Sunnyvale residents, officials seek solutions to day laborers issue
May 03, 2012 (Menafn - Sunnyvale Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Garbage, public urination and rats aren't exactly what people think of when they consider a quick trip to Home Depot, but those things have become a real concern for one Fair Oaks neighborhood resident.
Over the past three years, Terri Le has been working with the city and the county to address health and safety concerns regarding day laborers in front of the home improvement store at Kifer Road and Fair Oaks Avenue. But after sifting through a myriad of ordinances, she said there seems to be no clear solution.
"We often walk by the Home Depot to get to downtown or we drive by, and one time we saw a man just standing and urinating into the bushes," Le said. "My neighbor's child saw someone doing the same. My main concern is that it is just not sanitary."
There now seem to be a noticeable number of rats in the area as well, Le said. Some neighbors have even set up rat traps to try to alleviate the problem.
According to Sunnyvale communications officer John Pilger, the city is working on an anti-public urination ordinance to help address the problem, but there isn't a lot the city can do to address other issues.
Additionally, the city's jurisdiction covers only public property, so when issues arise in the parking lot of the store, it becomes Home Depot's responsibility.
"There's not a whole lot we can do; we can't go out there all the time to watch the area," Pilger said. "There are not a lot of ordinance
tools that we can work with."
With an anti-urination ordinance in place, the municipal code would change so that officers could cite a person through an escalating fine structure.
"We might get more action that way, but we're not sure," Pilger said.
Home Depot has its own limitations as far as what kind of enforcement it can implement. One store employee who did not provide his name said that there are already trash receptacles out in the parking lot, which are used regularly, and the day laborers actually recycle the majority of their cans and bottles.
The issue of day laborers gathering in front of home improvement stores has been an ongoing and widespread problem. Four years ago in the city of Campbell, day laborers initially moved from their Home Depot location partly because of the store's proximity to Highway 17.
Campbell police were able to cite laborers soliciting work thanks to a state vehicle code that makes it illegal to solicit or attempt to solicit employment from a driver of a vehicle while standing on a sidewalk within 500 feet of a freeway on- or off-ramp.
Le is hoping to utilize a similar ordinance in the city, forbidding workers from soliciting jobs from passing motorists, which could cause traffic accidents. She said she has seen this happen on more than one occasion.
Backed by a handful of neighbors, Le plans to attend the next city council meeting to voice her concerns, as well as rally neighbors to take action.
"I feel like a lot of neighbors for years have complained, but have given up and accepted it," Le said.
In the meantime, the city is planning to partner with Palo Alto's Downtown Streets Team, which addresses similar problems involving the homeless. By the end of summer or early fall, the group will work near the city's armory site to help clean up the neighborhood.
The project aims to work with 50 homeless men and women over the span of a year to help get them back on their feet. The cleanup team will tackle the area bounded by Fair Oaks Avenue, Wolfe Road, and Duane and Evelyn avenues.
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