San Luis Obispo drops plan for homeless parking, unsure about future plans

September 7, 2023

San Luis Obispo Planning Commission


The city of San Luis Obispo and a nonprofit dropped plans on Wednesday to provide an overnight parking area for homeless people on Palm Street near the Veterans Memorial Building after neighbors raised procedural, safety and legal concerns.

The plan was to move the safe parking program from faith base facilities to public areas monthly with Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (CAPSLO) managing the sites. The city recently closed its Railroad Square safe parking area.

Neighbors then voiced concerns regarding transparency and neighborhood safety, which caused the city to delay its plan to close a portion of Palm Street and temporarily transform the area into a safe parking area. However, after a neighbor provided the city with case law which appears to show the plan is not legal, the city dropped its Palm Street proposal.

During a SLO Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday night, residents chastised the city for failing to inform neighbors in the Palm Street area and to protect businesses and the community near their safe parking areas.

“I am in favor of offering services to help the unhoused,” Lynn Hamilton said. “However the city’s poor planning and management has led to the complete shutdown of safe parking services. The city and CAPSLO have been disingenuous about the success of the Railroad Services program. Police records show that 123 calls were made since 0ct 2021. Why the city thinks CAPSLO can run the safe parking program is beyond me.”

Multiple speakers, both homeless and neighbors, questioned the quality of CAPSLO’s management, which brags of a 14% rate of moving the unhoused living in cars into homes. About 26% of SLO’s approximately 385 homeless people sleep in cars.

A recent SLO County Grand Jury found that CAPSLO has been unsuccessful at helping the majority of its participant households successfully transition to permanent housing. With a transition rate of 14%, the county safe parking site falls well below the median rehousing rate of 40% found in a 2021 nationwide study of 43 safe parking programs, according to the grand jury report.

In addition, the Grand Jury determined CAPSLO had failed to accomplish tasks they were paid to perform at the county’s safe parking site on Oklahoma Avenue and then refused to provide the Grand Jury records.

Commissioners said they hope the city comes back to them with a resolution in the near future in order to do something for the homeless. In addition, commissioners said they need to look into CAPSLO’s management and ways to improve the safe parking program while keeping residents safe.

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Lynn and Mark did just fine.

Each council member, planning commissioner, and the employees of the non-profits that support these programs should have a dedicated parking space on or in front of their residence to accommodate the unhoused and their RVs. Only after all those spaces are filled should the powers that be go looking for other parking areas.

I smell the threat of legal consequences for this parking proposal. If the vehicles can drive public roads, then rent the drive in theater if possible?

The theater, another good idea!

We most likely would not be having this conversation if it were not for the leftist authoritarianism we are currently having to live under.

Possibly consider suing the City for stigmatizing the neighborhood and lowering property values, based on an illegal proposal.

I look forward to the critics of the program vocally praising city officials for backpedaling. Afterall if you don’t applause politicians (especially the ones you mostly disagree with) when they do what you like, they’ll get in the habit of never correcting course, why would they?

You don’t reward a mistake. You make sure they learned to not do stupid stuff the next time they get a wild hair.

You reward the correction. But if you’re going to be mad even when they “fix” your problem, why should they ever change course. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t – let them know they’re not damned if they don’t. Being angry all the time makes the right more ineffective in SLO.

With outrageous compensation and a billion in underfunded pension costs how dare we expect these fatcats to do their job right the first time.

OK, a complement, “SLO City Council is not 100% hair brained.”

Look, how would you like to pay years and years of property and other taxes to a City that puts this next to your property, thus diminishing it’s value, and your ability to fund your senior years?

You just want it to degrade someone else’s property value. Things with negative externalities have to go somewhere, and a lower property value for 60 days isn’t that bad.

Also I’m far more sympathetic to complaints about trash and noise, but that’s rarely brought up. Why does everyone only care about the money?

A home is a family’s primary asset. Often a multigenerational effort. How they finance their kids starting out. How they can finance a medical bill. How they can afford retirement. How they can care for their elderly.

On THIS planet money matters and financially, a home matters. Those that don’t understand the financial value of residences to a family should not be making land use decisions.

We disagree friend. You’re treating property like an investment, I prefer to treat it as a home.

I recognize that land is obviously a way to invest wealth and that’s important, but it has the side effect of requiring scarcity and driving up costs. Most people don’t own a home and yet still need to do all those things you mentioned. For them to own a home (something which I think has a moral value) they need entry level low-mid cost housing, however because so many homeowners are most interested in their existing asset value, not the ability for other people to enter the market, there are all kinds of restrictions on new construction, and anything that might affect those who already have a home. The market is rigged.

