A critical piece of Palo Alto history that should not be forgotten

The criminal case against Palo Alto officers Craig Lee and Michael Kan

May 3, 2005

Dear Mr. George Kennedy & Ms. Karyn Sinunu:

I am writing to you to request that your office retry the criminal case against Palo Alto police officers Michael Kan and Craig Lee. I would like to make some observations and comments regarding the recently completed trial in this matter wherein the jury ultimately hung 8 to 4 for guilty. I would then like to comment on the importance of this case being retried. I hope you will consider all of my comments in the constructive manner in which they are intended.

Comments re the recently completed trial of Defendants Kan & Lee

First I think it is important to acknowledge the fine work performed during the course of all of the proceedings in this matter by Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite. Not only was his preparation and presentation of the case outstanding, but it was apparent that his confidence in the strength of the case grew as the matter proceeded. No doubt the case was not tried without some mistakes and at least one questionable judgment call, but, given all of the many pressures and roles being balanced, it was an outstanding job. By the time the case went to the jury it was my observation/opinion that Mr. Waite had out performed the very talented attorneys for the defendants. (I sat through the entire PX and trial in this matter.)

From the perspective of a former public defender and trial lawyer it was clear to me that Mr. Waite and his investigative team (Sgt. Mike Denson and Sgt. Ron Watson from the PAPD) left few stones unturned in an effort to assure that the prosecution in this matter was both professionally managed and aggressively pursued.

I had no sense during the trial of this matter, despite the obvious political pressures and ramifications for the entire prosecution team, that at anytime that the prosecution team treated this case lightly or in any fashion differently than any other serious felony matter. Finally, Mr. Waite, in an example that more public servants should model, made himself available to members of the public who had endless questions for and observations to share with him.

During the jury selection process in this case Mr. Waite’s questions and the nature of the responses by prospective jurors re the role of race, racial profiling, the right of citizens to be free of undue and unwarranted harassment by the police etc., were both fascinating and instructive re the current public mood towards law enforcement. Had the voir dire process been taped it would have made a provocative documentary on the current status of the relationship between law enforcement and the community. As indicted by the responses during voir dire, as it currently stands, the relationship appears tenuous at best.

There were numerous jurors who expressed just barely restrained anger re the recent killing of Bic Cau Tran by San Jose police officer Chad Marshall and similarly deep concern re other recent high profile killings by members of the SJPD.

What came across strongest from the jury selection process is that both the depth and width of anger and concern over misconduct by law enforcement in this county is much greater than reflected by the mainstream media in Santa Clara County. Whereas the conventional wisdom has been that police cases are hard to successfully prosecute in this county the current dynamically shifting demographics, combined with a well informed citizenry re police misconduct issues, may well have changed the landscape permanently. Given the above, it would appear that police prosecutions are much more like to be successful in this county now and in the future.

During the course of the jury selection the defense exercised a peremptory challenge against the one black female who made it into the jury box. Given the quality of her responses to the questions posed by attorneys for both sides it was clear that this prospective juror was totally free of bias for either side.

Despite the fact that Mr. Waite made an appropriate Batson/Wheeler objection that the defense, specifically attorney Harry Stern, had exercised the challenge in a in a racially discriminatory fashion the judge, Andrea Bryan, declined to ask defense council for a showing of specific bias (to establish a race–neutral reasons for the strike) or to find a prima facie case for requiring a response by the defense. The judge should have reseated the juror in the presence of the entire panel as a clear message to the defense that the racist removal of a fair minded juror would not be tolerated. (Case law clearly supports the notion that one race based peremptory challenge is sufficient to trigger the remedies contemplated by Batson/Wheeler and its descendants.)

Given that only three African-Americans were in the initial jury panel of approximately 160 perspective jurors called for in this case, there is little doubt that the discriminatory strike of the one black female to make it into the jury box denied the people a jury made up of a cross-section of the community and thus a fair trial.

The following quotes serve as a reminder of the impact of a discriminatory challenge based on race in the context of this case: … “The harm from discriminatory jury selection extends beyond that inflicted on the defendant and the excluded juror to touch the entire community.” Batson V. Kentucky, 476 U.S, at 77 (1986).

