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Police Starting To Enforce Law That Prohibits People Living In Their Vehicles

Mac Sperry stands next to his RV in Mission Bay, June 21, 2019.

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: Mac Sperry stands next to his RV in Mission Bay, June 21, 2019.

A month after San Diego made it illegal for people to live in vehicles, the police department will now begin enforcing the ordinance.

The San Diego Police Department said they will now begin enforcing the law anywhere in the city from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and anytime near homes or schools.

By Reporter Matt Hoffman

Some people are hoping the enforcement drives campers out of town, while people living in their vehicles said the law is unfair.

SDPD said for the last month it has been working to educate officers and San Diegans about the law. A spokesman said the department is not taking a "hammer" approach to enforcement, but instead will give multiple warnings and direct people to safe parking lots before issuing tickets or arresting violators. The spokesman said enforcement will ultimately be at an officers discretion.

Some people are hoping the enforcement drives campers out of town — while people living in their vehicles said it is unfair, like Mac Sperry who sleeps in his RV.

"This is an escape hatch for people living in these expensive apartments and want to get away from it," said Sperry, standing next to his RV in a Mission Bay parking lot. "A lot of people are that way. They live two paychecks away from the street. And one day they hit the street and they say, 'well I don’t want to be on the street.' So they get a motorhome."

Sperry said he’s been living out of his 1981 Toyota RV for the last couple of years and cannot afford a place in San Diego.

RELATED: People Living In Vehicles Call New San Diego Law Prohibiting It Unfair

"I live on Social Security," he said. "I couldn’t get an apartment, not on that."

He said the high price of housing is what is causing people to live in their vehicles.

"These people don’t go to school and when they are kids talking to the other kids and say, 'I can’t wait to become homeless person,'" Sperry said. "They don’t want that — what they lack is money."

Meantime some people are welcoming enforcement of the new vehicle habitation law.

"I’m all for it," said Doug Johnson who works in Ocean Beach. "I think it’s becoming a huge problem — the whole homeless issue is becoming a problem."

Johnson said people living in vehicles are dumping trash all over town.

"They definitely trash the place and I’m sure there are some good ones out there that are respectful of everyone’s private property but there are a lot more bad ones it seems like," he said.

The city has three safe parking lots where people can go to sleep overnight. Johnson and others we talked to think the parking lots are a good idea.

"There will be a place for these people and but it’s definitely not on the streets — causing health problems for the environment and the other locals," said George Ferris, who lives in San Diego.

Sperry said those safe parking lots are too restrictive.

"I just think a lot of people aren’t going to go to it because these are people who are interested in freedom and it’s clear this is not about freedom," Sperry said.

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Aired: June 24, 2019 | Transcript

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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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