Moreover because housing is an investment, it’s speculated on which increases it’s price, the price has to keep going up no matter what. Think about your Car or your TV, you didn’t buy those so you could flip them for cash in 5-30 years, you bought them for the utility they provide. Not a coincidence that in the past 40 years the relative cost of buying a car or a TV has gone down, but housing is (very) significantly more expensive.

You are right about disagreeing. I don’t expect something free. I don’t expect a free car, free TV or free home. It is not a fundamental right or entitlement. Private property is a fundamental human right.

Housing is available and near free all over the country. Check out the Venice district of Detroit. Free homes in Kansas.

You can say, I don’t want to live there. Well, I can’t afford Santa Barbara or Carmel, so I maturely don’t expect to live there. There is no right to have an affordable home in San Luis Obispo or anywhere else for that matter.

Also, cars are routinely flipped for gain. TV’s are a massed produced commodity. If they ever become rare, they will be flipped.

Finally, there are alternatives, coop housing, Tenants-in-Common co-ownership, long term land leases.

I don’t think housing should be free, I love private property.

I would prefer it operate under normal market rules, as thing people buy because they want to live there, less because it’s an appreciable investment. Again, the consequences are a demand for scarcity, we see that, look at somewhere like San Francisco where the average house was built in the 1920s; the property values are so high mostly because of speculation, not actual utility to the person living there.

Yes cars and TVs are sometimes flipped for money, I have no issue with that, but it isn’t the default. I also have no issues with someone flipping a house, but that shouldn’t be the assumption. No one listens, but home values can’t keep going up forever – already in SLO the average house is somewhere between 8-10 times median income (healthy ratio is around 3), maybe when the average is one million, 1.5, or 2 million per house, there will come a point when sellers can’t find buyers because the buyers don’t see it as a good investment.

We both don’t like homelessness, but doing a thought experiment. If I was, what would I do? Maybe I could move to Detroit or rural Alaska, but there are no jobs there to do all the other things in life, there are few places with dirt cheap houses and with plentiful decent jobs I could consider. But I think there is also a sentimental value to SLO – it’s been my home most of my life, I would do my best to get a job, pay my taxes, and find somewhere affordable to rent here, and not have to upend to some Midwest hellhole.

I care about creating more housing for the working man and women in SLO, the ones who need there to be bottom rungs of the ladder they can use to climb up. I don’t want SLO to be a rich-person only community. The homeless who don’t want to get back in the ladder, have other issues, we need shelters or parking lots for them, but also for ordinary folk who prefer not to have their tents in parks or downtown.

Lastly you’re spot on with coop housing and non-profit landlords. We should encourage them here in SLO. We should change state law to allow local governments to lease them land and provide low interest loans to further construction.

What we both might agree on is that Short Term Vacation Rentals are gobbling up available housing. I’ve seen a real problem in Sedona, AZ and Eureka Springs, AR.

We agree it’s a contributing issue. We also probably agree that Cal Poly creates additional demand on lower-income housing but without the low income (students parents pay). However I think it’s less of an issue than the primary one: it is too difficult for builders to build more homes, and the types of homes the market wants. We need more townhomes and more mixed use apartments – people want to build them and it’s special interests using zoning rules and environmental regulations to stifle growth.

There are lots of private parking lots for government buildings not use between say 6p and 6a weeksays and all weekends that can be used.

Best idea on this whole discussion.

Generally businesses have some sort of profit incentive to increase production, or achieve some sort of goal that benefits their company and grow. Does CAPSLO have such an incentive?

CAPSLO is a “non-profit agency” but is definitely a business that relies on homeless people as the way they stay funded. Therein lies the fundamental problem with such a model – IF CAPSLO is every to really reduce the homeless population to a point where it was no longer a problem, they have effectively worked themselves out of a job. Nobody wants to work themselves out of a job, so they have no incentive to actually solve the problem, if anything, the bigger it gets, the better off their funding is. Solving the problem would in fact destroy their entire their business.

It seems very clear- If they really reduce homelessness in this area, they put themselves out of a job. Therein lies the paradox of the “homeless industrial complex” (one of the main growth industries in the country) Until they have an incentive to reduce the percentage of homeless ironically there is an inverse incentive to do so.

Here’s the sad truth: the CEO of CAPSLO is Biz Steinberg and she’s 83 years old. To put in context, the woman is older than both Biden and McConnell and she’s STILL running a multi-layered program. Steinberg is pulling a Feinstein by refusing to retire.

New leadership at CAPSLO is desperately needed. This half-assed plan to drop homeless people in a residential neighborhood almost got approved. Steinberg needs to go!