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Safe parking site opens in Palo Alto

SAN JOSE – Today, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian announced the opening of a new 24-hour safe parking site at City-owned site at 2000 Geng Road in Palo Alto. The parking lot will be able to house 12 vehicles and is operated by Move Mountain View. This is the first safe parking lot of its kind to open in Palo Alto, which has seen a significant increase in residents living in cars and RVs in recent years.

This lot adds to a large number of safe parking spaces that the County has opened in Mountain View, in partnership with the City of Mountain View. A year ago, there were only 8 safe parking spaces in North County; now there are over 100 spaces available for families in Palo Alto and Mountain View.

"While not a long-term solution, safe parking allows residents to have stability in where they sleep each night while they seek permanent housing,” said Simitian. “The goal is to move people through the program, out of the program, into a better place.”

In addition to a safe place to sleep at night, safe parking programs offer case management, to help residents seek permanent housing, as well as basic amenities like fresh water and restrooms. The Palo Alto site, leased to the County at no cost, also offers showers. Once pandemic restrictions are lifted, additional facilities at the site may be used for programming for the families.

Under State law, the County has the ability to operate safe parking lots on a 24-hour basis, which is key to their success. Such 24-hour safe parking has frequently been requested by vehicle dwellers who otherwise need to move their RVs onto city streets during the day (when “overnight” lots close).

"Council Member Lydia Kou and I initiated safe parking efforts within Palo Alto and I want to deeply thank Supervisor Simitian for bringing the Geng Road project to Palo Alto, " said Tom DuBois, Mayor of Palo Alto. "We need to help the most vulnerable among us, like those living in vehicles, have a safe base to get back on their feet. This is fantastic progress with hopefully more to come.”

In the past five years, the number of Santa Clara County residents living in cars and recreational vehicles (RVs) has increased significantly. In the latest Santa Clara County Homeless Census 18% of unhoused County residents were found to be living in vehicles – up from 8% in 2015 and 2017. 

As Simitian notes, “Safe parking sites aren’t ‘the answer’, but they’re part of the answer. And as we help people move up and on to a better situation, even a modest number of sites can help literally hundreds of families over the course of a year.”