San Luis Obispo will begin drafting stricter rules regulating overnight camping by vehicles on city streets, making enforcement easier for police.
The City Council directed staff Tuesday to come back with specific proposals that would amend parking enforcement rules.
Police have struggled with enforcement under the current law that requires them to prove that people are actually asleep inside their vehicles. The existing zoning code prohibits vehicles from parking in the same place for more than 72 hours, but has proven fruitless as cars or recreational vehicles can move 500 feet to avoid a citation or being towed.
The proposed changes could include limiting parking on posted streets to two hours, creating specific times that RVs can’t park on certain streets, and possibly even banning parking of RVs citywide.
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The council expressed support for a permit program that would allow city residents with RVs and the like to attain temporary permits for their vehicles.
The council had previously delayed Tuesday night’s discussion to give the public enough time to become familiar with the proposed changes.
The issue came to the public’s attention in February when officers began enforcing an existing city ordinance that prohibits overnight camping on city streets.
Since then, dozens of community members have implored the City Council to suspend enforcement of the law.
Meanwhile, businesses complain that motor homes, trailers and cars lining streets including Prado Road, Long Street and Empresa Drive are having a negative impact on their business because of growing nuisances such as assaults, theft, public urination and defecation.
A lawsuit challenging the ordinance was filed against the city and police Chief Steve Gesell on behalf of the homeless who say they have been unfairly targeted by the recent police enforcement.
The claim, filed by attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stewart Jenkins on April 6 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, alleges that the law is unconstitutional, vague and results in arbitrary enforcement.
Jenkins, who said he represents more than 20 people in the lawsuit, also filed a motion requesting that the court stop the city from enforcing the law. A preliminary hearing to consider Jenkins’ request is set for May 24.
“I am shocked at the cruel way this has been enforced,” Jenkins said. “This is not the kind, gentle city I know of. This is plain mistreatment of human beings.”
Gesell said the enforcement was driven solely by complaints and not at the behest of the City Council.
Since mid-February, the police department has issued 47 citations for overnight camping, tagged 62 vehicles for violating a city ordinance banning them from parking in the same place for more than 72 hours, and towed two vehicles.