Rebuttal To Jay Thorwaldson “It’s long past time to ban ‘vehicle dwelling'”

Van Dwelling

Just as Hearst fomented lies to the American people in order to garner support for a war with Spain and as journalists essentially published articles written by government staff in support of the war with Iraq, so too does the Palo Alto Weekly foment baseless arguments fanning the flames of hate and prejudices in order to seek an Unconstitutional ordinance taking away the right of some citizens to freely enjoy the public roads as all other citizens do.

Mr. Thorwaldson claims that he is not advocating driving specific residents out of Palo Alto, yet what Mr. Thorwaldson is asking the City to do, would do just that.  A person, whether by choice or other circumstance, (lost job due to the economy), finds him or herself without a cabin that has a foundation, yet he or she has a vehicle to sleep in. Should he or she sleep on the sidewalk, or should he or she sleep in his or her vehicle?

The person has a vehicle.  It is 50 degrees in January and it is raining.  The person has a choice, he or she can sleep in his or her vehicle or sleep outside exposed to the elements.  Mr. Thorwaldson and those who support his position want to pass an ordinance that would force people to sleep out in the elements rather in their vehicles.  Mr. Thorwaldson’s ordinance would force people out into the cold and rain or risk having the authorities seize their vehicles and property should they seek refuge inside their vehicles.

The result of Mr. Thorwaldson’s ordinance would result in the Unconstitutional seizure of citizens’ vehicles simply because they lack the financial resources to avoid doing so.  Mr. Thorwaldson wants to outlaw citizens because they are poor.

Mr. Thorwaldson claims that the rational for outlawing the existence some residents is that it is a quality of life issue.  Others also argue that it is a health and safety issue.  That is an interesting position, for the only difference in many of the vehicles that Mr. Thorwaldson and those like him are referring to and Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin is that the vehicles, (cabins), that Mr. Thorwaldson wants to outlaw have wheels whereas Lincoln’s cabin did not.  In fact, many of the vehicles that Mr. Thorwaldson refers to have many more amenities than Lincoln’s log cabin.

Is sleeping on the ground out in the rain a better quality of life than sleeping warm and dry in one’s mobile cabin?  Mr. Thorwaldson is correct in that the issue is about quality of life, the ordinance that Mr. Thorwaldson would like to see enacted would lower the quality of life and actually have a greater likely hood of causing health problems by forcing residents out of their abodes and into the elements.

Quality of life isn’t just about material possessions, quality of life also has to do with a person’s character and integrity and whether or not that person’s character possesses compassion and understanding coupled with wisdom and logic.  Anyone who would rather force fellow human beings out into the elements rather than allow them to take refuge in their own abode has diminished their own quality of life.

Anyone who would rather force fellow human beings out of their own abode into abodes paid for with money out of your wallet, (socialism), lacks economic wisdom and logic.  Why spend money on housing people in abodes when it is unnecessary to do so.

In actuality, Mr. Thorwaldson’s proposed ordinance would force citizens to pay for the housing of other citizens through the criminal justice industry, (jail), or the poverty industry, (shelter), simply because he doesn’t want to look at the citizens that his proposed ordinance would effect.

Mr. Thorwaldson’s ordinance has everything to do with physical appearance and very little to do with content of character, yet if Mr. Thorwaldson’s ordinance targeted people because of the color of their skin, black, or people’s religious nationality, Jewish, I have to believe that Mr. Thorwaldson would be summarily rebuked by the community.

Any person who gives money to help economically challenged people in other nations, “Whole Foods’ Feed 100 Program” yet turns around and oppresses economically challenged people in their own community contradicts the integrity of their value to be compassionate to their fellow human being.

If Lincoln were alive today and Mr. Thorwaldson and those like him were to have their way, they would outlaw the existence of one of America’s greatest Presidents.  Yet perhaps Mr. Thorwaldson and those who view life from the same perspective would want to outlaw the 16th President of the United States of America just as the Southern Confederacy would have done, for Mr. Thorwaldson’s ordinance isn’t about judging people’s character but it is about judging and penalizing people based upon their physical appearance.

When Mr. Thorwaldson brings up the fact that the City has been looking at the issue of people sleeping in their vehicles as far back as two decades, Mr. Thorwaldson essentially acknowledges that the issue is not a problem, for if it truly were a problem about health and safety the City would have taken action a long time ago.  There are already laws against disturbing the peace and littering and those laws are enforced upon all citizens whether they happen to be sleeping in a small metal box or a large wooden one.

