The Encinitas City Council voted Thursday morning to pass the overnight parking lot for homeless people after hearing more than 100 residents speak on the issue.
The Safe Parking Program has received backlash from community members, who believe the parking lots should not be located in residential areas but instead in industrial locations.
The program will allow Jewish Family Service (JFS), the group behind the proposal, to use a space east of Interstate 5 and south of Leucadia Boulevard to house homeless people in their vehicles from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day of the week.
The proposed lot will be built on the sprawling 67.5-acre Leichtag Foundation property which sits within several Encinitas neighborhoods.
“This isn’t just going to impact the neighbors right next to Leichtag but this is going to impact the whole city,” said Crista Curtis a resident of Encinitas.
The parking lot will have no more than 25 parking spaces, including on-site support with case managers and overnight security, JFS said.
"With only 25 available spaces, the Encinitas lot will prioritize and focus on vulnerable families, veterans, older adults and college students who are currently living in their vehicles within the City of Encinitas and North County," according to the JFS website.
The goal is to provide newly homeless individuals and families living in their vehicles a secure and safe place to sleep seven nights a week. JFS would also offer services to help transition homeless individuals into permanent housing.
"They're not the chronically homeless, they're the first time homeless. They're community college students, they're single-parent families, seniors, maybe they've had an unexpected medical bill, maybe they just can't scrape together the first and last month's rent after they lost a second job," said Leichtag Foundation Executive Vice President Charlene Seidle.
Concerned residents said the city had discussed the matter in two closed sessions saying there was no advance notice, public notification or community forums.
“The city has not told any of the residents about this, there have been no notices, and no notices to neighbors,” said Encinitas resident Crista Curtis.
A petition was filed on Change.org to stop the City of Encinitas to approve the parking lot. It had gathered more than 4,000 signatures before the vote.
“I’ve seen an increase in homeless people just along my walk, and things like that it changes a whole city. This is a safe city and I want to feel safe when I’m walking around,” Curtis said.
A shelter crisis was declared by the City of Encinitas in Oct. 2018, which allowed the city to work with local service providers and the Regional Task Force on the homeless in applying for the Homeless Emergency Aid Program grant funding.
Just over a year later, the City Council was presented by JFS drafting of agreements and negotiation of terms to establish a Safe Parking Lot in Encinitas.