San Diego mayor proposes new law to ban living in vehicles

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer plans to unveil the new vehicle habitation ordinance at a City Council committee meeting next month.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer plans to unveil the new vehicle habitation ordinance at a City Council committee meeting next month.
(Peggy Peattie)
San Diego Union-Tribune

Faced with a flood of homeless people living in cars near the beach, San Diego officials said Monday they will pass a new version of the city’s vehicle habitation law, which banned living in vehicles.

The proposed law would replace a previous version that a federal judge declared unenforceable.

The move comes in response to hundreds of complaints about public urination and other illegal activity on city streets since the City Council repealed the 35-year-old law in February.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city will also double its number of “safe” parking lots, from two to four, so that unsheltered people forced to live in vehicles have a place to go at night.


“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.”

Faulconer said he plans to unveil the new ordinance, which will be based on vehicle habitation ordinances in other cities, at an April 17 meeting of the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

“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,” Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell said Monday.

In August, U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia said the city’s previous vehicle habitation law didn’t indicate specifically what turns a vehicle into a person’s home or “living quarters,” noting that people have gotten tickets under the law for reading a book inside their vehicle.

The injunction ordered by Battaglia came in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of disabled homeless people who prefer to live in vehicles because they don’t function well in traditional homeless shelters.

In February, the City Council voted unanimously to repeal the law.

Since then, San Diego police and council members say they’ve received hundreds of complaints about a sharp increase in people living out of cars on public streets, primarily in the city’s beach communities.

David Garrick writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.