If you’ve been by the Home Depot in San Carlos lately, you’ve probably seen signs just like the one pictured here. It’s one of many “No Loitering” signs that have been installed throughout the massive parking lot that’s shared by Home Depot, Lucky’s, Pet Express, and Dollar Store on Old County Road. Consequently, you’ve probably also noticed that the congregation of day laborers that gathers every day is now concentrated more on the sidewalks of Old County Road and Howard Avenue, instead of all throughout the parking lot like it used to be.
It’s the latest step in the delicate balance of allowing the day laborers their right to look for work, while keeping it from becoming a nuisance to patrons of these four businesses. And it marks a slight shift in the way Home Depot and the City of San Carlos have opted to monitor the situation which has been taking place in this parking lot for a number of years.
Previously “Hands Off”.
Up until recently, the City took a pretty hands-off approach in defining where (or even if) the daily throng of day laborers could congregate around Home Depot. When I brought up the topic with the City a few years ago, they cited a previous situation that happened in a small Southern California community where they had passed an ordinance to prohibit the gathering of day laborers in front of their Home Depot. The town was subsequently sued by legal rights advocates and the ordinance was deemed to be a violation of the rights of the day laborers. This left the town with a hefty legal bill and still no solution to the problem they were trying to solve,
With that legal precedence in place, it’s completely understandable why the City of San Carlos and Home Depot did not want to step on that rake, so they opted to take a more passive approach of allowing the day laborers complete access to the parking lot, but monitoring the situation with police patrols and responding only if called up to do so.
A Tougher Stance.
About the time that police services in San Carlos transitioned to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department, Home Depot decided that they wanted to take a slightly tougher stance in controlling the access of the day laborers to their parking lot. Since the parking lot itself is considered private property, they opted to put the signs that you see above at key access points to the lot. They also hired a private security firm to politely remind any laborers that they can only congregate on the public sidewalks on Howard Avenue, Old County Road, and Brittan Avenue that encircles the parking lot.
The Sheriff Department’s role is simply to remind anyone they see loitering in the parking lot of the new policy, and to inform them that they can be arrested for trespassing if they don’t adhere to the rules. To date, compliance has been 100% and no arrests have been made for trespassing.
This new stance seems to be a good compromise — the day laborers can still exercise their right to look for work where they have the highest probability of getting it. And patrons of these four businesses can now park their cars and go about their business without any of the previous interference they may have encountered from some of the more aggressive of the day laborers.
What are your thoughts on this different stance?
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