In San Diego, sleeping in your vehicle has always resulted in a ticket, citation, and cranky citizen. The problem, of course, is that there are many San Diegans who don’t have anywhere else to sleep, leaving them with little choice on what to do when the sun sets. Those with cars, trucks, and RVs choose to stay in them instead of on the street. Now, it appears that a group of homeless citizens and other citizens advocating for them, have sued the city. What’s more surprising than the suit? They won.
Last summer, Anthony Battaglia, the District Judge for the United States decided that the San Diego municipal code regarding vehicle habitation was too broad to deny the homeless from sleeping in their vehicles. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty were among those protesting alongside the homeless to change this law. Tristia Bauman, an attorney with the NLCHP made it clear that the center was extremely happy to have been involved and to receive results.
Problems with The Ruling
While the homeless have won the battle to sleep in their vehicles, they haven’t quite won the war. A municipal ordinance keeps campers and RVs from parking during the hours of 2am and 6am. This means that while homeless citizens can take shelter in their vehicles, they must be moving for the 4-hours between 2 and 6, and not parked within the city limits.
When trying to contest this law, Battaglia admitted that he understands the concern of citizens and even sympathizes with them, but the law is solid. There is no broadness to this law as it has little to do with the homeless and everything to do with oversized vehicles blocking the roads during hours when street cleaning and other activities are occurring.
Currently, the legal team overseeing the case has chosen not to respond, but to regroup and possibly come back against this law if more information can be found to support the case. The Neighborhood Parking Protection Ordinance, or NPPO is in place to protect the city, but those with recreational vehicles can still apply for a temporary overnight permit. The permits aren’t able to be used consecutively but would help for a one-time special circumstance.
Parking on the street with an oversized vehicle from 2-6am isn’t only restrictive to those who live in their RVs. The law also affects homeowners with boats, trailers, and trucks, who might require extra room due to a small driveway and need to park on the street. Money or no, the parking ban stays in place.
Will the homeless and their advocates come back stronger than before with new evidence to support a change in the 2-6 law? You’ll have to watch and see. One thing’s for certain, the homeless and their advocates would make more ground with the help of supportive San Diegans looking to see the law removed or rewritten. For now, those with large vehicles will have to follow the rules, and park until 2am, before hitting the road again.