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Berman meeting to air bill on homeless students

Los Altos Hills residents curious about the effects of a proposed bill that would allow homeless community college students to sleep overnight on campus have an opportunity next week to interface with the bill’s lead author, State Assemblyman Marc Berman.

Berman and Los Altos Hills Mayor Roger Spreen are scheduled to host a “Community Coffee” Tuesday at town hall, one of three gatherings Berman has scheduled in Bay Area towns and cities this month to hear about matters that constituents consider important; meetings in Woodside and Cupertino will follow. Berman, a Democrat, represents the 24th District, which includes Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View.

Although Berman’s Assembly Bill 302, the “Safe Lot Bill,” isn’t the sole focus of the Los Altos Hills meeting, town leaders thought residents should stay informed about the proposed legislation’s implications for community colleges around the state. They sent informational mailers about the issue and the coffee June 26 to approximately 400 homes located within 1,000 feet of Foothill College.

“We just want to be proactive and let our residents know that this is proposed legislation and they should know about it and if they have questions, now is the time to ask,” said Carl Cahill, Los Altos Hills city manager.

If AB 302 eventually becomes a law, it would require community colleges like Foothill and De Anza to grant overnight access to campus parking lots so that enrolled students in good standing may sleep in their vehicles. To participate, students must have paid their enrollment fees, if not waived.

Announcing the bill’s passage through the Assembly Appropriations Committee in May, Berman cited a March report from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, a nonprofit research group, stating that 19% of 40,000 California community college students surveyed from 57 schools reported experiencing homelessness in the past year.

“While we work towards the long-term goal of building much more housing across the state, we must do everything we can to alleviate the fear and suffering that these students are facing tonight,” Berman said in a press release.

The State Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to review the bill Tuesday, after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

Next week’s coffee meeting will provide Los Altos Hills officials and residents with an opportunity to ask questions about the potential crime and public health impacts of AB 302, Cahill said.

“We’re concerned based on just the fact that we don’t really know how big this is, how many homeless students there are. … There are considerations that I don’t know if they’ve really been thought out,” he added.

Under AB 302, the governing boards of community colleges would have to develop implementation plans addressing components such as liability waivers, parking rules and access to bathroom facilities. For now, however, Foothill College’s administration is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“Given the fact that AB 302 is still going through the legislative process and will undoubtedly emerge as a very different bill compared to the present incarnation, Foothill College is waiting to assess the final draft before we commit to any specific course of action,” wrote Simon Pennington, interim associate vice president of college and community relations, marketing and communications at Foothill College, in an email to the Town Crier sent last week.

Scheduled sessions

Berman has scheduled the following “Community Coffee” sessions.

• 8-9:30 a.m. Tuesday: Los Altos Hills Town Hall Council Chambers, 26379 W. Fremont Road

• 3:30-5 p.m. Tuesday: Buck’s restaurant, 3062 Woodside Road, Woodside

• 8-9:30 a.m. July 17: The Forum at Rancho San Antonio, 23500 Cristo Rey Dr., Cupertino

For more information, call Berman’s District 24 office at 691-2121.

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