“I'm strongly against this,” said Pacific Beach Planning Group president Henish Pulickal. “This is a slippery slope. Our community is not an RV park. If the City wants to allow people to sleep in their cars, it can't be in residential neighborhoods. Let them sleep in cars in city parking lots, or military bases, or someplace where the homeless can get proper services and attention.”
Disability rights attorney Ann Menasche, representing San Diego RV residents, said: “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.”
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.
“Overall, I'm not in favor of this as it has high potential for abuse,” said Greg Daunoras, Pacific Beach Town Council past president. “But now that's it's done, the City Council should have required certain vacant designated lots only, versus just parking in front of people's homes.”
Gary Wonacott, immediate past president of Mission Beach Town Council, noted there are two groups of homeless in cars.
“There are the families who, for whatever reason, do not have a home to go to,” Wonacott said. “And there are people who park their vans in overnight lots, and then come into the community during the night and steal. Apparently, the latter is not such a big issue that the community wants something done.”
RV residents, some disabled, previously sued the City to end its policy of ticketing and impounding their vehicles under two different ordinances, which prohibited parking an RV anywhere on City streets and lots between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., and another ordinance prohibiting vehicle habitation.
Valerie Grischy, a disabled person living out of her trailer, was elated by the change in the vehicle habitation law.
“I am living on $900 a month disability,” she said. “I can no longer afford to pay rent and live. I can’t even stay at an RV park because it costs more to rent a space there than what I receive from disability. I am very grateful to the City Council for voting down the law against people living in their vehicles. For myself and many others, that is our only choice.”
Added Grischy: “There is still the 2 to 6 a.m. law against us parking anywhere in San Diego be it a parking lot or the streets. We’d like to see this law off the books too.”
Racheal Allen, director of PB Crime Watch, spoke out on vehicle habitation.
“Illegal vehicle habitations are one of our biggest complaints and cause great concern,” Allen said. “Due to the halting of enforcement of vehicle habitation laws, our neighborhoods have seen an increase of people living on our streets and in front of our personal homes. I have witnessed many individuals living out of their RVs and cars dealing drugs, using drugs, operating bike chop shops and more.”
Added Allen: “We’ve also witnessed grey water and sewage being emptied into our streets, which negatively impacts the environment. The illegal vehicle habitation law should be amended so that it is concrete and enforceable without any loopholes. Vehicle habitation enforcement should not be taken away altogether.”