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San Diego City Council To Consider New Modified Ban On Living, Sleeping In Vehicles

The San Diego City Council will consider an ordinance Tuesday that would place a limited ban on residents sleeping overnight or living in their cars within city limits.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 Homeless in disability rights advocates are expected to rally downtown this hour to voice their opposition to a proposed ban on vehicle habitation in San Diego. The city council will vote on whether to support a proposal from San Diego. Mayor Kevin Faulkner this afternoon. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman is covering the story and joins me now. Hi Matt. So Matt, this proposed band would replace a previous band. The council repealed earlier this year because a federal court found it was too vague. How does this proposed ban make the rules against living in your vehicle? More clear,

Speaker 2: 00:32 right? Yeah, it's, it's much more specific. I'm first it says, the proposed ban says people can't live in their vehicles between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM anywhere on public property in the city. Um, and then it goes on to say within 500 feet of a residential dwelling unit or a school. That's that, that's, that's like a house or other locations. Um, and then it gets very specific. Well, what defines vehicle habitation among them is sleeping, bathing, preparing meals, betting cookware inside the vehicle, food, water, grooming items, containers of human waste. Um, and it also goes on to talk about other things that may constitute vehicle habitation, including obscured windows, evidence of trash, temporary furnishings, um, and again, human waste near near the vehicle.

Speaker 1: 01:11 Now, this new proposed ban comes from Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Why does he say it's needed?

Speaker 2: 01:16 He, uh, he basically says all these people living in their vehicles and you know, being by the beaches and being by people's homes as a quality of life issue. Um, and he says that his office and Council officers have received hundreds of emails and complaints complaining and about trash, about drug use, public urination, and more as a result of individuals that have been taken advantage of our city and acting inappropriately. This is not safe. This is not healthy and this is not acceptable. He says that this is not appropriate. It's not safe and it's not healthy and not acceptable.

Speaker 1: 01:50 And Faulkner said the city will open more safe parking facilities. Tell us about that plan,

Speaker 2: 01:54 right? Yeah. So the city has to, they sponsor to safe parking lots that are run by the nonprofit Jewish family service or they're working on opening up a third one a, these are locations where people can go to sleep overnight. There's like an in and out time that people have to be in and out by. Um, but there's restrooms, hand washing stations, showers, and then there's like case managers that can help people, you know, find programs, whether it's to get benefits or to get into some type of housing. And that's a requirement of those safe parking facilities, right? Yeah. Yeah. That, that is a requirement that they have these, they have these services here. It's also worth noting that Jewish family service says that majority of the people who stay in their safe parking lots are people who are first time homeless. So like they just lost their house or something like that.

Speaker 2: 02:31 And they're in their car. They have nowhere to go. I'm not a lot of people who are chronically homeless, like these people who you might see downtown who are sleeping on the streets every night and how many people live in their cars in the city of San Diego, according to the 2019 point in time count and Voice of San Diego reports that there's 573 people living in their vehicles. Um, that includes a number of people who are living in their RVs as well. So are those safe parking lots enough to accommodate the population who need them? Right. Well, according to Jewish family service, there'll be about 520 spots. Once they get this, they have two lots in Kearny Mesa, they're going to open up another one near Stcc stadium in mission valley. Once they get all those lots opened up, uh, they expect to have about 520 parking spots. So they, they said there's 573 people living in their vehicles. We don't know. We don't know if that's 573 cars. There could be two or three people living inside one car. Um, so theoretically it sounds like they're pretty close to, uh, to that number.

Speaker 1: 03:24 And Matt, when we talk about people living in their vehicles, there are some who don't consider themselves homeless, right?

Speaker 2: 03:29 Right. Yeah. So there's sort of like two different populations here. There's people who are living in their vehicle because they say they have nowhere else to go. Uh, they can't afford the rent here. And then there's people in this, uh, sort of quote unquote van life contingent, um, who are traveling around, or they might stay in San Diego for a period of time and then go up the coast or something like that. Um, they consider it as like a lifestyle, um, where they might have sold their house and they bought a van and they're, and they're living in their van. They have like a policy of like a leave no trace where they, you know, they say they clean up and everything like that. They sort of feel like they're being scapegoated in this, uh, mayor Kevin Faulkner, a kind of loop them into these people who are taking advantage, uh, of these neighborhoods. A mayor, Faulkner says, you know, the beaches are most impacted by people living in, living in the living at other vans and their cars. Um, and he says, you know, people are using San Diego as a vacation spot. And he said, if people are homeless and they have nowhere to go, that they want to help them. That's what these safe parking lots are, are, are sort of four.

Speaker 1: 04:23 Why does the group rallying downtown this afternoon say it opposes the new band,

Speaker 2: 04:27 right? Yeah. And that's in part a disability rights. California was there who originally sued the city over this band. Um, uh, they, they say basically it's criminalizing and demonizing victims of, uh, of a housing crisis. They say that their clients have been priced out of housing due to skyrocketing rents and the real emergency is the lack of affordable housing.

Speaker 1: 04:45 San Diego City Council woman, Monica Montgomery, cast the loan dissenting vote. When this proposal came through the council committee on public safety and livable neighborhoods in April. Why is she a post?

Speaker 2: 04:56 She just thinks that the staff should redraft this proposal to consider the more interests of people who are homeless, um, and potentially add elements from like the city of Los Angeles. They have a vehicle habitation ordinance that has a diversion, a diversion program, and an interactive online map where people can see where they're able to park. Um, so just making the resident, making the ordinance, I'm more workable or friendly to people who are actually homeless.

Speaker 1: 05:19 I've been speaking to KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman. Matt. Thank you. Thanks, jade.

Speaker 3: 05:31 Okay.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.