Just over a month after the San Diego City Council repealed a law that made it illegal for people to live inside their vehicles, the mayor on Monday announced a new proposal to again restrict it.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer said that since the law was repealed with a unanimous vote on Feb. 10, the city has been inundated with hundreds of complaints from residents regarding people living in their cars on residential streets and in parking lots.
The mayor's proposal would once again make it illegal to live in cars within the city of San Diego with the exception of certain designated lots. Part of his proposal would expand an existing "safe parking program" to give people living out of their cars more options.
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 2-1-1 San Diego.
The city added two lots in Kearny Mesa through a partnership with Jewish Family Service last year. An additional three lots, sheltering about 100 cars would be added through the mayor's proposal, though where those lots would be located was not specified.
The safe parking program not only provides San Diegans with a safe space to stay in their cars but also connects them with employment, family wellness, and other basic services, according to the city.
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."
But there are some that say for them, living in their vehicle is not about homelessness but about living minimally.
"I am stoked to live out of my car,” said international yoga instructor Adrianna Peters. "For some people, they think that living out of your car means that you are homeless or don’t have money but my bank account is looking good right now."
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 -- people like Jessy Tenant, a "hot shot" firefighter in Arizona, who fights destructive wildfires for about six months out of the year and hits the road in his camper truck when the season ends.
"As soon as I am done I just travel and surf," he said.
Sunset Cliffs resident Peter Jenson says the neighborhood's sidewalks should be open to hourly visitors who want to enjoy its scenic beauty, not occupied for days by vehicle dwellers.
"We see people out here in $100,000 camper vans, these new Mercedes Benz things, there is a million of them. They park out here, get up on top of their vans and they are living it up," Jensen said.
Pacific Beach resident Sergio Lysboa also supports the proposal, and says the situation has worsened since the ban was repealed.
"They pee in my yard and throw trash in my yard," Lysbosa said.
The proposal will officially be introduced at an April 17 Public Safety and Liveable Neighborhoods committee meeting.
Last summer, before the ordinance was overturned, a judge 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.
Faulconer was joined by San Diego police Chief David Nisleit, Council member Jen Campbell and other city leaders to outline the plan.