The Encinitas City Council is considering relocating its Safe Parking Program, a lot set up for people who have nowhere to sleep except their cars, but neighbors of the proposed location are pumping the brakes on the idea.
The new proposed location is a parking lot in a senior and community center. The proposal is getting harsh criticism from some residents because of the lot's proximity to a number of schools.
Opponents told NBC 7 Wednesday night that it’s not the homeless people admitted into the Safe Parking Program who concern them, but those who are turned away and end up making Encinitas neighborhood streets their home.
The city has been operating the program at the Leichtag Foundation property on Saxony Road for 18 months. If relocated, the program would call the parking lot of the Encinitas community and senior centers on Oakcrest Park Drive home.
"We have a middle school right at the end of this parking lot," neighboring resident Charlotte Gets said.
"I’ll bet you won’t find a place that has more seniors, more kids, more going on, and more secluded than this parking lot," Encinitas parent Jennifer Kuckenbaker said.
The community center parking lot is at the end of a long driveway, and next to Oak Crest Middle School, a private school and a Montessori school. There are soccer fields next to it as well.
The city says the program focuses on vulnerable families, veterans, older adults, and college students who are currently living in their vehicles in North County.
The program allows 25 cars -- not RV's or campers -- to stay overnight, between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. Participants are screened and must meet guidelines, including no use of drugs or alcohol.
"It pains me greatly that people are referring to us as drug addicts and mentally ill people who are losers, and we are not," an SPP participant named Jody told NBC 7.
Some residents said neighbors shouldn't be worried about the program at all.
"Twenty-five cars in a huge parking lot doesn't threaten our children," Tom Scott said. "Decisions based on fear and misinformation do."
A small group of people stood outside council chambers protesting the move before this week's meeting.
After an emotional hour of public comment, the city council voted 3 to 2 in favor of the proposal. It now goes through the ordinance process and the council will take it up again at its Oct. 13 meeting.
The city of Encinitas said all adults in the program are screened through the Megan's Law database, the National Sex Offender registry, and for any outstanding warrants.
Registered sex offenders and those with outstanding warrants are not eligible.
If relocated, Jewish Family Service will operate the program and the lot will be monitored by security.