Palo Alto residents oppose safe parking program

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PALO ALTO, Calif. (KRON) — The City of Palo Alto is planning to set up a parking lot at a church to house those living in cars and RVs, but residents who live nearby are concerned about safety.

The parking lot at First Congregational Church of Palo Alto is on its way to be the city’s next “safe parking” lot. The program aimed to house residents living in cars and RVs was created last year.

The safe parking program allows overnight parking for up to four vehicles at the church’s parking lot.

“I consider ourselves to be very fortunate to live in an area like we do. There are also people who are not as fortunate so it’s the least the church can do,” said Wesley Chow, Palo Alto resident.

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At a community meeting earlier this month, the city heard from residents who do not support the program and asked how to appeal the city’s plans.

The church’s associate pastor Eileen Altman could not be reached for comment on Saturday but spoke at the virtual meeting on July 12 acknowledging people’s concerns. Many worried about safety and the lack of background checks. The City of Palo Alto said the state limits how they are used in emergency housing.

“We recognize that there is anxiety about this change and just to know that we are not unaware that there is worry,” said Eileen Altman.

“The thing is if people are identified it’s not like people aren’t identified with the program they are identified so if something was to happen there’s definitely a way of tracing it back,” said Chow.

So far there are safe parking lots at two other churches in Palo Alto. Once the project gets final approval for this site it will be there for eighteen months and may be extended. If there are written appeals the city council will ultimately decide to move forward with the program.

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