San Luis Obispo needs to do better on safe parking for homeless

August 9, 2023


An open letter to the San Luis Obispo City Council:

I am writing with deep concern about the insensitive, inept and insufficient means of informing residents of the Palm Street neighborhood of the city’s plans to move its safe parking program to 1700 Palm Street.

I have owned and lived at 1650 Palm Street for 25 years, and I did not know there was a 1700 block of Palm Street. I am very much opposed not only to the plan to move the safe parking program to my street, but also to object to the lack of transparency, lack of opportunity for public comment and the very short time period for notification. We had only a week to respond.

I also did not receive a postcard at my address; I heard about the issue from my neighbor, who took a picture and sent it to me. The news coverage in the Tribune on July 29 indicated that the rotational program would involve faith and community groups volunteering their sites for new, rotational safe parking program. The coverage said nothing about closing off a city street to create an interim safe parking lot.

There is nothing noted in the City Code about turning a residential through street into a closed parking lot, which the “temporary closure of a portion of Palm Street” seems to indicate.  Should this application be approved, I plan to appeal, and may also consider a lawsuit.

My house and my neighbor’s houses on Palm Street are in an R-2 Zone. The City Code notes:

C. Accessory Use in Residential Zones. If located in the R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-4 zones, safe parking is only allowed when accessory to a public assembly or religious assembly facility. Safe parking is prohibited as a primary use in the R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-4 zones and in all applicable zones on properties that contain residential uses as the primary use.

City Code also notes the following:

4. Neighborhood Relations Plan. A neighborhood relations plan shall be provided for each safe parking facility location to address any complaints in a timely manner, including consistency with any adopted good neighbor policy.

If sending out a post card to a few people constitutes your neighborhood relations plan, I have zero confidence that any of the other aspects of the City Code with respect to the safe parking plan will be handled in a competent manner.

As much as I object to Palm Street being used for a Safe Parking area, I even more strongly object to the manner in which this policy is being handled. If a homeowner wants to cut down a tree, run a business out of their home, rent their home as an short-term rental, or add a second story to their property, there is a notice posted on the property with a comment period and a date for a public hearing.

This change of use of Palm Street is much more significant than any of the minor change examples noted here, yet there is no opportunity for public comment or environmental review. There are nearly 15 houses on Palm Street between California Boulevard and Grand Avenue, and many of them are owner-occupied. I’m sure that all homeowners and residents in the area would appreciate an opportunity for public comment.

Since the postcard noted that Kyle is the contact for this issue, I have the following concerns and questions:

1) What does “temporary” mean?  How long and how much of Palm Street will be closed?

2) What are the times for the safe parking program? How will you ensure that vehicles are only there in the allowed times?

3) How many vehicles will be allowed? There is no way that 20 vehicles, the number in the Railroad District, will fit on the boundary of the Vets Hall portion of the street.

4) What kind of security and oversight will be provided?

5) Is there a plan for trash, water and toilet provision?

6) Many events occur at the Vets Hall in the evenings, and Vets Hall patrons park adjacent to their building – how have you addressed this with the Vets Hall as you eliminate their overflow parking?

7) Has the city considered that these RVs will be very visible from Monterey Street as you approach downtown from the north? There are hundreds of hotel rooms along Monterey Street and many tourists walk down Monterey to downtown. Palm Street and the Vets Hall are not hidden from view.

Press from the New Times regarding the Railroad Parking program indicates that the city and CAPSLO have not done a sufficient job in managing trash, noise and other disruptions in their safe parking program. Even more disturbing is the continued band-aid approach to housing unsheltered community members.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in removing encampments on city and state property, creating barely suitable alternatives for RV parking (e.g. the Oklahoma site where several people have died).

Transitioning our unsheltered neighbors to permanent housing has had very limited success.

SLO City needs to do better.  But closing off a city street is and parking RVS on a residential street is not an example of doing better. Trying to slide this temporary safe parking program in via covert administrative fiat is even worse.

I am very discouraged by the city’s handling of this matter, and hope that you seek more input from residents when such issues arise in the future. I will appeal this program should it be approved, and encourage my neighbors to do the same.

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Lynn Hamilton,

First thing, do not listen to the ignorant obispan and their lies regarding their post on 08/10/2023 8:58 pm, whereas I know of one individual that is in this Safe Parking Program and she told me the following regarding your questions:

1.What does “temporary” mean? How long and how much of Palm Street will be closed?

At this time, dealing with the churches that are interested in providing the rotating Safe Parking Program are said to be close to an eventful outcome. Although, granted, the term “temporary” can not be truly defined in this situation.

2.What are the times for the safe parking program? How will you ensure that vehicles are only there in the allowed times?

The times for the Safe Parking Program begin at 6pm check in, where the time starts at 7pm until 7am in the morning for the departure of all vehicles. A CAPSLO moderator checks in the members until 7pm, and are there in the morning to make sure all vehicles have left at 7am.  

3.How many vehicles will be allowed? There is no way that 20 vehicles, the number in the Railroad District, will fit on the boundary of the Vets Hall portion of the street.

