“While I don’t believe anyone should be thrown in jail for sleeping in their car, there must be a better way,” said Denny Knox, executive director of Ocean Beach MainStreet Association. “We are overwhelmed already with groups living in vans and cars at the beach. If the City wants to deem all areas in the city to be campgrounds, we have essentially lost our communities.”
The vehicle habitation ordinance has not been enforced since Aug. 21, 2018 following U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia’s ruling that the ordinance “was both vague on its face and being arbitrarily and discriminatorily applied.”
Battaglia granted plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. That meant RV residents were exempted from being ticketed, or paying fines for outstanding tickets, or having their vehicles impounded.
Point Loma attorney David Dick also sees problems with the implementation – and intent – of the City’s new vehicle-habitation ordinance.
“This does nothing to address the source of the homelessness problem and seems instead to validate homelessness as an acceptable option or lifestyle choice,” he said. “Allowing vehicle habitation allows the homeless problem to disperse and migrate even further away from services and those sorts of interventions that might help alleviate the problem – this seems simply to exacerbate things.”
RV residents, some disabled, previously sued the City to end its policy of ticketing and impounding their vehicles. At issue were two existing City ordinances: (SD Muni. Code § 86.0139(a)0, prohibiting parking an RV anywhere on City streets and lots between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.; and (SD Muni. Code § 86.0137(f)), prohibiting vehicle habitation.
Disability rights attorney Ann Menasche, representing San Diego RV residents, commented: “People sheltered in their RVs is better than being on the street. Nobody in their right minds would give up an RV for a (homeless) tent shelter… People should be fighting for more affordable housing and more (government) housing subsidies… This is going to be happening to more and more people until we make some real changes.”
“I understand the frustration and problem,” said Point Loma Realtor Robert Tripp Jackson. “But to randomly park throughout neighborhoods is a problem. Where are they going to go to the bathroom and discard their trash? In people’s yards or on the street is likely. Maybe opening up the stadium or Sports Arena parking lot would be an idea, not to interfere with events, but provide outhouses and sinks.”
OBMA’s Knox offered a solution.
“The City must act now and designate certain secure parking lots to be overnight spots for those in need (and provide the necessary sanitation and security) and at the same time not allow anyone to sleep in or out of a car on our public streets, playgrounds, parks, and sidewalks,” she said.
Attorney Dick had one final question about the new vehicle-habitation law. “For those supporting the change, what positive can possibly come from this?”