Mayor wants to ban sleeping in vehicles, expand safe parking lot program

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced plans Monday to reinstate a ban on living in vehicles parked on residential streets, while also expanding the city's Safe Parking program, which provides parking lots for homeless individuals to stay while working toward establishing a permanent residence.

The mayor's proposed ordinance to make vehicle habitation illegal in the city comes in response to "hundreds of complaints" from residents regarding "cleanliness and illegal activity related to people living out of vehicles."

The ban would coincide with an expansion of the city's Safe Parking program, which provides nighttime parking for citizens who live in their vehicles. Faulconer plans to add three new lots, which would provide more than 100 new parking spaces for those in need, with a goal of providing a temporary place for the homeless while they search for employment and/or permanent housing. The program currently serves more than 200 adults and children and has helped more than 30 families transition to permanent housing, according to the mayor's office.

Locations for the new parking lots are not yet finalized.

"If you are living out of your vehicle because you have nowhere else to go, we want to help you," Faulconer said. "At the same time, residents and businesses have a right to clean and safe neighborhoods. We will not allow conduct that takes advantage of San Diego's generosity and destroys the quality of life in our communities."

The ordinance -- expected to be considered next month by the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee -- would replace a previous, longstanding vehicle habitation ban that the council repealed last month, following a court ruling that deemed the measure too vague to properly enforce, according to Faulconer's office.

The repeal generated outrage and concerns over public safety and health in San Diego's beach communities.

City Councilwoman Jen Campbell, whose district includes San Diego beach areas, said "I applaud the mayor's action today, which balances the need to provide more assistance and services to San Diegans living in their vehicles in need of a helping hand with the concerns about health and safety we've heard from our beach communities."

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