In the end it is quite clear that the City cannot pass an ordinance against sitting in one’s vehicle on a public street, because then all citizens would be in violation of the ordinance.

The City cannot pass an ordinance about what kinds of belongings people can place in their vehicles, for again, all citizens would be in violation of the ordinance for there is nothing inside the vehicles of those who sleep in them that is not common to what all citizens bring home from various stores and while going camping or skiing or vacationing themselves.

At the core of any ordinance that the City would enact would be whether or not a person closed his or her eyes.  A citizen can sit in his/her car at 3:00 in morning or 3:00 in the afternoon, but as soon as that citizen closes his or her eyes, that citizen would be in violation of any proposed “vehicle-sleeping” ordinance.  Since it is not unlawful to park one’s vehicle on the public street and sit in one’s vehicle on a public street, the ordinance would actually prohibit sleeping.

Mr. Thorwaldson claims that he doesn’t intend to drive economically challenged residents out of Palo Alto, yet it is quite clear what his proposed ordinance would accomplish should it ever be enacted, it would deny people sleep and then take away their vehicles and property for attempting to do so simply because they sleep in a mobile dwelling as apposed to a dwelling that has a fixed foundation.

Just as Prop 8 denied equal protection of the law to a small minority of California Citizens according to Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, any municipality that would pass an ordinance that would deny people sleep under the threat of having their property seized for doing so is a violation of their right to equal protection of the law and blatantly contrary to the rights secured to all citizens by the United States and California Constitutions.

On its face Mr. Thorwaldson’s ordinance would deny American Citizens freedom.  Mr. Thorwaldson wants to deny some American Citizens the freedom to exist in society simply because they do not possess the financial resources and material possessions that would be required to avoid violating Mr. Thorwaldson’s ordinance.

“Law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”

Thomas Jefferson

Fortunately the majority of Americans do not believe as Mr. Thorwaldson does.  Unfortunately, a small minority of Americans enacts the laws, which affect all Americans.

“Injustice fights with two weapons, force and fraud..  A common form of injustice is chicanery, that is, an over-subtle, in fact a fraudulent construction of the law.”

Cicero – On Moral Duties

If it were not for their parents, or some kind of support system, 20,000,000 adults between that ages of 18 to 34 would be living in their cars due to the current economic recession.

Editorial: It’s long past time to ban ‘vehicle dwelling’

Palo Alto needs to separate, prioritize issues to protect neighborhoods from intrusions, old vans and clutter, or worse

Email Comments:

August 10, 2010

To the Honorable City Council of Palo Alto, City Manager Jim Keene and City Attorney Gary Baum,

My vehicle, license plate 1lmr274, has been tagged with another tow warning.  I do not have a problem with the placing of the 72 hour notice for violating Municipal Code 10.36.30, however the warning also states that I am violating California Vehicle Codes 22523(a) and 22523(b) which means that my vehicle is subject to immediate tow without any further warning.  As I have previously informed you, my vehicle is not abandoned.

Since my vehicle is not abandoned, your seizure of my vehicle would be a violation of the law and Constitution.  Please inform the Police Department to not cite me for violating California Vehicle Codes 22523(a) and 22523(b).  Officer “03840” informed me that my vehicle was reported as being abandoned.  Whoever made the report with the police department made a false report.

I will be in the Police Department tomorrow or the next day seeking a copy of the report in order to find out who made the false police report.

Should the police department cite me in the future for violating California Vehicle Codes 22523(a) and 22523(b) I will consider it not just an Unconstitutional threat to seize my vehicle, but the actual seizure of my vehicle since I would not be able to leave my vehicle unattended for five minutes without the possibility of the police department seizing it and as such I would essentially be confined to to my vehicle indefinitely in order to ensure that the police department would not impound my vehicle.

Tony Ciampi

P.O. Box 1681
Palo Alto, Ca 94302

Response to alleged phone call to PA police by editor Jay Thorwaldson Editor Palo Alto Weekly

August 10, 2010

Hi all —

FYI, I did not call in any parked vehicle. I don’t even know where it was parked. I don’t mind the (somewhat immature) name calling, but for someone who professes to value the truth it would be nice if more of it were showing in the posts, not surmises/beliefs/speculations.

