San Diego

Fight Over RV Parking Rules to Play Out in Court

San Diegans are looking for housing alternatives given the median rent of $1,992 in the county. Those choosing to live in motorhomes say dodging tickets is a priority.

Robin Cathey sits in the driver seat of her mobile home, the hood up, jumper cables attached to the battery, trying to start the vehicle.

The breakdown at a Mission Bay parking lot is just the latest issue for the mother of five trying to jump-start her life.

She was evicted from her San Diego area apartment in October. Since then she and her children have been living in an RV.

Cathey thought it would keep her and her family off the streets. 

"I thought I could get into a mobile home park and it would be the answer to not being homeless," she said.

Cathey is not alone. San Diegans are looking for housing alternatives given the median rent of $1,992 in the county. A report released Tuesday states most families spend 69 percent of their income on housing. 

Renters in San Diego need to earn more than three times local minimum wage, $11.50 an hour, to afford the median rent.

When asked if living in the motorhome was a solution for her family, Cathey said, "I'm running from tickets."

Ticket concerns are a major worry for people living in their vehicles in the city of San Diego.

It's illegal to park on the street and some parking lots from 2 a.m to 6 a.m. The restriction is part of a change in overnight parking laws in San Diego.

Prompting many a mobile home dweller like James Golden to have sleepless nights.

"It's very stressful, " said Golden. "I have to move around all the time to keep them from hassling us."

"You have to wander from day to day hour to hour. I constantly watch traffic to see if park rangers or police are coming," he said.

NBC 7 mapped out the areas with the heaviest concentration of people ticketed for living in vehicles. 

To see where vehicle habitation citations were issued in the city of San Diego, click here or look below. 

The number of citations has gone up slightly the past two years. There were 281 people ticketed in 2016 compared to 295 citations issued in 2017.

"I think there should be a crackdown," said Cindy Patterson who lives in Pacific Beach.

It's one of the coastal regions, including Ocean Beach and Mission Bay where most of the tickets were issued.

Homeless behavior in Pacific Beach parks and the surrounding community worry Patterson.

Her other concern, a bus she's seen parked various places around her home.

"Anything we can do to make where we live a safe comfortable and a peaceful place, I think is important," said Patterson.

Cathey has gotten her fair share of the $100 tickets while living in her motorhome

So have Teresa Garcia and James Golden. The couple led authorities on a two-county chase to keep their RV from being impounded.


"I've been fortunate that hasn't happened," Cathey says glancing over her shoulder in the RV so her children can't hear. "I don't want them to come home from school to no home at all."

Cathey says the tickets she's amassed haven't been paid yet because of a class-action lawsuit.

The suit claims the ordinance is being used to target more than 800 of San Diego's "most vulnerable residents." In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim "their vehicles are their only reliable safe shelter....despite no adequate alternative...they're repeatedly ticketed and harassed."

The City Attorney's Office issued a statement saying: "This is an area of active litigation. The City is responding through the courts."

It's the type of relief Cathey says she needs from mounting ticket costs and RV repairs that keep her from getting on the road to a better life for her and her children.

"I'm just stuck. Just stuck running," Cathey said.

There are three safe parking lots in the region to help people transition out of their cars into homes. The facilities are not available to people in mobile homes.

There are mobile home parks but a number of people told NBC 7 they're too expensive.

In Cathey's case, she works and can afford it, but says some restrict her because of the number of children in her RV.

San Diego isn't alone in its RV issues. Just recently Santee passed an RV parking ordinance.

Among the biggest changes: RVs have to be moved 300 feet every 72 hours.

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