Over the last week there has been an interesting, sometimes spirited, discussion on the Barron Park newsgroup regarding the RVs parked on El Camino Real. The original letter to the City Council from Richard Placone and some of the replies that followed are reproduced below with the hope that this discussion will grow and we can, together, find a solution to the situation.
Greetings Council Members,
Last Monday on my way home from Menlo Park, heading South, I counted 50 RVs parked on El Camino Real, from Embarcadero Road to Charleston Road. It appeared that all had been parked there for some time; indeed a couple were on jacks or were actually trailers unhitched from a towing vehicle.
The city has recognized that this is a serious problem, one causing potential safety issues to passing traffic as well as sanitation problems, amongst others.
However, I consider this to be a Compassion Problem, one that this Council is well aware of, but consistently denigrates the issue, as well as the occupants of these “homes away from home.” I have learned that when it has been suggested to Council members during one of its meetings, that a real solution is possible, the following objections have been stated by sitting members: “we will be establishing a potential hepatitis camp; or “we will be creating a venue for criminal activity”; or “the city shouldn’t be spending tax dollars of homeless people like this”.
Consider this: Palo Alto is nationally reputed to be one of the wealthiest cities in the country. We are renowned for having one of the most highly educated populations, with outstanding employment opportunities and more. I posit that these are the very factors that are drawing the RV dwellers to our city (and other nearby cities for that matter) – for the jobs that are being created here.
Do we know who these people are, where they come from and what they are doing during the daytime? I have heard, read and been told that most are workers here on the many construction jobs in town and on the Stanford campus; that they are the workers in our heavy tax producing hotels, making the beds and cleaning the rooms; that they are servers in our over the top in prices restaurants; and most recently Stanford graduate students living off campus. It would seem to me, that it is this town’s very success in everything it does, except providing a wide rage of housing opportunities, that has resulted in the “El Camino RV Ally”.
“So where does Compassion come in?” – I hope you are asking yourselves. These are our fellow human beings, most not as fortunate as those of us who either settled here in years gone by and are now homeowner millionaires, or are wealthy business leaders or very well-paid high tech employees. The council’s everlasting thirst for more and more growth, mostly consolidated in large, lucrative business developments, and the minimum of affordable housing, are major factors in creating this issue.
We have brought this on ourselves, ladies and gentlemen of the Council. I believe it is our responsibility to resolve this problem in a manner that is compassionate to the RV dwellers, and respectful of the taxpaying citizens of this town.
You have the solution staring you in the face, if only you would collectively puts your hearts and minds together and determine to resolve this problem in a manner fair to all.
What might that solution be?
I’m told the city owns a large piece of property purchased from the city of Los Altos, which is used for storage of equipment. We all know that the city controls, if not owns hundreds of acres in the baylands. For a relatively small sum, a simple RV park or parks could be established. Hard gravel paving, a few modest restrooms with showers, plug in power and water and RV dumping station, is all it would take. A simple system of occupant registration and a small per night, week or monthly charge would help defray some, if not all of the operating costs. The occupants themselves could be organized into community “gatekeepers”, keeping order and such.
If this city can afford to spend over $8 million redesigning Ross Road for a few cyclists, to the consternation of most of the residents, from what I have observed, surely it can come up with a Compassionate Fund, and get these RVs and their human occupants off the highway and into a safe place with the most basic of human amenities.
And by the way, if Stanford students are actually part of this highway population, then by all means get the university involved – it has a responsibility to resolve problems related to the campus.
Thank you for your attention to this letter. I look forward to your response and hopefully, constructive action.
Barron Park Neighborhood.
In June 2017 Palo Alto Weekly journalists Jocelyn Dong, Linda Taaffe, Sue Dremann and Gennady Sheyner discussed the reasons for this phenomenon, the changes residents would like to see and the city’s response.