Best regards,


Jay Thorwaldson
Palo Alto Weekly

August 11, 2010 (Aram James)

I think you can skip Judge Judy– the court of pubic opinion already has Jay’s number. Remember his unsupported attacks on those in the community who opposed Tasers? As my dad often said about folks like Jay …”some people prefer not to be disturbed by the facts.” Jay suffers from a serious case of this syndrome.

Best regards,


Originally Published on: Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:06

8 Replies to “Rebuttal To Jay Thorwaldson “It’s long past time to ban ‘vehicle dwelling'””

  1. You should notice in the Palo Alto Weekly article that Philip Dah is made to look “compassionate” about homeless vehicle dwellers – yet in all his years as operational director of the Homeless Asylum on Encina Street he has never come out against the “No Overnight Parking” signs in front of the building. He has never opened up the common facilities after 4pm which could have been used by a lot of homeless people, and most if not all monetary donations to the so-called Opportunity Center go into salaries, not to the poor and oppressed.

    1. Jay Thorwaldson and Tony Ciampi have expressed their responses to the proposed City of Palo Alto ban on people living in their vehicles. Here is mine. I have been homeless in Palo Alto for two years. Most of that time I’ve been living in my car. I came here to see my grandchildren but have not found work that affords me a place to sleep. I have strong feelings in support of the right of people to live in their vehicles.

      Have those in opposition to vehicular habitation got any alternatives? Would it be better if we slept on the street?

      As far as I’m concerned it is a great tribute to the generous spirit of the people of Palo Alto that alone among Peninsula cities it allows people to live in their vehicles. And didn’t Jesus Christ say, “As you do to the least of your brethern, you do unto Me”?

      Some of us live in vehicles so we can use our “rent” money to pay for our kids’ college tuition. Some are former Silicon Valley workers who used to live in residences not far from where they now park and sleep. Some are veterans who gave their all and now can’t come in from the cold. Yes, there are ex-cons, drunks, thieves, and many who talk to themselves out loud. Do you know any segment of society immune to those labels? There are also some great characters. We all have stories.

      What opponents to us vehicle-campers forget is that they can’t distance themselves from such a fate by making us disappear. They don’t want to be us, so they seek to ban us. They don’t realize that they ARE us, only not yet. This economic downturn has not finished rolling over us and pushing us out of our homes and jobs. Unfortunately, we have a lot to teach to those still sheltered. We used to be sheltered and now have learned how to do without it. We’ve learned lessons unnecessary since the Great Depression. In many cases, we are pioneering the life that those who now would drive us out will someday lead themselves.

      When your money runs out, housing is the biggest expense you can save money on. Living in a vehicle is not as expensive as paying rent or mortgage, and better than living in your storage locker.

      Homeless provide some degree of social organization, protection, and early warning to the City. I recall a year ago when a front page story in The Daily Post told about a fire one night at Cubberley in the temporary Palo Alto Library that was housed there at that time. One of the firemen in the article said there would have been at least $40,000 more damage had Andre Belton, a homeless man who sleeps on the Cubberley campus, not called in an alarm as early as he did. I call that karma. Palo Alto allows homeless camping out of generosity and in return receives a money-saving early warning system.

      People talk about “the problem with the homeless” and then they go on to mention outdoor defecation and urination, drug use, degradation of property values, and/or other complaints. There are so many things wrong with the phrase “problem with the homeless” that I can only mention a few right now.

      For one thing, there is not a unitary group who can be called “homeless.” Indeed, the word didn’t exist until the Reagan administration when the Department of Housing and Urban Development needed a name for diverse groups of people unrelated except by a lack of conventional housing.

      People lived in shanties and shacks by the railroad tracks called Hoovervilles in the Great Depression. Now veterans, formerly institutionalized mental patients, economic casualties of this multi-decade transfer of wealth from poor and middle class to the rich, runaways, escapees from abusive relationships, and elders rejected by their families make up “the homeless.”

      Did you know there are elders rejected by the children who are lucky enough to live in nice homes because of the educations we gave them? Like too many of our children they were born on third base and think they hit a triple.

      They (you) didn’t hit a triple–they were fortunate enough to be the beneficiaries of the work, discoveries, inventions, sacrifices, and efforts of parents, grandparents, and ancestors going back before there was dirt. None of us invented cars. Yet we all benefit from them. We should feel grateful, not entitled. That is a false feeling that leads to faulty thinking and faulty decisions.

      “Homeless” is not even a good word. As one prominent member of Palo Alto’s community reminds us–“unsheltered” is a better word than “homeless.”

