Is SLO’s vehicle sleeping ban unconstitutional?

June 20, 2014

Cartoon Homeless HomesBy KAREN VELIE

Amid a federal appellate court ruling Thursday that struck down a Los Angeles law that prohibits homeless from sleeping in their vehicles, San Luis Obispo homeless advocates are waiting to see how city officials will respond.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed that Los Angeles’ ordinance prohibiting people from using their vehicles as living quarters “opens the door to discriminatory enforcement” against the poor. In addition the court said the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague.

In 2010, Los Angeles officials decided to aggressively enforce the city’s living in a vehicle ban in order to protect public health and safety. The city then started a task force to cite and arrest homeless people sleeping in their RVs and automobiles, according to the ruling.

In response, an attorney filed a lawsuit on behalf of several Los Angeles homeless people claiming the city’s ordinance “criminalizes otherwise innocent behavior.” The federal appellate court agreed.

“This broad and cryptic statute criminalizes innocent behavior, making it impossible for citizens to know how to keep their conduct within the pale,” Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the court.

The court determined that the Los Angeles’ ordinance was a “convenient tool for harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials.” In its conclusion, the court noted that Los Angeles has many options at its disposal to alleviate the plight and suffering of its homeless citizens other than enforcement actions.

In the Los Angeles case, four police officers were personally sued for their participation in the unconstitutional treatment of the homeless.

San Luis Obispo

In 2012, attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins filed a lawsuit accusing the city of San Luis Obispo and its chief of police of discrimination, harassment and the criminalization of homeless people. Following a decision by a superior court judge that the city’s treatment of the homeless was unconstitutional, the San Luis Obispo City Council agreed to dismiss all tickets given that year to homeless residents for sleeping in their vehicles.

City Attorney Christine Dietrick responded by recommending the council adopt an ordinance under the health, safety and welfare section of the city’s municipal code, which would specifically allow police to immediately restart its program of ticketing sleeping homeless.

In addition, the police department created a task force to focus on the homeless. The police department then implemented a top ten offender list, which targets those most cited for more police oversight.

Jenkins and Rizzo are analyzing the case to determine its impact on San Luis Obispo’s enforcement practices.


69 Comments

  1. Stunned says:

    I have a thought provoking idea…..well, it provoked me to think anyhow so here goes. What if my friends and I (probably 50 total) hooked up our travel trailers & fired up the 36′ motorhomes and made it our business to come to SLO Town and simply park.

    I dare the fine appointed five-pointed lawmen to write us little tickets. The point is, since when do my rights have any power in this small berg?

    I just don’t get it I suppose yet some will say I need to bring a solution with a gripe, yes? How about we leave the homeless to their own devices and when they don’t impinge on common decency we let them wander to and fro as they’ve done since the beginning of time!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  2. slocouncilsucks says:

    If they get rid of the overnight sleeping in vehicle ban, it should be that hard to set up neighborhood parking bans, like is done in the northern neighborhoods near Cal Poly, where a parking permit is required, should it? Or are those unconstitutional now as well?

    Seems like a pretty easy way to get around this.

    The people of SLO by and large are tired of the drunk/drugged out homeless invasion of this city. Those of us who have lived here 20 or more years definitely have seen this go from a safe, very nice and liveable city with nice parks to a place that families are a little scared to take their kids to the parks, and shoppers aren’t as enthusiastic about going downtown for fear of being harassed – spit on or just generally bothered by panhandlers.

    I wonder how many millions of dollars our local economy and business owners have lost as a direct result of this homeless invasion brought on by being the homeless services hub for the area.

    The solution to me is simple- Let democracy take its course and allow the SLO Residents to vote on whether or not we want to continue the Maxine and Prado enabling services, or shut them down completely.

    Here’s a statistic those in our City Council don’t want the average SLO resident to see: San Luis Obispo is 16% of the total county population, yet now hosts a staggering 50% of the county’s homeless! Well done city council! and now they want to build an even larger multi-million dollar shelter because the current one has filled up.. unbelievable.

    It’s a lot like attempting to put out a fire by smothering it in gasoline.

    We, the people and business owners of SLO are being run by a bunch of complete fools, our city is in a unique position of being extremely attractive to a certain type of homeless who simply isn’t looking for work and knows our city and our weather (and very lenient police force) will allow them to lounge and panhandle indefinitely-

    This “problem” segment of the population is endangering the safety of SLO residents in a number of ways, one of them being the fact that they disproportionately create 911 calls for drunk in public and other disturbances and take resources away from residents. They are also having a huge impact on our tourism based economy (nobody wants to go on vacation to a city full of bums) which will ultimately be put in Jeopardy thanks to our city council and mayor.

    We need to start demanding a referendum and vote on whether or not to continue the failed CAPSLO Maxine and Prado enabling centers, and soon. I vote close them down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

    • Dirk Anderson says:

      I was under the impression the major economic indices were up and that the economy was
      snoring along pretty well. You should be as happy as pigs in crap, just never satisfied are you.