“The need for public confidence is especially high in cases involving race-related crimes. In such cases, emotions in the affected community will inevitably be heated and volatile. Public confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system is essential for preserving community peace in trials involving race related crimes.” (Citations omitted). Finally, as to Judge Bryan’s role in denying the community a fair trial the following is pertinent: “Be it at the hands of the state or the defense, if a court allows the juror to be excluded because of group bias, it is a willing participant in a scheme that could only undermine the very foundation of our system of justice—our citizens’ ” (citations omitted).

In addition to the failure of Judge Andrea Bryan to perform her constitutional responsibility to ensure the selection of a fair jury in this matter it was apparent that the court allowed the atmosphere surrounding the trial to favor the defense. Not only did the court appear to bend over backwards to rule in favor of the defense on issues where you would normally not expect such favorable rulings, but the court personnel, including the bailiffs, routinely acted with favoritism to members of law enforcement. This included providing preferential seating in the courtroom to members of law enforcement, to allowing outbursts by law enforcement spectators to go unpunished while, at the same time, closely monitoring the conduct of non-law enforcement citizens in the courtroom to the point of a constitutional chill on access.

Despite all of the efforts by the court and its personnel to tamper with the jury selection, evidentiary rulings, deny equal access to the courtroom to the public versus members of law enforcement, all in a thinly veiled attempt to direct a verdict of acquittal, 8 members of the community still rendered a verdict of guilty refusing, in the greatest tradition of independent jurors, to buckle under the weight of the intimidating atmosphere allowed to exist by Judge Andrea Bryan. All of this speaks volumes re the strength of the evidence in this case and the fine job done by the prosecution team.

Despite the fact that only 8 of the 12 jurors in this case voted for guilty the verdict was still one of historic proportions in Santa Clara County. I know of no other case in recent Santa Clara County history where 8 jurors have voted to convict police officers for the beating of an African-American citizen. This result calls out for a retrial.

Conclusion re why case should be retried.

Community sentiment: I have enclosed an editorial from the Palo Alto Daily News, Accused officers should be retried, April 20, 2005, outlining some of the reasons why this case should be retried and encouraging your office to do so, both in the interest of the Palo Alto Police Department and the Community at large.

Given the statements attributed to Karyn Sinunu in the San Jose Mercury News (enclosed), (April 19, 2005), that the district attorney usually retries hung juries and given that in this case 8 citizens voted for guilty under the difficult conditions described in the first section of this letter, failure to do so in this case would feed into the perception that there is two standards of justice in this community, one for the ordinary citizen and one for police officers.

Given comments in a recent article in The Recorder, April 27, 2005, that there will be a chase for endorsements by police and law enforcement groups by the presumed candidates for District Attorney in 2006, and given Ms. Sinunu’s apparent intent to run for this position, failure to retry this case might well be seen as decision based on political expediency rather than the merits of retying this case.

It is clear that this case would likely not have come to light but for the courageous act of a few “whistle blowing” members of the PAPD willing to break down the traditional “code of silence” that so perniciously permeates much of law enforcement in this community. By the jury’s verdict in this case the community has spoken: it is time, once and for all, to send the message that the so-called “code of silence” will not longer be tolerated by those we entrust with the awesome power of the badge. Failure to retry this case would discourage officers in the future to speak out against rogue officers in their ranks and, as result, put the public at risk of more unwarranted beatings and deaths.

Given all of the above, the strength of the evidence presented in the first trial, the resources and efforts expended by the prosecution, the strong likelihood of a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt at a second trial, the efforts of the trial judge to sabotage the prosecution’s case in the first trial, and the strong public support for a retrial in this matter it is my request that you exercise your prosecutorial discretion in favor of a retrial in this case.

Post Script:

This letter requesting a retrial of Kan & Lee was originally sent out on May 3, 2005. Ultimately the DA declined to retry the case against officers Kan & Lee. In a miscarriage of justice Kan & Lee were allowed to plead guilty to one count each of disturbing the peace, as an infraction, with a maximum punishment of a $250 fine.

Palo Alto Police Chief Set to Retire

Palo Alto police chief Dennis Burns announced yesterday that he is retiring at the end of the year after 35 years with the city and eight years in the top position and several people who are typically police critics are praising Burns for his work.