      Palo Alto has great programs, generous meals at local churches, and, in general, people who dispense great kindness to the homeless. It is a unique and wonderful city. It would truly be a tragedy for Palo Alto to impose this unnecessarily cruel, and all too usual, punishment–banning those of us who sleep in our vehicular homes from continuing to doing so.

      The homeless are not some foreign plague that people can defend themselves from—the homeless are us–further along the economic downslide we are all caught in, older than we are now, our fathers and mothers, and, sadly, sometimes our children. Don’t turn your back on them. They are you. We are you.


      Chuck Jagoda


      3790 El Camino Real, #329

      Palo Alto, CA 94306

  2. 7/14/2011

    Hi Molly (Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump):

    Thanks so much for returning my phone call this afternoon; it was good to speak with you. As promised, here is my CPRA request. Essentially I am requesting the entire paper trail–start to finish–of any and all documents relating to the initiation–and subsequent discussions–re the current proposal to ban people from living in their vehicles in the city Palo Alto (see below this request a copy of said proposed ordinance).

    If you decide that my request lacks focus and or the necessary specificity needed for your response I would be delighted if you would contact me ASAP–to remedy this issue. I will do whatever I can to assist in making certain that this CPRA request is as narrowly focused on the relevant issues as possible. I have no intention of making this CPRA overly burdensome on you– or your staff– in these times of limited resources. It is with this in mind that I make the current CPRA request.

    (1) Pursuant to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) I am requesting any and all documents ( the entire paper trail), e-mails, copies of snail mail, etc., re the party or parties (person) or (persons), (organization) or (organizations) or other entities— that requested drafting of the below proposed ordinance.

    (2) Any and all other documents–no matter how memorialized, touching on or relevant to this current issue.


    Aram James

    State-bar # 80215

    (415) 370-5056


    110518 dm 0120511 1

    Ordinance No. ____

    Ordinance of the Council of the City of Palo Alto Adding Section 9.06.010 (Human Habitation of Vehicles) to the Palo Alto Municipal Code The Council of the City of Palo Alto does ORDAIN as follows:

    SECTION 1. The Council hereby finds that the following addition to Title 9 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code (Public Peace, Morals and Safety) is in the interest of public health, safety and welfare.
    SECTION 2. Chapter 9.06 of Title 9 (Human Habitation of Vehicles) of the Palo

    Alto Municipal Code is hereby added to read as follows:
    Chapter 9.06


    9.06.010 Human Habitation of Vehicles Prohibited
    (a) It is unlawful for any person to use, occupy or permit the use or occupancy of any vehicle for human habitation on or in any street, park, alley, public parking lot or other public way. For purposes of this section, “human habitation” means the use of a vehicle for a dwelling place and does not include temporary use of a vehicle for alleviation of sickness or physical inability to operate the vehicle.

    (b) The following uses are exempt from the provisions of this section:

    (1) Any mobile living unit used for human habitation allowed by another provision of this code or required procedure of the city;

    (2) Guests of city residents for up to forty-eight consecutive hours when parked adjacent to the resident’s dwelling.

    Report Objectionable Content

    1. Breaking News. The Vehicle Habitation Ordinance vote which was originally scheduled for July 25, 2011 has been delayed until Sept 12th having been confirmed by the Director of Planning and Community Environment, Curtis Williams.

      For many in the greater Palo Alto community this can be best described as music to our ears. Your collective community voices were clearly heard during Monday nights city council meeting. Retired Defense attorney Aram James commented and reacted by way of email when he heard the news….”This is an extraordinary first result!”

      Should you wish or require further information Mr. Curtis Williams will be more than happy to answer your community questions and concerns. He may be reached at: or you may reach him at 650.329.2321. We all thank you Mr. Williams

  3. July, 20, 2011

    To: Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump

    From: Aram James

    Re: Issues to consider re why the city should reject the proposed ordinance banning people from living in their vehicles

    (1) When you have a few free minutes I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the implications of the city actually moving forward with this ordinance—in light of the pending judicial crisis (budget issues) — and in light of the very strong likelihood that potential defendants charged with violating this ordinance will assert their right to a jury trial and their right to be represented by appointed counsel.

    (2) My experience as a many year –now retired –public defender–is that trying such cases to a jury will be complicated, time consuming and very expensive. In my view cases involving the assertion of the “Defense of Necessity” are often mishandled by trial judges—(who seem to frequently misconstrue the legal elements/standards necessary to assert the defense –along with misconstruing the evidentiary showing necessary to allow the defense to go to a jury). As a result time consuming appeals, writs of habeas corpus, etc., are almost predictable.

