Homeless parking lot program gains one-month lease extension

City of Encinitas
(Karen Billing)

Encinitas City Council to consider appeals of Jewish Family Service relocation plans Dec. 8


A program that provides a safe, overnight parking area for homeless people who are temporarily living in their vehicles will be permitted to remain at its current location for another month.

The Encinitas City Council unanimously granted Jewish Family Service a one-month lease extension recently, allowing it to continue operating its program on the Leichtag Foundation property through the holiday season while the city determines whether its relocation plans can move forward.

JFS has operated its 25-spot lot at the Leichtag Foundation property since early 2020 and had planned to relocate to the Encinitas Community & Senior Center parking lot in early December. The City Council approved those relocation plans in October, but that decision has since been appealed by an opponent.

In his appeal paperwork filed with the city Nov. 3, Lindsey Lane resident Steven Gerken wrote that the council did not consider multiple, significant issues when it gave final approval Oct. 19 to both the relocation plan and to JFS’ request to install a temporary trailer in the lower portion of the community center’s parking lot.

Among other things, Gerken wrote that operating an overnight parking lot at the community center does not comply with the site’s zoning or the facility’s current permits. Handing over 13 percent of the community center’s parking lot to the homeless program will significantly change conditions at the community center and this issue also hasn’t been addressed, he wrote.

Gerken also raised public safety issues, saying the project’s impact on nearby schools hadn’t been adequately explored, and he said the city had failed to conduct proper public noticing of nearby property owners. He concluded by asking for the council to reverse its project approvals and send the relocation plans to the Planning Commission for a “full evaluation.”

The City Council is scheduled to hear his appeals of both the relocation plans and the trailer installation issue at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Many people who live near the community center or who have children attending nearby schools have opposed the relocation plans in recent months, and a couple of them spoke out at a recent council meeting, as did one proponent. The opponents said JFS should remain in its current location, while the proponent said he was glad the council was granting the lease extension so the program wouldn’t have to close while the relocation issue was debated.

Council members also are split over the issue. Councilmember Joy Lyndes reiterated her position that the program was good, but the relocation site “probably could be better,” while Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she felt the parking lot was a good start and the city should be doing far more to help the homeless.

In a statement released recently, JFS Chief of Staff Chris Olsen wrote that his organization remains committed to the parking lot program and will stay at the Leichtag site through Dec. 31 while the appeals are processed.

JFS’ homeless parking lot aims to serve people who are new to homelessness and are temporarily living in their vehicles — people whom the organization refers to as the “invisible homeless population.” Program case workers help parking lot participants find housing and provide them with other social service assistance.

The overnight parking lot opens each night at 6 p.m. and everyone is required to leave by 7 a.m. the following day. No RVs, motorcycles or camper-style vehicles are allowed. In order to use the lot, people must be pre-screened in advance at an off-site location, and the screening includes a check for any outstanding warrants as well as running the names through the National Sex Offender Registry, organizers report.