The City of San Diego, alongside its mayor, police department, chief of police and nine-member city council, is facing a proposed class action lawsuit that aims to challenge the city’s ordinances prohibiting nighttime RV parking and banning vehicle habitation. Filed by nine plaintiffs in conjunction with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and Disability Rights California, the 44-page lawsuit kicks off by stating San Diego has failed to provide its unsheltered residents who live out of vehicles alternative places to dwell, with shelter availability and housing subsidies scarce for the city’s increasing homeless population. Despite a lack of alternatives, the lawsuit reads, San Diego repeatedly tickets and harasses individuals who seek shelter in their vehicles, as well as those who own vehicles with nowhere else to park but on the streets.
From the lawsuit:
“The number of unsheltered homeless people far outnumbers available emergency shelter beds, which are generally filled and cannot accommodate the hundreds of people who are forced to seek shelter in their vehicles. Moreover, emergency and temporary shelter beds are functionally unavailable to many homeless people with disabilities because the conditions in the shelter environment are not medically acceptable given those disabilities. Homeless vehicle owners therefore do not have either a place to seek shelter in their vehicles legally in the City or the availability of adequate, accessible, and medically appropriate housing they can afford.”
Calling San Diego’s stance toward homeless vehicle owners “discriminatory, cruel, punitive, and unconstitutional,” the plaintiffs allege the city and its co-defendants purposefully target homeless vehicle owners, issuing tickets and impounding vehicles for citations that go unpaid. To this point, the lawsuit asserts that despite its ban on overnight RV parking, San Diego offers an exemption to this rule, via a permit system, for those who have a physical address, while homeless residents are at risk of having their lone source of shelter taken away as a result of unpaid tickets and ordinances the plaintiffs describe as “so vague and ambiguously worded” that it’s difficult for sheltered and homeless individuals alike to avoid breaking the law.
“In other words,” the complaint argues, “under certain circumstances, the City allows people who are not homeless to park their RVs overnight, but imposes penalties against those who are homeless for the same behavior.”
In the face of an evident problem, the complaint continues, San Diego has refused to modify its policies to provide homeless residents an opportunity to park on city streets or other public property until affordable, accessibly, and medical appropriate alternatives are made available.