ENCINITAS — The city’s Safe Parking Program site is scheduled to move to the Encinitas Community and Senior Center starting early next month after what the Leichtag Foundation claims were several instances of anti-semitic threats and harassment.
But the city has no documentation of these alleged incidents, according to City Clerk Kathy Hollywood.
In 2020, Leichtag Foundation agreed to lease a portion of its property at Leichtag Commons on Saxony Road for Jewish Family Services (JFS) to operate a Safe Parking Program in Encinitas.
During last month’s Encinitas City Council meeting, City Manager Pam Antil said the foundation had requested the city find a new location for the program instead of extending the agreement at its current site.
“Leichtag was very kind to extend their agreement and allow us to remain, have the program remain, but they could no longer support it because of the threats and the disturbances that were caused by not the people in the program but people who were trying to ensure that it would not stay at Leichtag,” Antil said.
The Encinitas City Council on Oct. 13 approved a new agreement for the Safe Parking program to relocate operations to the city’s Community and Senior Center.
The following week, Encinitas resident Natalie Settoon submitted a public records request to the city seeking documentation of reported threats cited by Antil, and she learned there were “no responsive documents to the request,” according to an email response Hollywood.
“The statement made by the City Manager during the 10/13/21 City Council meeting was based on personal accounts by Leichtag that had been relayed to City staff,” Hollywood wrote in an email response to Settoon’s request. “The City does not have records of the experiences of the Leichtag organization.”
The Coast News confirmed with the city the email was from Hollywood in response to Settoon’s request.
According to a city document addressing questions about the Safe Parking program, crime data and calls for service records collected by the Sheriff’s Department will be provided to the City Council for quarterly evaluations over the course of the agreement before the program can be renewed.
Settoon and others have questioned whether the lack of documentation of threats and disturbances constitutes a breach of contract and represents a failure to adequately inform the surrounding community of perceived dangers.
“Are we operating our city on unfounded rumors? Or did we ignore liability by not having even one email to the Sheriff’s Department to protect ourselves or the people in the lot?” Settoon said. “More concerning to me is that the city, as tenant, knowingly entered into another contract last month with JFS when they already failed to fulfill these contractual obligations.”
Charlene Seidle, executive vice president at Leichtag, told The Coast News in a statement the foundation was subject to a number of incidents of harassment.
“Before and during the Safe Parking Program, Leichtag Foundation received comments and feedback from neighbors and community members,” Seidle said. “Most of these comments were constructive and positive. A handful of people chose to express their displeasure with the program and/or the process as they perceived it through deriding and targeting program clients including physical intimidation aimed toward clients at the entrance to our private property and repeatedly flying drones above the Safe Parking Lot, invading the privacy of the program participants.”
Seidle continued in the statement that some of the harassment was targeted.
“In addition, several people harassed and targeted threats to certain members of Leichtag staff including myself,” Seidle said. “Some of the harassment and rhetoric regarding the program, though not all of it, was pointedly anti-Semitic invoking common and known anti-Semitic tropes.”
Seidle declined to go into further detail on the incidents and The Coast News could not find any official police reports for specific incidents. Seidle and the city both say that despite there possibly not being any official reports, the Sheriff’s Department was aware of the situation.
During the meeting, the City Council reiterated its support for the program and its change in location to the city-owned community center.
“I have spoken extensively about why I support this program and how I feel about it,” Blakespear said. “This public policy work is the art of the possible. And this is something that we can do to help some people. And we have been helping people for a year and a half.”
In the most recent data provided by JFS through the city’s website, the organization says that to date about a third of families who have entered the program have been able to find permanent housing since February of 2020.