    (3) In addition –cases of this sort—will draw much public attention to Palo Alto—and I predict—juries and the criminal justice system at large –will be hostile to prosecutions of this type. This is particularly so if juries understand that the city had less restrictive ways to handle the underlying issues of poverty and homelessness—and instead decided to use–or from my perspective misuse–the criminal justice system to criminalize conduct that that could have and should have been dealt with from a restorative justice perspective.

    (4) I believe a careful reading of the case law re the application of the “defense of necessity” will support my contention that these cases are eminently defensible and very costly to the city and the judicial system.

    (5) Bottom line: Juries have a long time honored history of refusing to enforce morally indefensible laws—this proposed law –banning often hard working, but down on their luck—folks/people/citizens from sleeping in their vehicles – is just that type of law—one that citizen abolitionists and others–called upon to sit on a jury—will reject with the words, “Not Guilty.”

    (6) If I can provide other legal citations re the “defense of necessity” or related issues please let me know.

    (7) Finally, at least for now—even if a judge refused to allow a “defense of necessity” to go to a jury—cases of this sort —always have the unspoken back-up defense of jury nullification:

    (8) Here is the text from a poster I co-produced (2004) on the subject of Jury Nullification. The piece is titled: Justice Trumps Bad Law and reads as follows: “Based on the knowledge that kings and governments often pass oppressive laws, the Founding Fathers designed our Constitution to ensure that the final say as to whether a particular law is just always rests with the jury.

    The Jury is the conscience of the community and may reach a verdict of “not guilty” even when it finds the defendant has committed a crime, but concludes the law is immoral or unjust. This is known as the power of jury nullification. History is full of heroic examples of jurors refusing to enforce bad laws. Before the abolition of slavery, jurors routinely acquitted those assisting runaway slaves, thereby nullifying the unjust Fugitive Slave law. Similarly, jurors found striking workers “not guilty’ when striking was against the law.

    Current day juries, recognizing their constitutional power to nullify, are standing up to judges by saying “not guilty” to nonviolent drug offenses, acts of civil disobedience and a variety of unjust laws. Ironically, today, if you advise the judge of your knowledge of jury nullification and express a willingness to apply it, you will not be allowed to sit on a jury. So what do you say to the judge? Very little.


    Aram James

  4. I live in San Francisco and am currently researching the Palo Alto ban on human habitation in vehicles and the recent CA Court of Appeals case which deemed it unconstitutional.

    I found the PAFP article entitled “U.S. Appeals Court Rules Palo Alto’s Vehicle Habitation Ban Unconstitutional” from Feb. 8, 2012, but the author did not include a citation to the case, and I can’t seem to find it online. Does anyone have a citation for this case?

    You can email me directly at LASTWORLDHOPE(AT)YAHOO.COM

    Many thanks.


  5. Thank You Tony!

    I’m so grateful that you have the freedom, passion and more to speak your mind on this issue! I sincerely applaud your perceptions, insights and articulation!

    I’d like to add a cutting edge to this. I’d like it to be sharp enough to cut the city’s legal presumptive standing right above the knees.

    Any natural born American who “parks” them self anywhere in any of the fifty states, except on someone else’s private property or on federally-owned lands, is what is known as a “free-inhabitant”. Get a copy of “United States Code 2006 Edition”. Turn to the title page and read: “Organic Laws”. Turn two pages and under the “contents” see “Organic Laws Of The United States” and that they consist of four documents: Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Ordinance of 1787: The Northwest Territorial Government and Constitution of the United States of America.

    These Four Organic Laws are the foundation of all Law throughout “The United States of America” just as it is printed starting on page XLIII. You can find the “free inhabitant” on XLIX in Article IV. You will then also read that in order for the free inhabitant to be subject under the jurisdiction of the State they must be “guilty of, or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor …”. Sleeping in one’s own property (regardless of what that piece of property may be) does not qualify one to be subject the State’s jurisdiction! Any citation issued to a free inhabitant under “color of law” can and should be “refused for cause”.

    Anyone free inhabitant who is falsely arrested and brought into the city’s court can declare they do not recognize each and every one of the agent/actors in that court and leave. To every apparently “shelter-less” free-inhabitant individual: Know your lawful standing and stand tall! The City requires your consent and you are Lawfully free not to give it! Refuse to consent from the onset.

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