Burns, 59, started working for the police department in 1982, and for a short time beginning in 2010, he also served as the interim Fire Chief.

He was busy during this time, and Palo Alto criminal defense attorney Tom Nolan, who worked with Burns when he was on one of the police advisory committees. Burns is “an exceptionally hard worker “, he said the praise is noteworthy considering that Nolan’s law firm often represents clients who were who who are arrested by Burns officers. “He’s the kind of cheap that Paula Walter deserves, “Nolan said, calling him intelligent and thoughtful.

Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell, who served on the committee that shows the finalist for the chief position, called Burns a “decent person “, who has done well for the city. “I am very pleased that he is the person we came up with to be the chief, “said Cordell, a former Palo Alto city Council woman. And he’s proven that he was up for the job, she said. Burns took over after former police chief Lynn Johnson resigned in 2008 amid accusations of racial profiling.

The next chapter

As for why he is retiring, Burns said it was simply time, according to a statement issued by the city. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter, “he said. “The organization is stable, and we have a capable, professional team in place. I am confident that we have the right personnel and organizational structure to ensure the Palo Alto Police Department will maintain its high standards and dedication to protecting the community,”

Throughout his career, Burns has worked patrol, served as a SWAT team leader, a detective and detective supervisor, a crime prevention officer, and a detective tactics instructor.

In 2015, Burns earned a total salary of $243,390.  Burns was known for going out on patrol, even during his time as police chief. In 2012, he caught a couple of burglary suspects in East Palo Alto, after he put on it in uniform and went out. But some of Burns decisions have raised concerns over the years.

In 2011, Burns got heat for allowing Palo Alto police to provide mutual aid to Oakland when cops violently clashed with occupy protesters.

City manager James Keane said the city will conduct a nationwide search for a new police chief. In the meantime, Captain Ron Watson, a 26 year veteran, will serve as interim police chief, he said. But Watson has indicated that he will not be a candidate for the permanent police chief position, according to Keene.

California Public Records Request Reveals Chief Dennis’s Burns private state retirement party.  

Retirement Invite List 1

Retirement Invite List 2

Retirement Inviie_Former Employees 1

 

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Are police systematically killing the mentally ill

Statistically, when it’s comes to police protecting and serving citizens this recent report, suggests law enforcement personnel are finding themselves having to confront the ever rising tide of community mental health issues often with fatal consequences.

The mentally impared represents a very small segment of our policing society and yet shockingly over 1/4 of the US population killed by police involved the mentally ill at some level.

Unfortunately, many policing agencies are ill equipped for handling emergencies dealing with emotional meltdowns on our streets and in our own living rooms.

The aftermath in far too many cases often results in heartbreaking news and the tragic loss of human life as was the case recently at a Palo Alto mental health facility.

And all to familiar, another man who was shot and killed was known to the San Mateo sheriffs department as a person suffering from schizophrenia.

The vast majority of police shootings are found to be justifies. Why? Officers fearing for their lives and in most cases, cleared of any criminal wronging doing a common outcome.

One of the most egregious cases of police abuse

was Kelly Thomas beaten to death by Fullerton police officers. Kelly Thomas also suffered from schizophrenia.

Kelly Thomas
Kelly Thomas

Few policing agencies are prepared to deal with the mental health issues encounter on our streets and despite the limited CIT [crisis intervention training] received by many local policing agencys including the San Mateo police, fatalities continue which suggests a broken training program.

Our National Mental Health System has gone beyond critical mass when it comes to policing the mentally impared. This is made evident by the continued stories of police responding to calls from distressed family members only to have their family member shot and killed by police or beaten to death.

This is exactly what occurred to a man in Pacifica, California, whose family members called police requesting assistance in calming down their distraught son.  The police responded, handcuffed the son, tazering him, and he subsequently died.

No one has all the answers as to whether or not the limited training class received by the for San Mateo police was enough training to handle these crisis situation but from all outward appearence this was not the case.

However, statistically, the continued increase in fatal police interventions of our mentally impaired citizens should give rise to, and dictate, a greater focus on the needs of the most vulnerable of our population, the mentally impaired.

