San Diego

City Opens ‘Safe Parking’ Lot for People Living in Their Cars, RVs

The city of San Diego opened a new parking lot to homeless people living in their vehicles Tuesday in an effort to provide resources to car dwellers while keeping them off of city streets. 

The parking lot, SDCCU Stadium's overflow parking lot in Mission Valley, will be able to accomodate up to 80 recreational vehicles or 200 standard cars. 

Those living on the lot will also be linked with resources to help get them into more stable, long-term housing through a partnership with Jewish Family Service of San Diego, according to the city. This is the third lot to open with the organization. An additional two lots are run by private, non-profit organizations.

The opening of the lot is part of Mayor Kevin Faulconer's push to expand a "safe parking program" while restricting people from living in their cars in other parts of the city, including outside businesses, near the beach and on city streets. 

“The cost for this expansion will come from the city’s $14 million allocation from the state homeless emergency aid program which we fought so hard for last year,” Faulconer said.

The mayor outlined the details of his proposed ordinance in an April 11 staff report. A committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal on Wednesday. 

A law that prohibited people from living in their cars was repealed by city council with a unanimous vote on Feb. 10 after a judge last year ordered San Diego police to stop ticketing people living in their vehicles because the law was too vague to enforce. 

The revocation of the law allowed anyone to legally live in their car or RV as long as they follow the posted signs and do not park in the same location for more than 72 hours.

"For those folks who are truly looking for help, there's a safe parking lot," the mayor said. "For those folks who are just looking to come to San Diego and live in their cars. That's why we need an updated ordinance that will be before the City Council later this week." 

The city said once the law was repealed they were inundated with hundreds of complaints from residents regarding people living in their cars on residential streets and in parking lots, prompting the mayor to propose the new ordinance.

The ordinance would establish new rules for car dwellers, limiting the locations where they can stay overnight to certain designated lots, including the Mission Valley site. 

The mayor's proposal is criticized by people who, while technically homeless, are financially secure but choose to save money by living in a vehicle.

The safe parking program has been around since 2010. The nonprofit organization Dreams for Change opened the first lot along State Route 94 at 28th Street and a second location on Balboa Avenue, according to the information service 211 San Diego.

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