San Diego

City Proposes New Ban on Sleeping in Cars

Proposed ordinance looks to outlaw vehicle habitation after federal court struck down former law

The City of San Diego is once again looking to pass a law banning people from sleeping in their vehicles on city streets.

In an April 11 staff report, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Office outlined the need for city council to pass a new law prohibiting people from sleeping in their vehicles in residential areas, near schools, or in areas where overnight parking is not allowed.

The proposal comes just over a month after city council voted to repeal its 1983 ordinance banning habitation in cars or vehicles on city streets as a result of a federal court ruling which called the ordinance “vague” and overreaching.

Residents near the beaches and bay, however, soon complained that repealing the ordinance opened the doors for more and more car and van dwellers in their neighborhoods. The April 11 report cites their concerns as a reason for the new law.

“Recently, residents and business owners concerned about the issue of vehicle habitation, and media reports generated on this topic, detail that there may be an influx and increase in ‘van lifers’ that live in vehicles outfitted for habitation,” reads the memo. “This movement appears to appeal to young adults who choose a lifestyle free of the financial and legal commitments associated with typical property leases.”

The report from Faulconer’s office states that vehicle habitation invites “excessive noise” and trash and negatively impacts the quality of life in San Diego neighborhoods.

However, not all agree.

Ann Menasche is an attorney for Disability Rights California, the group that filed the lawsuit in federal court that resulted in the repeal of the former ordinance.

Menasche says the new law is essentially the same as the old law.

“San Diegans who shelter in their vehicles are not monsters or criminals as the Mayor portrays them,” said Menasche in a statement to NBC 7. “They are our fellow San Diego residents who are people with disabilities or senior citizens on fixed incomes; or they are families with children, students, or other low income workers that have been priced out of the housing market in San Diego through no fault of their own.”

Adds Menasche, “Treating people like criminals simply for being poor or disabled and depriving them of the ability to use the only viable shelter available to them will only force more people onto the cold cement and will risk more Hep A type epidemics..We need Housing, not handcuffs.”

A city council committee will discuss the proposed ordinance on Wednesday, April 17.

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