San Diego

City Council Votes to Re-Establish Ban on Sleeping in Cars

The new ban on vehicle habitation would prevent people from staying in their vehicle where overnight parking is not allowed

The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 in favor of re-establishing a ban that restricts people from living in their vehicles on city streets, with the exception of certain designated lots.

The new ban on vehicle habitation prevents people from staying in their vehicle where overnight parking is not allowed, including outside businesses, near the beach and on city streets.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed the ordinance just over a month after city council voted to repeal its first ban on vehicle habitation -- a 1983 law that was found by a federal court to be "vague" and overreaching.

The ban's overturn prompted an influx of complaints to the city from residents, especially near the beaches and bay, who said the repeal meant an increase in car dwellers in their neighborhoods.

The mayor's proposal was meant to address the federal court's concerns but some opponents say the new version is not different enough from the old law it would replace.

The ordinance has also been criticized by people who, while technically homeless, are financially secure but choose to save money by living in a vehicle.

“It's a balance between being compassionate for people who really need help and need a place to be and that is why the city is setting up lots that have sanitary conditions,” said Ocean Beach Town Council President Mark Winkie.

A rally was planned ahead of the meeting by those who criticize the ordinance for criminalizing homelessness. The grassroots opposition group, San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance (HEMA), said the law would lead to fines for people who can’t afford them and arrests.

Faulconer said the proposal was meant to help homelessness in San Diego while not allowing "conduct that takes advantage of San Diego’s generosity and destroys the quality of life in our communities."

Part of the plan includes a "safe parking program" that would designate certain lots in the city that car-dwellers could stay at overnight. The lots would link homeless San Diegans with resources to help get them into more stable, long-term housing through partnerships with other organizations.

The city opened one of these safe parking lots at SDCCU Stadium's overflow lot near Friars Road and Mission Village Drive in April. The space was the third of its kind to open through a partnership with Jewish Family Services.

Last month, the San Diego City Council's Public Safety and Liveable Neighborhoods committee reviewed the ordinance and decided to move the proposal forward with no recommendation on how the full council should vote.

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