Council confirms repeal of law against sleeping in vehicles

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Monday to uphold their repeal of a 1983 ordinance prohibiting residents from living in a vehicle on any street within city limits.

The council’s second vote affirms a similar vote on Feb. 5.

At Monday’s meeting, a number of beach-area residents argued against repealing the ban. Residents from Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Sunset Cliffs and La Jolla complained that they are now uncomfortable in their own homes now that people are free to sleep on the streets. One man predicted an invasion of RVs parking overnight near in the beach communities this summer once it becomes known that they won’t be ticketed.

The repeal is, in part, a response to a 2014 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a similar ordinance in Los Angeles as unconstitutionally vague. Homeless advocates repeatedly reminded the council of the law’s shaky constitutional foundation prior to the vote.

But homeless people and their advocates argued that the laws are used by police to harass vehicle dwellers.

The city’s homeless residents are not likely to feel the immediate effects of the repeal. The city has not enforced the ordinance since last Aug. 21, in light of an injunction stemming from an ongoing legal challenge to the measure in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Statistics on the percentage of the city’s homeless who live in their cars are somewhat hazy after last year’s Point in Time homeless count. According to the count, 1,262 residents lived in a vehicle throughout San Diego County in January 2018.

However, the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless revealed in June it did not count residents living in recreational vehicles during the count, meaning the number of residents living in a vehicle could be even higher.


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