Mayor’s vehicle habitation ban proposal moves to City Council
Published - 04/22/19 - 11:27 AM | 4483 views | 2 2 comments | 67 67 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With people living out of their vehicles rallying against it, a City Council subcommittee voted 3-1 to amend the municipal code to ban vehicle habitation near schools and homes and on public streets overnight.

The action by the City’s Public Safety and Livable Communities Committee on April 17 followed a rally earlier in the day by the San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance. The broad-based coalition, which includes the disabled, tenants, low-wage workers and the homeless community, is seeking to have this new ordinance authored by Mayor Kevin Faulconer defeated, and housing recognized as a basic human right. 

“Criminalizing and demonizing the victims of this crisis – people with disabilities, seniors and low-income families – is not the answer,” argued disability rights attorney Ann Menasche representing San Diego RV residents. “Our clients have been priced out of housing due to skyrocketing rents. They are not to blame for this crisis. Instead of continuing this war on the unhoused poor, we need to create permanent affordable housing solutions.”    

The vehicle habitation ordinance, adopted in 1983, prohibited using a vehicle as a place of residence while it is parked or standing on any street. That ordinance has not been enforced since Aug. 21, 2018 following U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia’s ruling that it “was both vague on its face and being arbitrarily and discriminatorily applied.” 

In arguing the need for re-introducing an ordinance banning vehicle habitation on public streets, the City said it had received “an especially voluminous number of reports” of unsanitary conditions from improper disposal of human waste and trash since the repeal occurred. 

The City’s staff report said the mayor’s new proposed ordinance “avoids the characteristics of the previous ordinance that rendered it unenforceable. The issues have persisted, and some community members assert that (unsanitary conditions) are worse than before and likely to continue or worsen if not addressed, particularly as the City approaches the summer months.”

Factors constituting vehicle “habitation” under the new proposed ordinance include: sleeping, bathing, preparing meals, obscured windows and evidence of trash, temporary furnishings or human waste near the vehicle.

On April 17, committee member Barbara Bry of District 1 described the City’s policy of ticketing people living in their vehicles as “a vicious cycle.”

“Tickets go to some who can’t pay for it, and then we have the extra expense of public defenders and going to the court,” Bry said. “I can (also) understand how neighbors feel when there are people parked in front of their homes living out of their vehicles and not respecting the laws.”

Addressing fallout from vehicle habitation, Faulconer on April 16 announced the expansion of the City’s Safe Parking Program, adding a third parking lot, near SDCCU Stadium, where people can park overnight that allows RVs for the first time. Like the City’s other two existing safe parking lots, wrap-around services will be provided by case managers, housing specialists and others to help vehicle inhabitants move toward long-term stable housing. 

Faulconer’s proposed ordinance, which would block people from living in their vehicles within 500 feet of a school or residence, or on city streets between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., will now go to the City Council for a final decision.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Jay M
April 23, 2019
Our leaders are missing the crux of the real problem. This is a healthcare crisis, not a housing crisis. More specifically a substance addiction and mental health crisis.

Before you start your virtue signaling and claim I'm victim shaming, I live a block from Father Joe's in east village and I see first hand every-single-day day people in the grips of addiction. I see people passed out drunk, or with needles sticking out of their arms splayed across the sidewalk, or staggering in the middle of traffic or whacked out their mind on meth having no idea where they are. These people need medical treatment, not a place to park or a temporary tent.

This is not of course the entire homeless population, but this is 90% of the people I see living in their cars down here. And the city sees fit to let this happen directly across the street from three low income housing developments where hundreds of children live. As long as the white people in Point Loma and La Jolla don't have to witness this, problem solved.

Our society has created a narrative that addiction is a choice. These people made a choice to become an addict. They no more made this choice than the man with heart disease that eats fast food five days a week. Is heart disease a choice? is diabetes?

The City and State need to open emergency addiction treatment centers and mental health centers, not promote unsafe living conditions.

It is not humane to allow people to live in their cars, it's inhumane and ignores the problem.
Robert Burns
April 23, 2019
People are squabbling over crumbs while our overlords rule real estate. It's inexcusable to rationalize a 3rd world lifestyle into our beach communities and center city whether its living in automobiles, living on sidewalks, living in bushes, or highjacking our libraries. City Officials, you find a place for them to go or they will be steered into your yards and neighborhoods!
Comments are back! Simply post the comment (it'll complain about you failing the human test) then simply click on the captcha and then click "Post Comment" again. Comments are also welcome on our Facebook page.