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Community unhappy with Safe Parking site at the Malcolm X Library

Neighbors voiced their concerns about using the library as a safe parking site while proposing alternatives.

SAN DIEGO — The community is supporting a civil rights activist by taking a stand against the proposal to use the Malcolm X Library as a Safe Parking Site.

On Thursday, Shane Harris, the founder and President of the People's Association of Justice Advocates, launched a campaign called "Hands of Malcolm X" and laid out alternative options on Thursday. 

Currently, there are four existing safe sleeping sites run by the city.

These sites are located in Mission Valley, Kearney Mesa, Serra Mesa, and Rose Canyon. However, the in June, The city's Homelessness and Solutions Strategies Department proposed nine additional sites in June that are spread across the city.

Three of those sites would be in District 4, which represents part of southeast San Diego. The Valencia Park/Malcolm X Library is one of those sites.

Community organizers said they are concerned about the site being too close to schools, the Live Well Center, and that there’s already a safe sleeping site nearby run by Dreams for Change.

Harris proposed four alternative sites including the Educational Cultural Complex on Ocean View, the Chollas Lake Park College on Grove Drive as well as the Live Well Center (across from the Malcom X Library) and the Jackie Robinson YMCA.

Residents say they support safe parking but oppose having it at the library near a school and claim that no one from the city surveyed them or asked what they thought.

“No one has ever come to our council meeting and asked us our opinion. These are people that are in higher positions that want to put things in our community. We are tired of Emerald Hills being a dumping ground and D4 being a dumping ground,” Evelyn Smith said,  Emerald Hills Neighborhood Council Chair.

During the mayor’s monthly press availability today, Mayor Gloria was asked about the pushback from the community.

“People are sleeping in their cars in that parking lot right now. What they don’t have are the benefit of services that can actually get them out of their cars and into houses," said Mayor Todd Gloria. "We believe that we do it in a way that’s discrete, respectful, would have the services, and security that would be really important,” Mayor Todd Gloria said.

Harris responded to the Mayor in a statement: 

Mayor Gloria attempted to insult the community today by gaslighting valid concerns raised by not just residents of district four but community councils within the district about Malcolm X Library becoming an overnight safe parking site due to area congestion and the elementary institute of science as well as another safe parking site nearby for people to sleep in their vehicles. The homeless were also sleeping in the [E]ast [V]illage and yet the Mayor was quick to sweep downtown squeaky clean so to say that Malcolm X's parking lot already has homeless individuals sleeping in it, is an irresponsible approach to valid community concerns. We will not stand down. Hands off Malcolm X Library.

Dreams for Change, a non-profit that started providing safe parking lots over a decade ago and says concerns they've heard in the past at other sites is unwarranted and it's important to educate the community. 

"The fears of crime is just not there," said Teresa Smith, PhD, Dreams for Change CEO. "It's a very different population. first time homeless. they are still working, still connected, still have roots."

The city also proposed expanding a Dreams for Change Safe Sleeping site which is a mile away from the library. 

Smith says the non-profit isn't taking a stance on the proposed the sites but says in some cases, neighbors welcome safe parking, which has improved neighborhoods. 

"There isn't a community that's not impacted," said Smith. "Our biggest piece is to provide education and get the information out there what this about. There are many misconceptions when it comes vehicle homelessness."

A spokesperson for the city says the proposals are still being explored. Last week, a spokesperson sent this statement in response to the growing concerns about the Malcom X Library site:

As one of many steps to address the homelessness crisis in San Diego, the City is looking to expand its Safe Parking program to accommodate more people living out of their vehicles to safely stay overnight, with services to navigate them toward permanent housing. 

Four existing Safe Parking sites are located in Mission Valley, Kearny Mesa, Serra Mesa, and Rose Canyon near Interstate 5. 

The City's Comprehensive Shelter Strategy lists several locations in communities across San Diego that may be evaluated as potential Safe Parking locations. These sites would only be used for Safe Parking overnight, not during the day, and would have on-site services and security to ensure the safety of everyone. 

City-funded shelter, outreach, and safe parking programs have successfully placed individuals into permanent housing. Nearly 1,000 people were helped as part of the Safe Parking program in fiscal year 2023. 

In June when the city presented the proposed safe parking list to the city council it had a goal to open the Malcolm X library site this summer and could cost $700-$920 thousand. 

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