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Palo Alto Council expected to repeal vehicle habitation ban

From: domainremoved <Aram>
Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2014 18:07:26 -0800

> Palo Alto: Council expected to repeal vehicle habitation ban
> By Jason Green
> Daily News Staff Writer
> POSTED: 11/13/2014 05:58:10 AM PST4 COMMENTS
> UPDATED: 11/13/2014 05:58:21 AM PST
> A controversial ordinance that prohibits people from using vehicles as dwellings in Palo Alto could soon be repealed.
> On Monday, the City Council is slated to consider a recommendation from City Attorney Molly Stump to dump the law, which officially took effect on Sept. 19, 2013, but was never enforced.
> The so-called "vehicle habitation ordinance" was a response to complaints from residents about the behavior of some individuals. Council members at the time concluded it was the only option when a community effort to find an acceptable place for vehicle dwellers to park failed.
> In a report to the council, Stump said the city could face litigation over its law. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal recently concluded that a similar one in Los Angeles was unconstitutionally vague.
> "While Palo Alto's ordinance is different from the Los Angeles ordinance and is consistent, in our view, with constitutional requirements, a decision to retain and enforce the ordinance will likely result in litigation that will be both resource intensive and expensive," she wrote.
> Plaintiffs in Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles are looking to collect $570,445 in attorneys' fees, according to the report.
> Stump said Palo Alto would be better off directing "its resources toward proactive solutions such as social services and outreach."
> Not long after passing the vehicle habitation ordinance, as well as a ban on overnight camping at Cubberley Community Center, the council approved a $250,000 plan to help the city's most chronically homeless. A case manager was hired in August, according to the report.
> The council initially delayed enforcement of the law for six months in order to educate the public. But it was shelved indefinitely on Dec. 16, 2013, after the city learned about the case in Los Angeles.
> The decision also followed a vow by a group of lawyers to challenge the ordinance. One of the lawyers, Carrie Le Roy, said it was particularly troubling that a violation could be charged as a misdemeanor and result in up to one year in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
> Former public defender Aram James welcomed news that the council was set to consider repealing the law. However, he said he was disappointed by the justification provided by Stump.
> "I think it is sour grapes for her to say that they could still defend it in the face of the Ninth Circuit's decision that says this kind of an ordinance is in violation of the Constitution on a variety of grounds," James said. "I don't commend her for that sort of equivocating."
> James added that he hoped the council would not seek to enact overnight parking bans to keep vehicle dwellers out of the city.
> "I hope that is challenged," James said. "I would expect if that happens that some of the civil litigators who were willing to challenge the ordinance in the first instance will again want to do that."
> Email Jason Green at jgreen_at_(domainremoved)
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Received on Thu Nov 13 2014 - 18:02:23 PST

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