One major policing agency making inroads into this growing national problems is the Memphis, Tennessee, Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team which has become nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice, as being a first to establish an elite group of police officers and mental health professionals specializing in mental health crisis situations with phenomenal success.

We’re not sure if the outcome would have been any different in Fullerton, Pacifica or in San Mateo, but it’s time to address our policing of this minority group head-on with properly trained Crisis–Intervention-Teams. And the time is now!

Related stories: Hold Your Fire

Editor’s note: Tazers continue to be hotly debated as an effect compliance tool in dealing with those suffering from a mental crisis.

 

Palo Alto’s Tunnel of Love and Hate

Caitlin Ann Taylor-Stanford University, Ca
Caitlin Ann Taylor-Stanford University, Ca – Santa Clara County Jail Booking Photo furnished by Google

But you better be careful you just might be arrested. That was the experience of one MADD scientist from all places Stanford University as described in a detailed police report provide by PAPD Lt. Zachary Perron:

Caitlin Ann Taylor (DOB 05-18-1990, female, 5’7” tall, 140 lbs, blonde hair, hazel eyes) was arrested on 09-17-2013 at 7:42 p.m. in the 2400 block of Bryant Street.

She was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on 09-17-2013 at 8:55 p.m. for 148(a)(1) PC (resist arrest) and 243(b) PC (battery on peace officer), both of which are misdemeanors. She was released from custody on 09-18-2013 at 3:48 a.m., and her bail is set at $6000. Her occupation is “scientist.”

It just goes to show and prove that those arrested come from all walks and cyclists of life.

Why the arrest detail? Good question. California civil code allows all media reporting agency’s to do so despite what some may feel as an evasion of privacy. Bottom line, once your arrested, it becomes public record. Here’s the civil code procedure: See: California Government Code & 6254 (f) (1).

Government Code Section 6250-6270

(1) The full name and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency, the individual’s physical description including date of birth, color of eyes and hair, sex, height and weight, the time and date of arrest, the time and date of booking, the location of the arrest, the factual circumstances surrounding the arrest, the amount of bail set, the time and manner of release or the location where the individual is currently being held, and all charges the individual is being held upon, including any outstanding warrants from other jurisdictions and parole or probation holds.

So what’s the problem with Pedestrians vs Cyclists?

According to eyewitnesses, the Palo Alto police have been stationing themselves outside the tunnel of love and hate entrance to catch illegal contraband? No, no Mexican cartel this time.

Walk BikeThe PAPD have been assigned to catch cyclists riding their bikes through the tunnel of love and hate illegally. Although there are no signs posted warning otherwise so whats the Baskin-Robbins problem or scoop?

According to unconfirmed reports, pedestrians have been complaining about cyclists zooming through the tunnel of love and hate at reckless speeds without consideration for their foot-tracking brethren’s safety almost knocking them over on a daily bases all the while they should be walking their bikes as posted.

What’s interesting is that their is no municpale code attached to this sign [a first for Palo Alto] indicating an infraction of the law. What’s up with that Palo Alto? They have an ordinance or law to cover almost everything we do in Palo Alto. You name it, they got it! [PAMC 2.0]

The lack of a PAMC may in fact be a viable defense for this MADD scientist ridding her bike through Palo Alto’s tunnel of love and hate not so friendly bike city, but assaulting a peace officer!

Finding the right solutions

That’s a big no, no. Even in my book, you deserve everything meted out to you by the judge.  Don’t even think about placing your hands on a peace officer under any circumstance.  If you allegedly did, your a real “bonafide” MADD scientist.

Alexander, an avid bike rider BTW from Stanford who declined to provide his last name said that the number of cyclists he’s observed walking their bikes through the tunnel of love and hate out of 100, was 10 percent. That’s MADDing high percentage.

Lin Liu, another Palo Alto Stanford worker, and Earth Science Researcher, said that in the two years of walking through the tunnel of love and hate, putting things in a researchers perceptive formula of 4 riders to 1 walker…

In conversation with the first person interviewed, we both agreed, arresting persons for riding their bikes is not the answer.  Their ‘needs to be a mutual coexistence’.

lane dividerSo we came up with what we beleive to be a lasting solution.  Highway dividers, those relative poles to run right down the center of the tunnel of love and hate.

