San Diego

Timeline of San Diego's Ban on Sleeping in Cars

San Diego has a complicated history of banning its residents from sleeping in cars on city streets. Here, NBC 7 breaks down this decades-long timeline.

August 15, 1983: San Diego Municipal Code § 86.0137(f) was enacted.

The ordinance, known as a vehicle habitation ban, made it illegal for San Diegans to sleep in their cars on city streets. It also outlined other restrictions about leaving, storing, or selling from cars on city streets.

To read the current, full ordiance, visit the city's website.

November 15, 2017: Bloom, et. al. vs. City of San Diego was filed.

This class action lawsuit claimed the ban violated antidiscrimination protections granted by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as well as the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments.

The suit said the ban was too vague, as it did not “draw a clear line between innocent and criminal conduct.”

In part, the suit states:

“The City’s vehicle habitation ordinance fails to provide adequate notice and sufficient guidance, which would allow an individual to ascertain beyond mere speculation as to how one uses a parked or standing vehicle as ‘either temporary or permanent living quarters, abode, or place of habitation.’”

The claim stated its goal was to have the ban “declared unconstitutionally vague.”

To view the class action lawsuit in full, visit Disability Rights California's website.

August 21, 2018: Honorable U.S. District Court Judge Anthony J. Battaglia blocks the enforcement and ticketing of the vehicle habitation ban.

Battaglia, the presiding judge for Bloom, et. al. vs. City of San Diego, issued a preliminary injunction on the ban. He said, “Parking an RV or camper truck on public property during lawful hours whilst engaging in lawful activities appears to be enough to violate the Ordinance.”

The judge deemed the ban unconstitutionally vague, according to Disability Rights California.

A judge ordered police to stop citing people living out of their cars. NBC 7's Steven Luke has more.

February 5, 2019: The San Diego City Council unanimously votes to repeal the ban on vehicle habitation.

This decision allowed people to live in their vehicle as long as they followed posted signs and did not park in the same location for more than 72 hours.

San Diego attorney Coleen Cusack, who represents people in court facing homelessness, also said the ban was “vague” and “overbroad.”

She went further, saying, “Imagine being told as a human being that you’re going to be charged with a crime because people that make more money than you think you make the city look dirty or ugly.”

The City of San Diego changed its law on living in cars, now allowing homeless individuals to do so. NBC 7's Melissa Adan has more.

March 7, 2019: San Diego Municipal Code § 86.0137 was renamed.

The larger, existing ban’s name was changed from “Prohibition of Use of Streets for Storage, Service or Sale of Vehicles or For Habitation” to “Prohibition of Use of Streets for Storage, Service, or Sale of Vehicles.”

The habitation ban was dropped from the municipal code. To read the other bans attached this code that are still in effect, visit the City of San Diego’s website.

March 25, 2019: Mayor Kevin Faulconer announces proposal to once again restrict sleeping in vehicles.

Faulconer said following the ban’s repeal, the city was inundated with hundreds of complaints from residents about people living in their cars on residential streets and in parking lots.

The mayor is proposing making it again illegal to live in cars within the city of San Diego, with the exception of certain designated 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, known as part of the Safe Parking Program by the local nonprofit Dreams for Change. Faulconer said the proposal would expand this program.

NBC 7's Omari Fleming has the latest on the plan for the Safe Parking Program expansion.

April 17, 2019: Mayor Kevin Faulconer officially proposes a new vehicle habitation ban at meeting.

Faulconer officially proposed a new ban that would restrict sleeping in vehicles on San Diego streets at a Public Safety and Liveable Neighborhoods committee meeting.

May 14, 2019: The San Diego City Council approves Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s new vehicle habitation ban.

The San Diego City Council approved the mayor’s new proposed ban on San Diegans sleeping in their vehicles in a 6-3 vote, where the resolution need six votes to pass. 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. Faulconer’s proposal also included the expansion of designated parking lots for those who sleep in their cars.

The ordinance took effect immediately.

The city council will consider reinstating a ban on people living in their cars. NBC 7's Liberty Zabala explains.
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