Police assist homeless individuals
San Diego police assist homeless individuals. Courtesy OnScene.TV

San Diego City Council voted 6-3 to approve a new emergency ordinance proposed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to address unsafe living conditions by placing a temporary ban on living in cars and vans.

The ban makes it illegal for people to sleep in their cars between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. or within 500 feet of schools and homes during any time of the day.

Through the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance, Faulconer hopes to reduce such nuisances as public urination, illegal dumping and drug use on city streets and in parking lots. The ordinance replaces one previously repealed that was deemed “too vague to enforce,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

“We are creating a balance that provides opportunities to those in need while protecting our neighborhoods from behavior that creates unsanitary conditions and hurts quality of life,” Faulconer said.

To assist homeless affected by the new ban, the mayor’s office is expanding its Safe Parking Program that allows people and families to sleep in their cars if they’re parked in designated lots, which are open between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“If you want to work toward finding a permanent home, we have programs that can help. We will not allow the proliferation of ‘van life’ culture that takes advantage of San Diego’s generosity and destroys community character,” Faulconer said

The program has operated out of two lots in Kearny Mesa since 2017, with a third set to open on Mission Village Drive to be used for recreational vehicles.

Through the Safe Parking Program, which is administered by Jewish Family Service on San Diego, those living in cars can park somewhere secure overnight. They also have access to a variety of services for employment, school assistance, financial education and wellness programs.