Cyclists on one side, and pedestrians on the other side. That just might work with the caveat of adding one of Palo Alto’s famous in your face control your life municipal code warnings.

Related story: Now this is worthy of a police chase and the waste of taxpayer dollars

DA Jeff Rosen supports Palo Alto police in tracking your every whereabouts with impunity

PAPD license plate reader.jpgPolice departments in the mid-Peninsula have been quick to buy automatic license plate readers that scoop up enormous amounts of data about innocent residents.

But they haven’t been as fast in creating safeguards to prevent data from being misused.

Menlo Park police, who put one such plate reader into operation over the summer, are going to City Council tomorrow to ask for permission to buy three more.

Thanks to grants from the Department of Homeland Security, every Police Department in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties has at least one license plate scanner. But not one department has a policy to regulate their use.

license plate readerThe scanners, usually mounted on top of a police car, automatically takes pictures of every license plate in view. The data, time and location are recorded, too. This data can be analyzed to create a permanent record of where any of us has driven.

“The tracking of people’s location constitutes a significant invasion of privacy, which can reveal many things about their lives, such as what friends, doctors, protests, political events, or churches a person may visit,” the ACLU said in a report in July.

Money-making opportunities

The license plate scanners can help find stolen cars quickly. Police can raise money with the scanners by catching motorists who were late paying their vehicle registration fees or parking tickets.

All a police department has to do is park a police car with a plate scanner near a busy street, and then pull over all scofflaws.

The data local police collect is stored to buy a Homeland Security fusion Center in San Francisco, known as the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center.

The fusion Center signed a $340,000 contract with Palo Alto’s Palantir to construct a database of license plate records from local police departments, according to a report by the Center for investigative reporting.

That same report said that the San Francisco fusion Center will store license plate records for up to two years, regardless of data retention limits set by local police departments.

The police department that feels it should be erasing data on innocent residents sooner than two years will have to battle the fusion Center and Homeland Security.

Growing surveillance state

This issue of collecting license plate data comes at a time when, thanks to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, we now know that the federal government is collecting data about all Americans’ phone calls, emails and credit card transactions.

It seems hopeless for average citizens to fight the federal government over this surveillance. Leaders of both parties favor it, and a large number of Americans believe that NSA surveillance protect us from terrorists.

But while we can feel powerless to take on the federal government, average citizens can have influence on elected city councils, which are supposed to oversee Police Department.

We can demand that our city council’s tell the police to put reasonable restrictions on data collection on innocent citizens by these plate readers. It’s not unreasonable to have police delete data on innocents with in a week of its collection.

Last year, then-state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, introduced a bill that would limit the amount of time local police departments could retain plate data to 60 days unless the agency is using the data to investigate a crime.

The bill died in the legislature after heavy lobbying against it by law enforcement and the manufacturers of plate readers.

It will be used against you

Wolfgang Schmidt, a retired colonel in the former East German secret police known as the Stasi, told the McClatchy news service in July that he was amazed by the amount of information the U.S. government collects on it’s people. “You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,” Schmidt said.

He said the dark side to gathering such broad, seemingly untargeted amount of information is obvious.

“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used, “Schmidt said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect its people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”

To get a sense of how bad things got in communist East Germany, see the movie “The Lives of Others,” which won the Oscar for best foreign language film and 2006.

It’s about the relationship between a Stasi officer and a playwright he’s assigned to spy upon, and how the government uses information to manipulate people and turn them into informants. It’s particularly relevant in light of the Snowden revelations.

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City of Palo Alto to implement soft plan itinerary on jailing the homeless

interiorgilkisonvanNow that the city of Palo Alto has ban car camping overnight camping at Cubberley Community Center, where many homeless stay the night, the next question is what will the enforcement look like?

The car camping ban goes into effect Sept. 19, though it won’t be enforced for 90 days, and the Cubberley ban is likely to begin Oct. 19.

How will police enforcement?

Palo Alto Chief Communications Officer Claudia Keith said that the city has not yet made any special plans for the days when the laws first going to affect, despite the possible difficulty of getting some homeless who have been living at the center for months or years to leave.

