't work in the tech sector the wealth and income of the people who live there means there's a large service sector. And California is pretty congested, so living in the burbs and commuting is not a desirable option.

  • John C. Randolph||

    They gravitate to San Francisco because the handouts are better than most other places. There was a news story a few years ago about somebody commuting from Sacramento once a month to collect San Francisco welfare.

    -jcr

  • Diane Jones||

    This is Diane Jones:

    I married in Palo Alto, worked and lived in Palo Alto and then I became disabled due to mold exposure and my son very sick. My 1200 does not get us anywhere in this country. I lived here in the Bay Area for 27 years. I used to earn a very good living. Grow some compassion and basic math skills.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    I know of a trailer park up north where living in a car is accepted.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Yes, yes. A trailer park up north where the cats roam freely, and the rum & cokes flow more freely.

  • ||

    You know what would really help? If they made it legal to build housing.

    Doesn't Palo Alto have some kind ordinance against high-rise apartment complexes and such?
    For such a high cost of living area, you would think that the obvious thing to do would be allow people to fit more housing into a smaller area.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    As a matter of fact Hazel, the gentleman referenced in the article, Bob Moss, was instrumental in stopping some apartment developments. Now, he wants the homeless out of town. Go figure.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    It's Bob Moss's world. We just live in it.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    What a dump!

  • John C. Randolph||

    Local governments in the bay area are very hostile to new construction, and they'd have a conniption at the idea of knocking down ten $1.4 million houses to make room for a 40-unit apartment building.

    Low cost housing is a massive problem here, and just like anywhere else, government is the cause of the problem.

    -jcr

  • Bob J||

  • Dweebston||

    Make your social programs irresistible, you've got a population of willful dependents. Make them inescapable, you've a population of permanently indentured payers. Make them a legal mandate, and you sweep up the dregs.

    Well done, Palo Alto.

  • MappRapp||

    I dont think jack flack is going to like that.!

    www.Mega-Anon.tk

  • Ted S.||

    Is living in a box still legal?

  • Diane Jones||

    Only if it says McDonalds on it.

  • KPres||

    "They're not the kind of people you want to have living in your neighborhood," Moss said.

    Therein lies the problem. It's not your neighborhood. It doesn't belong to you. It's just the neighborhood you live in.

  • ||

    We do care about poor people. But, we didn't buy our $1.5 million houses, just to have to see them in cars on our way to work.

    They need to go visit social services, or something, somewhere else, where we take care of them. Over where that is. Not where we live. They don't belong here.

    /Palo Alto liberal

  • setTHEline||

    "have told us they are uncomfortable with the situation that we now find ourselves in.”

    Uh, okay. Sorry that you're uncomfortable with someone else having to sleep in their car. That must be difficult for you to deal with. How rude of them to put you in that position.

  • Luddite||

    Barron Park resident Bob Moss, who was among the 50-plus people who addressed the city council about the ordinance, said most of Palo Alto's vehicle dwellers are "perfectly normal," but as their numbers have increased at Cubberley, so has the percentage of "weirdoes."

    "They're not the kind of people you want to have living in your neighborhood," Moss said.

    I think this fella needs a "jump to conclusions" mat.

  • Luddite||

    Barron Park resident Bob Moss, who was among the 50-plus people who addressed the city council about the ordinance, said most of Palo Alto's vehicle dwellers are "perfectly normal," but as their numbers have increased at Cubberley, so has the percentage of "weirdoes."

    "They're not the kind of people you want to have living in your neighborhood," Moss said.

    I think this fella needs a "jump to conclusions" mat.

  • doorcheese||

    Simple solution...Drive across the street to the city of East Palo Alto. Problem solved

  • creech||

    Absolutely shocking to learn that the monocle-wearing, teabagging, wacko-bird Libertarians had taken over Palo Alto City Council.
    Why isn't Reason letting us know when this kind of good news is happening?

  • Missy||

    I live in Palo Alto and they won't be able to enforce this. The town is broke from the billion dollar entity Stanford not paying any taxes and from the majority of homeowners who are paying taxes on what their house was worth in the 1970s. Compare Palo Alto's tax revenue to next door Mountain View's. Both towns are the same population and land area. Palo Alto can only afford to have 3 cops out at night whereas Mountain View has 20 on patrol. After my car was broken into the cop actually told me Mountain View was a much safer place since they can afford to patrol it. Palo Alto is a dump pretending to be a great place to live. Don't believe the hype.

  • Navilor||

    How noble the law, in its majestic equality, that both the rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing bread. - Anatole France

  • Diane Jones||

    WE ARE ALL PRISONERS OF HOPE

    Diane Elizabeth Jones

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