More than a year ago, San Diego police quietly stopped enforcing a city law banning people from living in vehicles amid an ongoing legal challenge. Mayor Todd Gloria said he directed police to resume enforcing the city’s vehicle habitation ordinance this spring as he made a series of other announcements.
What happened next: Police data shows officers wrote 11 citations for the offense between April and July.
The law: The vehicle habitation ordinance forbids people from staying in their vehicles on city streets or public property between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., or within 500 feet of a home or school at any hour.
Why the tickets stopped: The city had previously said it was halting this enforcement due to an ongoing class-action lawsuit challenging city crackdowns against people living in RVs, vans and other vehicles.
Attorney Ann Menasche, who is leading the federal court challenge, told Voice of San Diego she had until recently assumed police weren’t enforcing the new law while the city engaged in continuing settlement talks — even despite Gloria’s announcement. Then she learned otherwise.
“We’re very distressed about it and we do believe that the ordinance is unconstitutional and that it’s abusing our clients’ basic human rights,” Menasche said.
One family’s experience: Chris Endres, who lives in an RV with his wife Jullienna and their 12-year-old son, received a vehicle habitation ticket about two weeks ago at 6:50 a.m. in an area of Liberty Station that isn’t within 500 feet of homes or schools. The couple said the city’s safe parking lots aren’t workable for a handful of reasons, including because they have a second vehicle and a trailer they don’t want to part with.
Capt. Shawn Takeuchi, who leads the San Diego police division that conducts most homelessness-related enforcement, said Thursday that he recently reviewed the citation after the couple’s attorney flagged it in connection with the ongoing lawsuit. Takeuchi said he decided it wasn’t issued correctly and then took action to dismiss it.
Anti-Water Divorce Legislation Passes State Senate
The California Senate OK’d a bill that would make it harder for water districts to break up with the San Diego County Water Authority.
AB 399, which surfaced just as two of San Diego’s 24 water districts were looking to buy cheaper water in Riverside County, passed Wednesday 23 to 10. The vote was mostly party-line but two Democrats, Sens. Anna Caballero of Merced and Steve Glazer of Orinda, joined their Republican colleagues to oppose the bill.
Caballero initially supported the bill in the state Government and Finance Committee but expressed reservations about this San Diego battle ending in lawsuits that ultimately create costs for the taxpayer.
New lawsuit duel between the divorcees: Indeed the Water Authority is suing its divorcees and the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission that agreed to allow the departure. The governing boards of the departing water districts – Fallbrook Public Utilities District and Rainbow Municipal Water District – both approved pursuing lawsuits against the Water Authority in return.
Other legislation the city’s watching: Gloria is rallying behind SB 43, which would allow for more behavioral health holds, and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s megabond proposal to expand behavioral health care beds statewide. Gloria is urging Newsom and state legislators to add more funds specifically for cities and counties.
City Files Suit Demanding SeaWorld Rent
The city has sued its most famous tenant over its failure to pay rent during the pandemic.
The Union-Tribune reports that the city on Thursday filed a civil lawsuit against SeaWorld over its failure to fork over more than $12 million in rent and other charges.
The backstory: The theme park leases its Mission Bay Park property from the city, giving taxpayers a unique stake in SeaWorld’s success. As the U-T reports, SeaWorld’s city lease sets rent based on park revenues and its minimum annual rent has been at least $10.4 million, plus a 3 percent surcharge, for the past three years. SeaWorld stopped making rent payments during the worst of the pandemic and the city concluded the theme park owes the city about $8.9 million in unpaid rent payments and surcharges from 2019 through spring 2022, plus interest.
SeaWorld, which was forced to closed for a time during the pandemic, argued in past statements to the U-T that it’s long been a good partner to the city. City Attorney Mara Elliott and Gloria on Thursday said SeaWorld needs to pay up.
“We have a deal with them and we’ve had a very long and strong relationship with them so it’s disturbing and confusing that they would take it to this extreme and not pay,” Elliott told the U-T.
In Other News
- U.S. Rep. Mike Levin has drawn a new challenger for his re-election campaign next year: Margarita Wilkinson, the senior vice president and general manager of Entravision Communications. Entravision runs the Spanish language television station, Univision. Wilkinson, who is well known in local nonprofit and philanthropy circles, said in a written announcement she is a lifelong Republican and that inflation, national debt and homelessness motivated her run. Republican Matt Gunderson is also seeking the seat.
- The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. released its Inclusive Growth Progress Report with a warning about the havoc San Diego’s high cost of living and unequal gains could cause in the local economy. “The relative poverty rate has increased while median earnings and the household wage gap between white and non-white populations has widened. Record-level inflation has hit struggling San Diego households hard, and high operating costs have degraded the ability of businesses to attract and retain talent,” read the announcement.
- 10 News reports that the Coastal Commission voted Thursday to close the Point La Jolla bluffs, an area between the Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove, year-round to protect sea lions.
- Gloria announced Thursday that he has been working with Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell to propose changes to the city’s sidewalk vending ordinance this fall to “improve its clarity and enforceability.” He noted during a press briefing that some vendors – as reported by 10 News – have claimed they are exempt due to First Amendment protections and said the amendments the two will proposed aim to “ensure that there is no ambiguity on who is subject to this regulation under the sidewalk vending ordinance” and to improve enforcement.
- The Del Mar Times revealed that unpermitted short-term rentals have been the foremost trigger of code compliance complaints in North County cities in recent years.
- KPBS reports that bike advocates aren’t thrilled with the city’s draft “Complete Streets” policy.
The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Scott Lewis.