She added that the city is trying to let homeless campers who live at the center know that they have to leave through police and those who work for the city’s Downtown Streets Team, which organizes homeless volunteers to clean streets.

For the past four weeks, Palo Alto police have sent extra patrols to Cubberley to walk the grounds during the evening and night.

At a city Council Policy and Services Committee meeting on Aug.13, Capt. Ron Watson said that the city was spending $3,500 in overtime costs every week just on the Cubberley patrol.

At the same meeting, Watson said that over the past weeks, police had counted 30 homeless sleeping outside at the community center and 20 people camping in their cars.

But when Oct.10 rolls around, none of those people will be able to get into Cubberley to sleep, because the city will close the entrance to the parking lots between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise, according to Keith.

While the law to close Cubberley, as well as Lucie Stern Community Center, would go into effect exactly 31 days after being approved on Sept 9, the car camping ban will be phased in more slowly.

‘Grace period” planned

Beginning on Sept. 19, there will be a 60-day “Grace period,” when people who are still camping in their cars will only be spoken to by police, Keith said.

That will be followed by a 30-day time period during which car campers will be given warnings.  Soon after that, however, police will have the ability to cite both car campers and those who are found at the community centers with misdemeanors, which could result in as many as six months in jail and maximum $1,000 fine.

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Living in Vehicles Ordinance

City of Palo Alto goes into “Code Blue” mode with life saving actions

LIFEPAK CRPlusToday Palo Alto will be outfitting six of its police cars with defibrillators, which can be used to revive people who have had heart attacks, city’s police and fire chiefs said yesterday.

The remaining 46 of the 52 devices purchased by the city for $92,500 will be placed in community centers, libraries, parks, golf courses, soccer fields, city hall and other facilities in the coming weeks, according to a statement from the city.

Police Chief Dennis Burns and Fire Chief Eric Nickels told the city council that the money was well spent, because the fully automated automatic external defibrillators can detect heart irregularities and deliver a shock without needing to be operated by a highly trained first responder.

Putting the devices in more places, including in police cars, which are often the first to arrive on the scene of an emergency, can increase the likelihood of survival for the person who had an attack, said Ian Hagerman a senior management analyst for the city.

Haggerman said that while there is currently no money to maintain the devices they come with eight-year warranties.

To make sure that the defibrillators are kept in good working condition, at least one person is charged with checking a light on the devices that indicates they are in working order once per month.

Whoever is assigned to check the defibrillators will receive monthly email reminders to do so and will update an online system that stores information about them.

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City of Palo Alto to shutter homeless public showers

de facto homeless shelter shower facility
de facto homeless shelter shower facility

Palo Alto will close down the public showers at the Cubberely Community Center in an attempt to regain control of what city manager Jim Keene has called a “de facto homeless shelter.”

City Council members will meet with homeless advocates and church leaders Tuesday to talk about how to help the homeless now that the city has ban sleeping cars, but Keene said yesterday that no matter what, the free showers will end on August 31.

In a report to the committee, Keene said the showers are one of the key attractions make Cubberely a magnet for homeless car campers.

Despite the emotional and sometimes disruptive protests of homeless advocates who said the car can ban criminalizes homelessness,  the city Council voted 7-2 on Monday to ban the practice.

The ban,  which will take effect in approximately six months, with make vehicle habitation a crimes that would be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The meeting on Tuesday is meant to take a less punitive look at ways to help the local homeless population.

In the meantime, through, some steps could be taken to help solve problems that residents and Cubberley workers have complained about, including closing the showers that have been opened in the early morning four years so that the homeless can bathe there.

In 2004, some of the homeless who camped at Cubberley asked the facility workers there to open the showers at 6 a.m. so that they could shower before work.

After the city received complaints from some of the nonprofits and businesses that use Cubberely, the hours were shortened from  6 a.m. – 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. – 8 a.m.

Not an official program

“The use of the showers is neither a formal city of Palo Alto program nor an official policy, and staff has set a closure date for public use of Aug. 31, “Keene wrote in the report to the committee.”The closure does not require action by the council.”

Later, the report says, “specific complaints have centered on individuals or groups of individuals intoxicated, lawn chairs that are set up next to RV’s, loud music coming from the parking lot on weekends, syringe needles found around campus, and encounters with half-dressed people going to the showers in the morning.”

