San Diego's Overnight Parking Laws Hit Homeless Hard
Dog Beach in Ocean Beach used to be Michael Bloom's favorite spot. He used to park his camper there overnight, but now it is illegal.
“Where to go when you have to be off of the public streets," said Bloom. "Oh my gosh it can just drive you insane.”
A Lakeside native, Bloom has lived out of his camper for the last 11 years. Every night he struggles to find a place to park.
“I won’t take a deep breath until I look real good, take a good look at the front windshield to see if I’ve got a ticket,” said Bloom.
That is because in 2013, the San Diego City Council changed overnight parking laws. "Oversized vehicles, non-motorized vehicles and recreational vehicles" could no longer park on city streets from 2-6 a.m. This included campers like Bloom's and oversized vehicles exceeding 27 feet in length and 7 feet high.
Bloom said he noticed the city began enforcing the restrictions in 2014.
“It took me from behind because I had no idea it was coming," said Bloom. "And boy it came with a vengeance.”
Bloom received several tickets for parking his camper overnight. Fines are $100, plus a state-mandated surcharge of $12.50 per ticket. The city has a temporary permit process where people can park their RV's overnight, but applicants must have proof of residency to acquire a permit.
Bloom has also been ticketed for sleeping in his camper. San Diego municipal code states: "It is unlawful for any person to use a vehicle while it is parked or standing on any street as either temporary or permanent living quarters, abode, or place of habitation either overnight or by day."
Bloom said he tried to fight the tickets, but lost each time.
“Not being able to eat or buy gas, they don’t realize how big a cut that is on anything you want to do," said Bloom. "Disposable income is just a big joke when you’re homeless.”
Bloom said he is legally disabled and relies on disability checks to get by every month.
Current mayor and former city councilman Kevin Faulconer brought the ordinance to city council. He claimed oversized vehicles on city streets took up “valuable parking spaces” and blocked view corridors. Faulconer also said some residents complained about homeless dumping feces, something Bloom agrees needs to stop.
“You have to know what it felt like to be homeless, to empathize with somebody that’s on their knees," said Bloom. "But in a way, it has to be tough because the people that are the renegades that dump trash in the sewer and stuff like that, that can’t be stood for.”
Bloom is now working with the advocacy group Disability Rights California, which is trying to stop the ticketing and get a reasonable modification under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Although no lawsuit has been filed, in March, an attorney with Disability Rights California sent a letter to the city. So far the city has not taken action.
Now 68, Bloom spends his nights trying to avoid detection and the fines that follow.
“I don’t have any place to go to anymore," said Bloom. "And I love San Diego, I hope to be here and participate. But I feel like I would almost not want to be alive if I didn’t have the camper.”
Bloom said the ticketing comes in waves and he has managed to avoid fines for the last year. But, that could change anytime.