City rescinds vehicle habitation ordinance, La Jolla leaders react
Published - 02/22/19 - 10:00 AM | 5220 views | 2 2 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The vehicle habitation ordinance has not been enforced since Aug. 21, 2018.
The vehicle habitation ordinance has not been enforced since Aug. 21, 2018.
La Jollans reacting to the San Diego City Council’s recent unanimous vote to repeal a 1983 ordinance prohibiting residents from living in a vehicle on streets within city limits, fear the new law has great potential for abuse.

“Well-intentioned folly, but crazy nonetheless,” concluded Beach-Barber Tract resident Frances O’Neill Zimmerman. “This means a homeless person or persons can park and sleep in front of my house or near the local elementary school. I wouldn’t like either of those things to happen.”

Added O’Neill Zimmerman, “Social services and public health measures cannot be delivered to homeless people living in cars.”  

La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. board member Bob Evans, speaking on his own behalf, noted people sleeping in cars “is already quite prevalent in the beach communities – it’s just that it’s not out in the daylight and flies under most people’s radar.”

Noting there’s already no-parking signs at the beach lots, Evans pointed out, “So, it can be pretty tough to pull an all-nighter.” He concurred however with those who see the new vehicle-habitation law as problematic.

“All it would take is a small uptick in trash at the curbside and people relieving themselves on private property to get residents riled,” said Evans adding, “Trash and the management of such is already a big issue in the area.”

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.

Community activist Phyllis Minick understands why allowing people to "live" in a vehicle on the street helps the homeless by providing them a place to sleep. 

“However, I am obliged to say, ‘no’ (to new rules),” Minick said. “Those individuals require toilet and bathing facilities, and I've witnessed the results of street gutters and parking lots used as open-air toilets. Since garbage facilities are also absent, I've seen the related mounds of trash.”

Minick added she knows a female apartment dweller who has a curbside, live-in-car neighbor and feels  threatened for the safety of herself and two young children, as well as the unsanitary condition of the street and sidewalk.”

“This is an important issue, as it reflects the critical housing shortage in San Diego,” said Realtor John Shannon. “People need safe and affordable housing for all levels of society, and the city’s policy change to allow people to live/sleep in their vehicles seems the right humanitarian decision for the short-term. However, for the long-term, we need to adopt more policies to encourage more new housing construction. How else will we accommodate 1 million additional people by 2050?” 

Added Shannon, “People living ‘on the streets’ is not desirable, but the beach communities seem unduly burdened, as they are simply more attractive, and are already the dumping areas for dockless bikes, scooters and homeless living in doorways, alleys, canyons, and empty lots. No-one wants the trash, sanitation, and safety issues associated with people living without proper facilities.” 

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 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.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 01, 2019
Don't really care too much what the vehicles look like. Darn thing is, van/motorhome/car, big/medium/small, when the occupants get out of the vehicles at night and proceed to pee and poop on the parkways in residential communities. That's a problem. And many have seen it happen.

Might see some vigilante justice served up.
Gregory G. Campbell
February 26, 2019
Enforce environmental, litter, and conduct laws on the legal books and stop trying to write your own silver bullet. Its not going to work and the lawsuits will follow!! Santa Barbara THE MODEL homeless reformers are getting their legal butts handed to them with their Oversized Vehicle Ordinance. Cull the herd of bad RV actors, help the people wanting to be helped, and leave the working poor, veterans and pensioners RV Dwellers alone. If you really want to fix something change your zoning laws to allow RV Habitation on Private Property with proper utility hookups and a very small permit fee. The good RV owners need a place to park. The bad RV owners will leave town because they will be legally held to your community standards. The reminder will end up in housing or some other good situation because they want to be and we should help them.

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