Two months ago, a group of homeless people in San Diego filed a class-action lawsuit against the city's practice of ticketing people for pitching tents on public sidewalks. Now comes word of another potential class-action lawsuit against the city, this time from homeless people living in their cars and recreational vehicles.
On Tuesday, September 19, the city council will discuss a threat of litigation submitted by Disability Rights California. The nonprofit advocacy group says San Diego's Oversized Vehicle Ordinance targets those people who live in their cars or recreational vehicles.
The group's attorney, Ann Menasche, says the city needs to address the shortage of beds in shelters as well as lack of affordable housing before it starts issuing citations to those whose only options are to sleep in their cars or on the street.
“The City’s enforcement of nighttime parking and vehicle habitation ordinances criminalizes those homeless individuals who are lucky enough to have a vehicle, and discriminates against people based on their disabilities," Menasche said during a September 15 phone interview.
"These individuals barely have enough money to eat and pay for medicine and other basic needs, let alone exorbitant fines per these ordinances. The fines and the City's impounding of their vehicles put their health, safety, and very lives at risk."
The group is asking Mayor Faulconer and the city council to modify the ordinances and allow homeless people with disabilities to park on the street and not worry about whether they will be ticketed or if their cars will be impounded.
The threat of litigation is the latest controversy involving San Diego's treatment of homeless people.
In July 2017, ten people sued the city for instructing its officers to hand out tickets to those who place personal belongings in the public right-of-way. According to an attorney who is representing the ten plaintiffs, police officers have issued thousands of encroachment citations.
"These ordinances discriminate against those most vulnerable, especially those who are poor due to their disabilities and have no place to live. If the city doesn’t respond by stopping the ticketing, our clients will consider all their options including potential litigation."
More recently, San Diego's elected officials are scrambling to find a solution to a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. Since November of last year, 16 people have died. A total of 421 people have been infected with the disease; 65 percent of those are believed to be homeless.
To address the outbreak, the county is offering free vaccines and employing mobile hand-washing stations.