Mayor calls for new law to stop proliferation of people living in vehicles on City streets lots

A homeless senior citizen living in her PT Cruiser tucks into an air mattress to sleep with her two dogs.

A homeless senior citizen living in her PT Cruiser tucks into an air mattress to sleep with her two dogs.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

At a press conference March 25 held in Mission Bay Park, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced he would bring forward a new ordinance to ban the proliferation of people living in vehicles on residential streets and parking lots.

At the same time, he said, the City will expand the existing Safe Parking Program to provide secure places where individuals can stay at night while they work toward a permanent housing solution.

“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.”

In response to hundreds of complaints from residents about cleanliness and illegal activity related to people living out of vehicles, Faulconer was joined by City Council member Jennifer Campbell, Police Chief David Nisleit and community leaders to outline plans to once again make vehicle habitation illegal in the City.

Faulconer said he plans to introduce the new ordinance at the April 17 Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods committee meeting — ahead of the busiest time of year for beach communities, which are most heavily impacted by the influx of people living what some refer to as “van life.”

The new law would replace a previous ordinance that the City Council repealed (in February) in response to a court ruling that deemed it too vague to enforce. The repeal left the City unable to ticket offenders.

“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,” Campbell said.

Last year, the City, in partnership with Jewish Family Service (JFS), expanded the Safe Parking program in two parking lots in Kearny Mesa. Faulconer said he will add three additional lots in different parts of the City, with more than 100 new spaces for cars and recreational vehicles. Locations and operational specifics are being finalized.

Every night, JFS operates a Safe Parking Program for unsheltered San Diegans living out of their vehicles, many of whom are experiencing homelessness for the first time. The program provides parking spaces for some 100 cars, serving more than 200 adults and children. Services offered include basic needs assistance, employment, family wellness, school success, financial education, credit repair and housing navigation. Since the City expanded the program, more than 30 families have transitioned to long-term and permanent housing.