The Coast News Group
Lecihtag Commons
Leichtag Commons on Saxony Road in Encinitas. The property, owned by Jewish Family Service, is home to the Safe Parking Program, which allows homeless residents to stay overnight in their vehicles. Courtesy photo
Cities Community Community Encinitas Encinitas Featured News

Supporters fight to keep overnight homeless parking lot

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include additional comments from Theresa Beauchamp and Bob Ayers.

ENCINITAS — Supporters of the Safe Parking Program in Encinitas are speaking out in the wake of a lawsuit filed against the city earlier this month regarding the lot.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the goal of the overnight parking lot is to help people living in their cars get back into housing and to stop the downward spiral before they fall into street homelessness.

“I see the safe parking lot, honestly, as homeless prevention, because people in their cars are not yet on the street and we don’t want them to be,” Blakespear said.

The Encinitas City Council approved the Safe Parking Program on Jan. 22.

In February, the lot opened at Leichtag Commons, a 67.5-acre property in Encinitas owned and operated by Jewish Family Service (JFS).

The space currently allows for a maximum of 25 cars from between the hours of 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. The lot is funded by a $256,000 HEAP grant awarded to JFS.

“The Safe Parking Program in Encinitas is going well and is fully enrolled, with 25 cars,” said Michael Hopkins, CEO of JFS. “Many of the participants were living and working in or very near Encinitas prior to enrolling in the Safe Parking Program and now have a safe place to stay to help maintain their employment in the area.”

JFS operates three other Safe Parking Program lots in the city of San Diego at Balboa Avenue, Aero Drive and Mission Village Drive.

Supporters Theresa Beauchamp, and husband Bob Ayers, say those lots have proven effective, with 42 percent of clients moving into permanent housing, due to its resources, tools and case managers that help families find employment, school success, financial education, credit repair and permanent housing. 

“Will it work in Encinitas? Only time will tell,” they said in a joint e-mail. “But if we don’t try, we will never know and those families will be less safe.”

The couple said the safe parking program addresses the unfortunate side of an economic reality, which is that the price of housing in Encinitas has driven educated people with good jobs to homelessness.

“We cannot pretend this is not the case,” they wrote. “We cannot pretend that we live in a different economy or in the Encinitas of the past. We can turn our backs on these folks or we can help them.”

The couple said some people are simply terrified by homeless people, “that these strangers will be using drugs, defecating in our streets and harassing our children. That is, indeed, a terrifying thought. But the safe parking program in Encinitas is clearly designed to serve a different homeless population than the one that terrifies us.”

All participants are referred by area schools, churches and other local organizations and adults are run through sex offender registries and screened for criminal records. Drugs and alcohol are not allowed on the lot.

The complaint was filed by North County Citizens Coalition, or NC3, on March 2 in Superior Court.

The group filed a complaint against the city alleging violations of the Brown Act, violations of due process, declaring a false shelter crisis, placing a homeless facility in an agricultural zone and evading CEQA and Coastal Commission requirements.

Opponents of the program believe the city has overstepped its legal authority by approving the program and ignoring the wishes of its residents. 

“We filed a lawsuit because it’s the only way we can get the city to stop what they’re doing,” Crista Curtis, a member of NC3, told The Coast News earlier this month. “They rushed it through, they did things illegally, and they need to go back and do it the right way.”

“This council has demonstrated that it does not listen to its residents,” Curtis added. “We had 200 residents show up to the council meeting in January asking for the lot to be stopped and for a better solution than sleeping in cars. (Instead) the council listened to non-resident employees or members of nonprofits and other special interest groups.”

However, Beauchamp and Ayers said Curtis’ remarks about the number of residents opposing the lot is not accurate.

“This statement is completely false,” Beauchamp and Ayers said. “Of the 200 residents that showed up to the council meeting, the majority spoke in favor of the (lot).  My husband and I are perfect examples…we represented no special interest groups.”

Blakespear said cities have historically stepped back and let the county deal with the issue of homelessness, but she feels that needs to change and cities need to start doing more.

“Cities are the ones who bear the brunt of the effects,” she said. (We) need to own it and say, ‘This is something we’re working on, this is something we care about. We care about both the person who is experiencing homelessness and we care about the residents who want to experience their city streets, their city parks, free from people living and sleeping there’.”

The mayor’s “twin concerns” are the preservation of people’s quality of life and humanitarian response for people in crisis.

“Those things are not in opposition to each other, they go together, and so being committed to giving them a high quality of life and being committed to helping people who really need it, to me that is the way forward,” Blakespear said.

