Church Receives City Blessing for ‘Safe Parking’ Program | New

Palo Alto’s First Congregational Church got the go-ahead Monday to launch a “secure parking” program for homeless people after the city council rejected an appeal from church neighbors.

The council voted 5-2, with Vice Mayor Lydia Kou and council member Greg Tanaka dissenting, to reaffirm the Department of Planning and Community Environment’s decision to approve the program. This decision was appealed by a group of neighbours, some of whom attended the meeting and argued that the program would pose a safety hazard to the area around the church.

“I don’t think it’s safe for our kids to bring in people who haven’t been properly vetted,” said Randy Stolenberg, who lives near the church.

But most of the nearly 20 residents who addressed the council urged members to approve the scheme without further delay. Many pushed back against callers’ suggestions that homeless people are more prone to crime than other residents.

“Housing is a human right and while this effort will not provide real housing, because we can still do better on this, it is a start and the bare minimum of what we can do to protect and ensure the right to dignity for everyone in our community,” said Anna Toledano, a city resident who is working on a doctorate at Stanford University. it is an evil or a danger. In fact, vehicle occupants are at significant risk of becoming victims of crime themselves.”

With the council’s blessing, First Congregational Church will be able to roll out the program in a small parking lot that faces Embarcadero Road. Participants will be allowed to park there between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and will receive case management from Move Mountain View, a nonprofit that runs similar programs in Mountain View and two other Palo Alto courses.

Todor Ganev, who lives near the church and appealed, pushed back against some speakers’ characterization that he and other critics of the program are “NIMBYs” who don’t care about the homeless. Ganev, who lives on Embarcadero, argued in the appeal that parking spaces should be moved to the main church grounds along Louis Road.

“We want to work together,” Ganev said on Monday. “We want to make sure we have a reasonable compromise and an acceptable solution. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and our concerns were all but ignored.”

Church officials had told The Weekly they felt the backyard was more suitable because it provides a quieter, more secluded space for program participants. The church also plans to install a portable bathroom next to the parking spaces.

The Rev. Eileen Altman, the church’s associate pastor, said the church held many meetings with neighbors and made many compromises before submitting its application. She urged the board to keep the appeal on its “consent schedule,” a list of items that are approved by a single vote and with minimal discussion.

“We are convinced, along with city staff, that where we landed is the best place to house safe parking and we encourage you to approve it as part of your consent program tonight,” said Altman said.

Ganev and other opponents have asked the board to withdraw the consent appeal and schedule a full public hearing on the church’s request. But because this action requires three voices, Kou and Tanaka lost one voice to keep the call alive.

“For something that has so much passion, so much interest, there should have been more discussion about it,” Tanaka said, explaining his vote.

Kou, co-author of the memo that led to the establishment of secure parking programs, said she was disappointed with the acrimony the program generated and lamented that the city did not could propose a regulatory framework for the program of the church. that would have satisfied all parties.

“There are a lot of nasty things that were said tonight and it’s a shame it’s so divisive and putting one (neighbor) against the other when we’re all trying to do the right thing,” said Kou.

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