Despite a recently graduated law student's plea for compassion for the city's homeless and a warning that the laws may be unconstitutional, the City Council adopted two emergency ordinances this week that restrict living in parked vehicles.
The new ordinances will prohibit habitation in vehicles parked on public property, except for 12 hours in emergencies. It also will limit habitation in vehicles parked on private property to 14 consecutive days.
A companion ordinance that would limit the parking of vehicles on residential front yards is expected to be brought before the council in about a month.
The City Council last week ordered the city attorney to draft emergency ordinances after rejecting proposed ordinances on the subject that council members said were too broad and "open to wild interpretation."
The council said the emergency ordinances are necessary because of potential health hazards connected with people who live in vehicles and dump wastes onto the streets.
However, new versions of the two emergency ordinances will be written to be more specific and brought back before the council.
Ken Gaugh, a Torrance resident who graduated this year from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and is scheduled to take the California Bar exam this month, said he was speaking on behalf of the homeless whose pride prevents them from speaking for themselves.
Gaugh called the ordinances "overbroad and infringing on the human rights of the homeless."
'Should Be Helping'
"The problem exists and you can not legislate it away," he said. "You should be helping these people, or at the very least not penalize them."
Gaugh, who worked as a law clerk for the Western Center for Law and Poverty in Los Angeles last year, said he took it upon himself to speak for the homeless after watching last week's council debate on cable television. He said he did not know if any homeless people actually live in the streets of Torrance, but he estimated there are 20 or 30 homeless families throughout the South Bay.
Council members said they sympathize with the plight of the homeless, but said it is not solely the city's responsibility to care for them.
Councilman Tim Mock asked City Atty. Stanley Remelmeyer to look into the constitutional questions of the ordinances when they are brought back for consideration.
"It is not the intent to hurt people who are hurting," said Mayor Jim Armstrong, "but rather to stop the people who are abusing."