Keene said that there was also concern with people peeing and defecating in the open, dumping sewage in the bathroom sinks, cleaning cooking utensils in bathroom sink, and fights in the bathrooms and showers, among other things.

The committee, which includes council members Karen Holman, Larry Klein, Liz Kniss, and Gail Price, will also consider closing the bathrooms at Cubberely for part of the night between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise during the time that about 20 people or more sleep at the center every evening.

“As Cubberely is currently open overnight, staff is concerned for the safety and security of the Cubberely patriots, tenants, staff and individuals residing on campus,” the report says.

Help for the homeless

According to the report, Keene proposes that the city immediately start closing the showers, give people bus fare to go use the showers at the Opportunity Center and put them in touch with case managers.

At Monday’s meeting, Councilwoman Liz Kniss and Keene both called on nonprofits and churches to help the city deal with homelessness.

“I would challenge the nonprofits to come forward and say, here is how we can put this together,” Kniss said.

Edie Keating, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church who opposes the car camping ban that the city Council voted to pass on Monday night, said she and people representing other churches planned to attend Tuesday meeting to see how they can work with the city and local nonprofits like InVision, which runs the low income housing at Palo Alto’s homeless center.

Roaming shelter program

Keating said her church will be hosting the city’s roaming homeless shelter program, Hotel de Zink, for the month of September, and said she thinks expanding the program might be one way to help the homeless.

“I think there’s a possibility there, we’ve never had any problems with the Hotel de Zinks.” But she added that she understands why it might be hard for some churches to get their members to agree to host the month-long shelter program at their church.

“Since many churches are in residential areas, there may be push-back for using their sites as part of a distributed car camping program,” she said. “What will be important is to find sites that are well-accepted, some of them might be at businesses.”

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Living in Vehicles Ordinance

Lights out at Cubberley Community Center – Homeless vehicle dwellers need not apply

In a decision last-night that shook the homeless of Cubberley Community Center also known as Palo Alto’s “de facto homeless shelter”, Vehicle dwellers will no longer be able to sleep in their cars or vans in a vote, 2 against and 7 for the ban on vehicle habitation.

The long two year battle some say has just begun with one local attorney William Safford vowing to represent any vehicle dweller faced with penalties at no charge if homeless vehicle dwellers are cited under the new Palo Alto city ordinance. A charging offense of a misdemeanor under the new law and California Penal Code.

Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (Ret.)
Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (Ret.)

Strong passions were evident as those opposed to the ordinance stepped up to the microphone pleading with council-members for compassion and to look for other solutions rather than taking away their shelter and the security of their vehicles.

Concerns for personal safety

However, many of the residence of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, which boarders Cubberley Community Community Campus, express their concerns for personal safety as a result of the growing homeless population.  They feared for their safety and as one person related, even beginning to feel “paranoid”.

Councilmen Larry Klein a staunch supporter of the ban was determined to restore safety to the area and felt it was his moral obligation to do so. Liz Kniss another supporter of the ban challenged the faith based and non-profit communities to lend greater assist in finding additional solutions and out-reach services for the homeless community.

Sealed fate of Vehicle Dwellers

What sealed the fate of the vehicles dwellers were perhaps the personal tours provided by the Palo Alto police in where they discovered by way of license plate checks that many of the vehicles were not even registered with Palo Alto addresses giving rise and support that Palo Alto was in fact becoming a magnet for the homeless.

This personalized police tour uncovered 27 vehicles’ and 15 people sleeping in sleeping bags. Gail Price stated that homelessness is ‘one of the biggest social issues facing our nation’ but felt the ordinance was necessary.

The ordinance she said would not be a single action but that she would be looking for the “next” steps in helping the homeless population in Palo Alto.

Soft roll-out of vehicle habitation ordinance

Our concerns are, as the city of Palo Alto roles out there phased approach in helping the homeless and homeless vehicle dwellers that the Palo Alto police will be rousting out the homeless vehicle dwellers from their cars and sleeping bags at all hours with what they feel is “probable cause” to search their vehicles and personal possessions under the ruse of a “welfare check” as the city implements this new ordinance.

