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Parking bans affect an overlooked population: homeless living in vehicles

Parking bans affect an overlooked population: homeless living in vehicles
(Los Angeles Times)

In recent months, signs have gone up barring the overnight parking of oversized vehicles on residential and commercial streets from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside to South Los Angeles and San Pedro. These zones of no parking, usually in effect from 2 to 6 a.m., encompass a few blocks or, in some cases, a few miles. They have been approved with the help of individual members of the Los Angeles City Council, responding to constituent complaints about parking congestion, "public safety issues," sewage being dumped out of recreational vehicles or criminal activity seen around the vehicles. Some council officials say the measures are designed to crack down on professional truckers who park their rigs overnight on city streets — instead of storing them off-street.

Many city residents would rather not live next to an encampment of homeless people in RVs. But the reality is that L.A. has a growing homeless crisis and a shortage of answers.


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But even if it's true that some of the vehicles covered by these rules are commercial trucks, many are campers and recreational vehicles in which homeless people live. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority's 2015 count of homeless people, there are 2,928 campers and RVs on the streets of L.A. County housing homeless people. Whether or not council members say their goal is to target homeless people living in RVs with these ordinances — and in some cases it clearly is — it is the homeless population that is most adversely affected by these restrictions.

Council members this year have introduced and passed 17 new overnight bans — about twice as many as they passed last year. What's more, Councilwoman Nury Martinez has introduced a motion to study the feasibility of instituting a citywide ban on overnight parking of oversize vehicles.

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It is not surprising that many city residents would rather not live next to an encampment of homeless people in RVs. But the reality is that L.A. has a growing homeless crisis and a shortage of answers. Given that the City Council itself has declared a shelter crisis, officials should stop adding new parking restrictions — at least until the city sets up the long-discussed safe parking program that would allow homeless people to park in designated lots owned by the city or nonprofit organizations.

By court settlement, homeless people are allowed to sleep overnight on the sidewalks in the city. It would be absurd to force homeless people out of their RVs and onto sidewalks.

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