by Julie Thunder
Last week, the City of Encinitas approved plans for a homeless parking lot on the Liechtag property at 411 Saxony Road. The lot will be run by Jewish Family Services (JFS) with a state Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) grant of $256,000. Operations begin at the end of this year.
Nearby Residents who live along Saxony Road and Quail Gardens Drive were given no notice of the plan until two days before the public meeting when a neighbor posted yellow fliers around the area. Several speakers expressed frustration at the lack of public notification, with most supporting an overnight parking lot in the City, but urged councilmembers and the Mayor to find a lot that is further away from homes and children.
The Council and City Attorney had already held two closed-session meetings (no public allowed) and negotiated extensively for months with JFS and Leightag before the Council meeting. The City previously declared a “shelter crisis” in order to bypass the property’s ‘agricultural only’ zoning.
Unlike other similar lots in SD County that are operated in business parks, this location is very close to residential neighborhoods, the YMCA, a preschool, and elderly care facilities.
JFS posted the following details during the Council meeting:
- Open 7 nights a week, 365 days a year, 6pm – 7am;
- Minimum of 25 spots;
- Security gate;
- Portable toilets and handwashing stations will be placed;
- Indoor space to meet with clients;
- Welcoming of all people.
Carol Yellen, a speaker, and representative of JFS, urged the Council to accept the parking lot proposal quickly so it could be up and operational by the end of the year, or their HEAP grant funding would dry up. She also said that, according to the grant guidelines, they cannot restrict parking for Encinitas residents only.
We’ve tried Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista and Escondido, but all said ‘No’. Since Encinitas had declared a shelter crisis we knew that this was one of the communities that could benefit from it and we found that there was interest here.Carol Yellen, JFS, to the City Council
Citizens speaking at the meeting urged the Mayor and Council to consider other locations and to allow more public input before finalizing a plan. Some of the other locations mentioned were Mira Costa parking lot, City-owned properties, and a commercial property that is not so close to homes.
It’s a beautiful story but we have been lied to since day one. At some point your trust is eroded and you realize you’ve been scammed. It started as ONLY Encinitas homeless which I was excited about. At this point there’s nothing to stop it from becoming the United States’ 5 Star Homeless Overnight Parking Lot.Encinitas resident Jeff Morris on his facebook page, North County’s Homeless Parking Lot
There was confusion at the council meeting on many points. First, city staff gave no presentation, in fact, they actively declined, which is highly unusual. Second, Mayor Blakespear invited representatives from The Leichtag Foundation and Jewish Family Services to speak for over 40 minutes, a long time for a non-neutral party. Third, the Mayor restricted public comments from 3 minutes each to 2 minutes. Fourth, Councilmember Tony Kranz told the standing-room-only audience that “we aren’t deciding it tonight so keep that in mind please”, only to participate in the Council vote a few minutes later. Fifth, after telling the audience ‘no clapping’, Mayor Blakespear, told JFS and Leichtag representatives that they can “all cheer now” after the Council voted for the plan to proceed. Residents sitting in the audience were visibly stunned.
Ironically, the City has a law against sleeping in vehicles but it is rarely enforced. The shelter crisis allows the Mayor and the City to bypass this law for the parking lot.
Some unhappy residents have started a petition that has more than 2,000 signatures, which can be viewed here.
We found this PBS video to help explain how some people live in their cars.