Supposedly, the city will have 200 feet of curb parking on both sides of Palm Street from Grand ave going south towards the Vet’s Club entrance to their driveway parking lot, and being at least 50 feet from a residential home. If you do a Google Map Satellite, seemingly it will fit 20+ vehicles and some RV Motorhomes.

4.What kind of security and oversight will be provided?

The moderators at night and in the morning give oversight. Furthermore, just like at the Railroad Safe Parking area, the city police cruise through the area at night time until the morning. The majority of members that have been in this program since the beginning 2 years ago, self-police themselves if needed and always keep the area clean.

5.Is there a plan for trash, water and toilet provision?

Yes, just like the previous Railroad Safe Parking Program, there’re are 2 portapottys, a wash station, and a small dumpster that are emptied twice a week.

6. Many events occur at the Vets Hall in the evenings, and Vets Hall patrons park adjacent to their building – how have you addressed this with the Vets Hall as you eliminate their overflow parking?

The members were told that the Vet’s Hall gave a “thumbs up” to the “temporary” Safe Parking Program at this time, where this seemingly won’t be a problem to them and hopefully short-lived for everyone that is involved.

7. Has the city considered that these RVs will be very visible from Monterey Street as you approach downtown from the north? There are hundreds of hotel rooms along Monterey Street and many tourists walk down Monterey to downtown. Palm Street and the Vets Hall are not hidden from view.

Don’t understand the question relative to RVs parked on Palm Street. If you are referring to any RV can park at this location is not true because you have to be a CAPSLO registered member on file to park upon this site. Whereas, there are strict CAPSLO rules to follow by all members. There are barriers closing off both sides of the parking area after 7pm and are removed by a CAPSLO moderator in the morning for ALL vehicles to leave by 7am.

More than half of the current Safe Parking Program work in the SLO area, but cannot afford the drastic rent anymore, where they have family and friends in the area, whereas living in their vehicle, some with their pets, is better than leaving family and friends behind to another area or state. If you were in the same situation, and for whatever reason, I am sure you “may” do the same to stay close to the SLO area for the same reason.

I have visited my friend many times, and the Safe Parking members have grown into a family that help each other until they can find rooms, a good paying job, or are granted with a friend to live together in a provided room or apartment. First and foremost, the Safe Parking members ARE NOT the same as the unfortunate described homeless with being drug addicts, leaving “poop” on the ground at their location, nor would they leave “needles” for children to step upon! Unfortunately, there are “levels” of homelessness where the Safe Parking members, with some with their expensive vehicles, are at the top of the homeless list.

To be truthful, some of the members don’t blame you for being upset with this program invading your area, where they would be concerned as well if they lived on Palm Street, whereas the notion of the term “homeless” can be very disturbing. Therefore, hopefully the city will find a permanent flat and paved parking area with some land that they own to accommodate the homeless that live in their vehicles sooner than later for everyones happiness!

Lynn, who knows, you might come over when the membership check in at 6pm to have a cup of coffee with them to hash out remedies for a final and permanent location for them, because as seen statewide, and for whatever reason, the homeless population living in their vehicles is not going away any time soon.

Doesn’t CAPSLO have a pretty big parking lot on Southwood Drive?

And why is this “temporary” location replacing the railroad square “temporary” location? This is just CALSLO and the City shoving our faces into their mess.



The Railroad Safe Parking membership were told about a year ago that the business building across from them, Ace Hardware, and the Railroad Museum didn’t want the vehicle homeless in the area because they equated them with the homeless up town, and that were in parking lot B that is between the Museum and the Amtrak station, where this group of homeless left huge messes and where some were there 24/7. 

That being said, they weren’t aware that the Safe Parking Program run by CAPSLO has very strict rules to follow or you are out of the program, you provide your drivers license, registration, proof of insurance, no drinking whatsoever, absolutely no drugs, no disrupting behavior, and silence past 10 pm to just name a few of the many rules that are to be followed as each member signed a contract to this effect.  

CAPSLO, a few of the adjacent businesses, and the membership had meetings at the Railroad Museum about three times to discuss their positions relative to the “homeless within their vehicles.” The irony of which, said businesses NEVER saw the vehicle homeless because they had to leave at 7am in the morning, BEFORE the businesses even opened their doors! Then, since the homeless returned at 6pm to check in with a moderator, said businesses were closed.

The “homeless within vehicles” were told that the City started to make plans a while back to move from Railroad Square, even with the NEEDLESS complaints of local businesses to appease them, and started looking for other parking locations.

UPDATE: My friend in this program said that the Railroad Museum is now okay with the Railroad Safe Parking Program because there were no complaints from them now after learning the FACTS, and where if the truth were possibly known, they are now worried that homeless unstructured parking with no rules will come back to the area like in parking lot B and from Kansas Ave.

The answer to your “temporary location” notion is the fact that the city wanted to make Railroad Square a permanent parking location for the “vehicle homeless,” but the businesses loudly complained against them doing this act, even though the businesses in question NEVER SAW THE VEHICLE HOMELESS IN THE FIRST PLACE as described above!  Not very Christian like to say the least!

