Homeless parking lot in Encinitas to move to new location this week

The downtown Encinitas sign
The downtown Encinitas sign.
(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Overnight program relocating to city’s Community & Senior Center from Leichtag lot


An overnight parking area for people who are temporarily living in their vehicles while they look for housing will relocate to the Encinitas Community & Senior Center property later this week.

“We haven’t relocated yet, (but) we started moving the supplies and facilities needed,” Jewish Family Service Chief of Staff Chris Olsen said Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Olsen added that JFS would have liked to have completed the relocation earlier this month, but ran into some challenges setting up the electric connection to the temporary trailer, which will house the program’s social service workers. They now plan to have the new lot open for business by this weekend, he said.

JFS has a contract with the city of Encinitas to run its homeless parking lot project. Since early 2020, the program has been housed within the large, privately-owned Leichtag Foundation property under a $1-a-year lease deal, but that site was seen as a temporary location. In October, the City Council voted to allow JFS to relocate to the lower level of the city’s community center parking lot.

The relocation plans then stalled for several months after an opponent appealed the council’s decision, saying the community center site’s zoning wasn’t compatible with an overnight parking program and the city shouldn’t have issued a coastal development permit for the temporary trailer. The council unanimously voted to deny both of those appeals in December.

Funded by state grant money, JFS’s homeless parking lot program seeks to help what organizers often describe as a community’s “invisible homeless population” — people who have recently become homeless and are living in their vehicles on a temporary basis. The goal is to provide them with a helping hand and keep them from spiraling downward into a permanent homeless state, organizers have said.

Its targeted audience is not the homeless population that the general public most often sees — long-term homeless people who are sleeping in the bushes and living on city streets. Lot users typically have jobs, some are parents of school-aged children and some are senior citizens, organizers say.

This month, occupancy at the current site has averaged about 22 vehicles a night and about 60 percent of the participants have been 55 or older, organizers report.

At the new site, the program will operate in the same fashion as it does on its current site, Olsen said Tuesday, Jan. 18. It will open for business each evening at 6 p.m. and participants must leave by 7 a.m. the following day.

In order to spend the night at the lot, people must be pre-screened at an off-site location and their names are checked against a sexual offender data base. They must have functioning vehicles that they can sleep in and the vehicle cannot be an RV or a motorcycle.

Like the Leichtag site, the new location has space for up to 25 vehicles. A security guard will patrol the parking lot throughout the night, but, unlike the Leichtag site, the new location will not have a gated entrance, Olsen said. Sandwich board-style signs will mark off the entrance to the lower lot during the program’s operating hours, then each morning the lot users will leave and the area will be available for general public use, he said.