Natalie Raschke, center, starts putting shoes, cooking gear and other things back into the van as night falls in the parking lot where they hope to spend the night in early June. The family's RV was towed in February. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

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San Diego City Council on Monday unanimously voted to expand the hours at one of the city’s safe parking lots for people living in vehicles and, at Council President Sean Elo-Rivera’s request, to also assess potential sites citywide for more lots.  

Mayor Todd Gloria late last week urged the City Council to approve a contract with nonprofit Jewish Family Service to continue its safe parking programs and provide around-the-clock access at its Mission Valley lot. The city now has two safe lots in Kearny Mesa and one in Mission Valley that can accommodate RVs. Now people who park in the JFS lots must leave by 7 a.m. each day. 

Gloria’s initial announcement followed word that the city would receive state grant funds to combat family homelessness and a Voice of San Diego story documenting the challenges faced by a family of six who have recently lived in a van. The Raschke family stayed in an RV until it was impounded by the city in February.  

On Monday, Natalie Raschke addressed the City Council about her experience at Elo-Rivera’s request. She told city councilmembers her family decided against parking in the city’s Mission Valley safe lot despite the prospect of more tickets from police for reasons including its restricted hours, location far from her children’s schools and safety concerns. She said shelters also haven’t seemed well suited to accommodate her husband and four children whose ages range from 4 to 15. 

“Now six of us are in a van,” Raschke said. “And that is more comfortable than going to some of the safe lots or shelters that the city has to offer which is…it’s hard because they’d rather be in that van than sleep in a space so that they won’t get a ticket.” 

Natalie Raschke goes through the stack of parking tickets the family had accumulated on their RV as they sought safe places to park.

After Raschke spoke, Elo-Rivera – who once lived in a vehicle for a time while he was in law school – made a motion to have city staff explore potential safe parking locations in every City Council district and to establish family-friendly zones at each site. He sympathized with the challenges the family has endured and the tough choices they’ve had to make as they try to keep their children in school and survive. 

“There’s an incredibly time-consuming element of being homeless or being without a house that I think is just often overlooked that just makes the practical realities of either attending school or getting or maintaining a job seem almost impossible,” Elo-Rivera said. 

Gloria’s office said Monday it’s unclear when expanded hours at the city’s Mission Valley safe lot will go into effect. 

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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  1. San Diego needs more safe parking areas for people who have cars – but no home. It seems pretty basic to me.

  2. On Wednesday June 29 I was observing a sweep of an encampment near Pacific Coast Highway.

    I asked about parking lots. Homeless outreach team (HOT) members and police officers were telling people the parking lots are now open 24 hours.

    Does anyone know if that is actually the case?

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