San Diego City Council recently voted unanimously to repeal a 1983 ordinance prohibiting residents from living in a vehicle on streets within city limits.
Pacific Beach Planning Group chair Henish Pulickal introduced an action item at the group’s Feb. 27 meeting calling for board members to support making it illegal for people to live in their cars in residential zones.
“Sleeping in cars has been a concern of mine and is a wicked problem that needs a solution,” he said. “There’s no infrastructure to support sleeping in cars, no bathrooms or sanitation. There’s also no incentive for transients to ever leave.”
Pulickal also expressed concerns about the possible criminal backgrounds of vehicle residents, and the potential dangers they might conceivably pose to children. “There’s limited parking in the community already,” he added pointing out, “We have rules in parks against people sleeping in their cars, but not on residential streets. Our streets and residential neighborhoods shouldn’t be RV parks.”
The PBPG chair pointed out San Francisco, which similarly has allowed vehicle habitation, has had to institute a “poop patrol” at taxpayer expense to help resolve resulting sanitation issues.
From the audience, PB resident and former lifeguard Chris Brewster challenged the notion that people’s backgrounds were questionable just because they live in their vehicles.
PBPG board member Jim Morrison proposed a solution.“We have unused parking lots at night that could be used for safe parking by people, and they would have to clear out in the morning,” he said.
“This is a really tough issue,” said board member Kristin Victor pointing out people residing in vehicles are a diverse lot including families with kids. She added the problem is not exclusive to residents. “I’m a business owner and I have issues with people living in vehicles in front of my business,” she said.
“Why don’t we set up safe parking spaces in the community?” asked planner Eve Anderson adding, “It will require a multi-tiered solution to address the the issues at hand.”
Planner Ed Gallagher said allowing vehicle habitation is a stop-gap solution.
“The city needs to address the affordable housing issue and expand safe parking,” he said. “But ultimately, we need a more-effective, long-term strategy. That is what we should be headed toward.”
RV residents, some disabled, successfully 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.
The plan group voted 9-1 in favor of Pulickal’s motion to make vehicle habitation unlawful once again.
PBPG’s vote to ban vehicle habitation is non-binding legally as the volunteer group makes recommendations only to the City.
In other action:
• Karin Zirk of Friends of Rose Canyon said an effort is underway to work with District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell to have Pacific Beach portions of Rose Creek dedicated as parkland. She also distributed a petition for audience members to sign, also available at saverosecreek.org.
• PBPG board member Carolyn Chase made available flyers advertising the 30th San Diego Earth Day celebrated with EarthFair in Balboa Park Sunday, April 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.