One homeless vehicle dweller, Diane Jones living in her vehicle since last November on Cubberley campus say’s she has been harassed at all hours by the PAPD knocking on her windows. “They knock and pound at the doors and windows and we “can’t get any rest”.  Our question is, who’s going to police the police on reported bad behavior on their part?

Living in Vehicles Ordinance

Related articles: Palo Alto to Decide Whether Sleeping in Car Should Result in Jail Sentence

City of Palo Alto on a collision course with homeless vehicle dwellers

Cutting edge of technologyPalo Alto often is on the cutting edge, and the first city to try anything. But when it comes to the proposed ban on living or sleeping in cars that goes to City Council tonight, Palo Alto is late to the party.

In Santa Clara County, 12 cities prohibit people from living for sleeping in their vehicles, while Monte Sereno and Los Altos do not. In San Mateo County, 18 cities have such ordinances, while only East Palo Alto, Colma and Portola Valley don’t. Menlo Park prohibiting overnight parking on residential streets, which effectively bans car camping.

Redwood City police Sgt. Greg Farley said the city doesn’t have an ordinance specifically banning people from sleeping in their vehicles. But he said police will knock on the door and charges up to the discretion of the officers. Typically a warning will be given, he said.

Farley said people usually move on or stay awake. If a vehicle citation is given, the first time there is a fine of $100, the second time it’s a $200 and each time after that it goes to $500, be said.

Farley said the city doesn’t receive many complaints about people living in their cars. Typically police come across commuters who pulled over off the highway to sleep.

The Kmart parking lot on veterans Boulevard is where police typically find people living in cars, but with Kaiser now taking a portion of the lot, the numbers have gone down, Farley said.

Menlo Park police Sgt. Matthew Ortega said the city has no particular ordinance for people living in their cars. But cars can’t be parked on residential streets or within 300 feet of residential zones between 2 AM and 5 AM., Ortega said. Residents have to park in their driveway or have a permit to park on the street, he said.

If a car is parked on the street during this time and person is in the car or nearby, he said the police would first ask them to move, but they could be cited for a parking infraction, which is a minimum of $25 for the first time.

At other times during the day, Ortega said police would not stop, if the car is parked legally, for a person in a car, except to maybe make a welfare check.

Ortega is aware of Palo Alto’s proposed ordinance, and he said Menlo Park may “steal” it, if and when it is passed.

Los Altos police Sgt. Cameron Shearer said that the city doesn’t have a ordinance saying a person cannot sleep in his car.

You can’t park here

There is an ordinance saying no one can stop or park a car on any street for longer than 30 minutes between the hours of 2 AM and 6 AM if there is notice posted on the block.

But Shearer said he is not aware of anywhere in the city that this is currently posted.

The number of complaints police receive regarding people sleeping in their cars is minimal, Shearer said. If police do come across someone in their vehicle for a long time, they trying to make sure the person is OK and is receiving social services, if needed, he said.

Mountain View police did not return calls Friday, but the city does have an ordnance stating no one can live in a car park on the street in residential areas.

If Palo Alto’s ordinance passes tonight, police response to people living in vehicles will be mostly complained driven, according to city officials.

It will be up to the discretion of the police officer as to whether to issue a warning for arrest and offender, but police will try to match people living in their cars with the services needed.

City attorney Molly Stump previously told the Post that a violation could result in a misdemeanor charge, but that’s “pretty far down the road.” The penalty for a misdemeanor is a fine up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail.

Court costs

Former Santa Clara County public defender Aram James, an opponent of the car camping ban, said that based on  his calculations, using a study completed by a legal industry trade publication, a trial for just one case, if a person were arrested for living in his car, could cost taxpayers to $10,000 a day.

James said this is money that could be spent on solutions to homelessness. He also said the number of cases that could arise from an ordinance, such as the one proposed in Palo Alto, could overburden the criminal justice system and the public defender office in Santa Clara County.

Calls to the public defender office we’re not returned last week. If council approves the ordinance banning car camping, a second we will occur no less than 11 days after the first reading.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after the reading, but the City Council’s Policy and Services Committee, which is made up of four council members, has recommended a phased approach that defers full enforcement for six months.

Living in Vehicles Ordinance

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