Agreed, it would be preferble for the city to find a permanent paved location, inside the city or county, to house the vehicle homeless, where in this program, most of them work locally and respect their surroundings as law abiding citizens.

The members are not aware of the Southward Drive parking lot. and when you said “This is just CALSLO and the City shoving our faces into their mess,” then do you live in the Palm Street area where the “temorary” location will be?


Yes I do live in the Palm Street area, in fact, on Palm Street, do you?


The gist of my posts was to enlighten the readership with facts instead of unsupported rumors and/or circular reasoning that abound by you and others like it has been shown within this threads topic.

When you proffer that you “live in the Palm Street Area,” it is like saying “how big is a dog?” Therefore, to refine my question further, are you close enough to the exact location of the “temporary parking” of the CAPSLO vehicle homeless as described in my posts, to truly upset you until they can be moved?

No, I do not live anywhere on Palm Street.

Since you are the only one responding to my posts relative to the topic at hand, how about discussing the facts that were presented to you, and in helping with possible outcomes that you mentioned, like where is the address of the Southwood Drive City Parking lot?


One – if SLO had to adopt a district plan then maybe people would have representation.

Two – if the council REEAALLY wanted to show their commitment, they’d start by taking the first rotation in their ‘hoods.

1) No, temporary means as long as the City wants.

2) Whatever the hours there will be no means to enforce them just like at the railroad district.

3) We will use as much of the street as necessary.

4) None.

5) No.

6) No.

7) No.

Time to sell while you can still get FMV before your neighborhood like downtown is completely wrecked. It will not take long.

I Googled her. As I thought, she’s a woman I have seen walking her dogs around the neighborhood for a couple of decades. I live nearby and I and my neighbors have similar concerns. How the City could do this to her, or for me that matter me, is puzzling.

Everyone needs to realize that elections have consequences. If you keep voting for people who have the same ideology into these council positions, you’re going to get this type of treatment. Neighborhoods seem to be expendable to the city–ignoring any and all problems that diminish our quality of life. If you live in other cities, you don’t have to put up with a lot of what our neighborhood residents are now having to live with such as high density partying students disturbing the peace until wee hours of the morning, blight from greedy investors who only want to collect high rent and do no maintenance, parking problems in residential areas because there are too many students living on a single-family lot exacerbated by the proliferation of ADU’s, and now the city allowing the homeless population to destroy the peace and safety of nearby neighborhood residents. Add in the ridiculous bike lanes removing 50% or more of neighborhood parking such as in the Anholm area, reducing and narrowing vehicle lanes to add more bike lanes that a small handful of bikers use, and making downtown parking an expensive fiasco for everyone, one has to start wondering if perhaps its time for new city leadership. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

“Neighborhoods seem to be expendable to the city” only the neighborhoods where council members or other “important” people don’t live or own property.

OK, so the city has had a homeless parking program at the railroad, and claims it’s worked well. Then the brilliant City Council, led by an even more brilliant staff, arbitrarily decrees an end to that parking program with no replacement program in place. The brilliant ones HOPE some churches will step in to fill the void. Been there, done that, and it didn’t work when churches were trying to house the homeless inside their buildings in cold, wet weather. So why would it work any better all year long in the parking lot? Each day the “dwellings” will belch their way in and out, there will be a lot of noise and mess, and the next door neighbors are supposed to be happy about this? Our brilliant city just looks stupid when it comes up with stuff like this. If it wanted a new site, it should have found one before closing the existing one. As for Palm street, wanna take bets that’s where this show ends up every time there’s a hiccup in the city’s brilliant non-plan? What everyone needs is a permanenet place for people who live in vehicles to park. That takes actual planning, not what passes for planning at Brilliant SLO.

Any churches or businesses with parking lots not in use between 7pm and 7am are going to want to check in with their insurance carriers before they allow this use. I’m guessing the answer is “no”. I park in the Pacific Premier lot after hours, I do have an account, but I’m not doing business at the bank and it is clear that I do not have permission to park there, neither does anybody else. It’s always full, but I still feel somewhat entitled.

I think brettmx and kayaknut are on the right track. Using City parking lots is a great idea. County parking lots also. Even the employee parking structure across Palm Street from the City Hall. This solution has so many benefits, and no downside.

Each City employee could be made responsible for cleaning the parking space they use each morning. The City could issue a supply of poop bags to each employee for that purpose. That way, the City would not have to pay the expense of cleaning the poop off of Palm Street every morning.

It will be much easier for the motor vehicle challenged homeless to get to the City parking lots which are more likely located near green pavement. Google earth shows no such green pavement on the subject portion of Palm Street.

Safe parking on City streets will obviously result in a “taking” from the residents, so the City would need to pay each property owner for their losses. Could get expensive.

CAPSLO could even charge the homeless for parking.

City parking structures are an outstanding solution. And as the City is trying to stick the homeless in our face on Palm Street they already are sticking it in our face downtown.

CAPSLO will be charging you for dozens of 6 figure salaries.

What about using all the city and county owned parking areas, also doesn’t other government entities have parking areas not used after 5p and before 8a?