Encinitas moves forward with plan to relocate safe parking program for homeless

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ENCINITAS, Calif. — Plans to move a safe parking program for the homeless to the Encinitas Community and Senior Center appear to be a done deal.

Wednesday night, Encinitas City Council denied an appeal to stop the project from moving forward.

Beginning next month, the program will occupy 31 parking spaces outside the center on Oak Crest Park Drive, allowing the homeless to stay overnight from 6 pm. to 7 p.m.

“I’ve always had concerns, not about the program in and of itself but the fact Encinitas has become a magnet for homeless people in general,” said Stephanie Wheeler, an Encinitas resident who has fought against the relocation of the program.

The lot the city plans to use is right across the street from Oak Crest Middle School, with other schools nearby.

“There wasn’t one single mention of what they’re going to do to protect our kids,” said Encinitas resident Steven Gerken, who filed the appeal to block the move and has a child who attends the middle school.

During the city council meeting, San Dieguito Union High School District Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward also made a plea to city leaders.

“What I’m asking you is not that you not have a homeless parking lot, but that you not have a homeless parking lot across a driveway from 800 middle schoolers who are very vulnerable themselves,” she said.

For the past two years, the city has run another homeless parking lot at Leichtag Commons, less than two miles away.

Time has run out on that spot, operated by Jewish Family Services, which will also oversee the new lot.

Opponents argue the lot now in use is safer and more enclosed, with a gate that closes at night. They worry the new location will lack any real security.

Mayor Catherine Blakespeare says the program helps prevent homelessness and helps the homeless get back on their feet.

“Helping people who are in need is a really important value. This was the right thing to do. And at the end of the day, this program helps people and it hurts no one,” said Blakespeare.

The program in the new lot is expected to run at least a year.

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