[wpedon id=”143538″]


Susanne Brooks March 7, 2021 at 6:53 pm

Can everyone calm down and realize that everybody is seeking the same thing, a way to live together amicably, but not too close for comfort, in a respectful way that can meet the needs of the citizens of Encinitas. Unfortunately. the homeless are a population who have an overabundance of needs, but the issue here is the one we all have in common, housing. Most of the residents here are homeowners, but the homeless, by definition, have no where to live, except their vehicles, and like snails in shells, are needed for comfort and protection. I have been living in my van for one year now and couldn’t survive without it. The alternative is much worse, sleeping on the streets, and in that situation the homeless are more likely to seek shelter and having to wander alot closer to your door. If I can speak for we unfortunates who have nowhere else to live but in our vehicle believe me we don’t want to be around you either, because we value our privacy and need our own space just as you do. It seems that the safe pkg programs are trying to help accomplish the same thing in that respect, given they’re set up in non residential areas. I would think it would be a plus for the city’s residents because there will be that much fewer homeless ppl trying to find a place to sleep where residents don’t want them. So then why oppose the solution offered here? I suppose there will always be opposition to anything as long as there are ppl who just want something to argue about. No one wants to sleep in a vehicle, it’s a nightmare already so we certainly don’t need anyone making it haurder for us by taking away options offered to us. I don’t use the program but for those who do I am sure its important and benefits them . I know i would have a little more money on my pocket from all of the parking tickets I’ve had to pay. The point I’m making here however is this, we need to all her on the same page, and help eachother by looking for solutions to our common goal, living together in peace.

Michael March 27, 2020 at 11:45 pm


Jerome Stocks March 27, 2020 at 10:46 pm

Compassion? I would be more comfortable if it was set up with psychological counseling, occupational therapists, drug and alcohol counseling, job skills assessment and training or even laundry facilities, rather than just a place to perk that they’re kicked out of early in the morning.
If it’s gonna exist why can’t it be a rehab / helpful campus rather than just a parking lot?
And the City should’ve followed all its own rules/laws to allow it to exist. What they’ve currently done is not right and not beneficial to our community.

Bill Sparks March 27, 2020 at 9:47 pm

If we can’t come together now as a community to help those among us less fortunate and facing hardship, might not our own time of need fall on deaf ears and blind eyes one day?

Jeff Morris March 27, 2020 at 7:57 pm

The mayor is declared the fake “emergency crisis shelter’ in 2018 to qualify for HEAP money 2 winters before, and LIKELY to use “emergency crisis shelter” laws to REZONE Leichtag’s land for residential use – as Leichtag has in 2010, before they bought the land & 2018 Master Plans.

The City Council never had any INPUT from the residents so how did all of the opposition know what to say if there never was a public meeting? The City Council stacked the City Hall with opposition against Encinitas Residents who many are part of special interest groups who receive donations from Leichtag directly or indirectly. Bob and Theresa are married and have connections to Leichtag, JFS and the City Council, just like every other prop.

There was NO homeless problem in November before a whistle blower notified us on Nextdoor. The City Council allowed NO INPUT FROM RESIDENTS as we watched JFS and other groups start a massive marketing campaign to bring in homeless from all over the country. We watched our town fill up with hundreds of NEW homeless and van lifers as a DIRECT result of all of the advertising. The net result of this was our City Council FILLED OUR TOWN with hundreds of homeless on foot, in cars while the averages were 6-9 in the parking lot.

All of these people involved in this plot AGAINST THE RESIDENTS OF ENCINITAS need to be held accountable. These people had a right to speak however they should have notified the residents of the “conflict of interest” meaning many of them were affiliated with charities who were on the donor list of Leichtag. In fact, we know of 2 meetings the mayor had with St. Andrews & NC Justice and discussed what was needed to be said. We have emails ordering people to come and or sign pink slips.

The entire thing was a SCAM and “optics” only and the City Council actually FILLED THE CITY HALL WITH OPPOSITION AGAINST RESIDENTS. I am the ONLY person in this town to live most of my elementary life homeless with no parents and the ONLY success story in this town. I am a success story about homeless and I know what it takes. I don’t have any reason to believe anything JFS or Leichtag has to say about numbers, in fact my instinct tells me they aren’t even close to telling the truth.

The VP of Leichtag called me anti-Semitic simply because I was a concerned resident and one time because she misread an article – she never apologized and she turned hundreds of residents against me and I have had many threats on my life because of her reckless nature. Because of this collusion behind the back of residents we have taken matters into our own hands to protect our town from unscrupulous and untrustworthy people who are attacking everything this town has worked for. Not all of us are on payroll and I this was a calculated and documented attempt for the appearance of a takeover against the residents of Encinitas.

John April 21, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Conspiracy theory much? Just because some people have different agendas than you doesnt equate to some evil plan to ruin the community.
One thing that needs to be recognized is that without this program, these same car dwellers are in your community, parked often on your street. Wouldnt you rather see them in one place, supervised?

Comments are closed.