      Although I am one, I’m no homeless advocate and never have been. I don’t care for the drunks, addicts, degenerates, parolees etc. either. All I can do is try to avoid them and send
      them around, this community and legal system prefers to pay “social” visits and is not likely to back me up if it ever came to it. I get the economics (believe me), and I’m also going to put as much pressure and stress in the market place as I can.

      I think the community would be surprised at how much the “law abiding” stake holders proactively unload on me. Now that I’m some sort of guest in my own Country, the community won’t get a tax centavo out of me. That said, I have accomplished my task, the destroyers of everything good descent and beautiful are not going to stop me…because I can.

      Frankly, I have contempt and disgust for this community, you get what you deserve…tough.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  3. SLO_Johnny says:

    The law still requires that the people living in their cars have a valid driver’d license and insurance and registration. The police can also check them for wants and warrants. They can issue tickets for any violations. If the fines aren’t paid, the court will issue a warrant. Once the homeless people feel the pressure, many people will move on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    • Slowerfaster says:

      So, you think people living in their cars AREN’T feeling the pressure ?
      These are people living on the edge…in extremis. They’re already dealing with a world of woes that you have no concept of, and evidently don’t care to.
      Their choices are limited, and some would like to see those few choices less.
      When you create the situation of forcing desperate people into even more crisis, the end result is always MORE desperate acts.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  4. Cindy says:

    For those of you who are shaking your heads at Cristine Dietrick while she continues to receive pay raises despite her constant bad advice and failure to properly interpret the law.

    Dietrick isn’t there to make certain that the CC follows the law of the land, she is there to protect the CC from “personal liability”. The way it works is that as long as the CC follows the advice of the city attorney (who they hired) then they can not be personally held liable ( sued personally) only we the people can be sued for their actions but they can’t be sued personally The city attorneys “REAL JOB” is to find an excuse to allow the City Council to do whatever they want to do. Her second job is to be the fall guy/girl for giving bad advice, that’s what she’s paid for.

    There was a time when we had the same problem here in A-Town and when the public began to take notice of all the poor advice and costly law suits, the CC simply fired the attorney, he went back to his law firm and the CC hired a different attorney from the same law firm.

    That is how it works.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7

    • SLO_Johnny says:

      Government officers, including council members, have personal immunity from civil litigation unless there is evidence that they engaged in illegal or unethical conduct. We have these regular events called ELECTIONS which serve as the primary means of regulating the councillors.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

      • Cindy says:

        They DO NOT have personal immunity if they don’t follow the city attorney’s advice. If the city attorney advises them that a particular conduct or ordinance is not legal and they pass the ordinance, they lose their immunity. Of course you are correct that the protective veil is lifted for illegal or unethical conduct as well, that is unless the city attorney advised them otherwise. That’s a fact.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  5. Dirk Anderson says:

    Dee Torres put it best: “It is not a rosy picture”. I personally don’t want a damn thing from the community. I have accomplished the longest hardest pursuit I will ever take on. You only go around once. I will after 6.5 years move on (happily) in search of something better.
    I’ve been homeless for more years than I can count, there is nothing for me to integrate back in to. There are not to many people around that I would consider qualified to tell me jack diddly (the blind leading the blind), keep those stupid college kids coming. Thankfully, I have plenty to keep me occupied.
    I ran a shelter years ago and fought this Government grant suck down trash until I was blue in the face. If successful, we should have worked ourselves out of a job. I was highly protective of the community and society at large. Now that I am apparently a criminal for eating a sack lunch at the Elks Club Bridge and sleeping out of doors, and boy is that a bright idea, keep that up, the community is on it’s own.
    There is no one size fits all solution that is going to satisfy everyone. One is reminded to look after ones own interests, and by any and all means, as long as it takes get it done.
    I did notice a Video featuring “Biz Steinman ” from CAP-SLO. That is what oversees an annual budget of 50-60 million? Please. Why can’t some of these old fossils smell the coffee, hop into the Winnebago and ride off into the Sunset? Many of these administrative functionaries make the case for a 10 year term limit. Apparently this “Community Action Partnership” organization is vast, not just limited to SLO.
    As for me, sleeping bag, food, senior discount coffee, and avoidance of local “insects” (I’m vastly outnumbered), I’m good. It would be to damn simple.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 8

    • Jon Tatro says:

      We as a society have the absolute need and expectation to take care of those who can not help themselves. Everybody else is a freeloader. Dirk you are obviously an educated man what is it you want from your fellow Americans?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

      • Dirk Anderson says:

        “Everybody else is a freeloader” what the hell is that supposed to mean? I need little and that little I need very little. I’m just expressing myself, just as you are. You are being reasonably accommodated are you not? Many of my as you put it “fellow Americans” are nothing I want to associate with, nor do they have anything I’m interested in, you assume a lot. You can wrap yourself up in the American flag this 4th of July all you want, I won’t be there with you, I’ve fought practically everyday for decades, I don’t need the childish, empty symbolism. This issue of alleged American Sovereignty and rumor of a representative Constitutional republic has already been dealt with in the earlier comments.
        Past Sunday I was in grocery store purchasing $1:39 T.V. Dinner. In walks one of the local degenerates I attempt to avoid like the plague. He comes over: menaces, threatens, and produces from some unknown bodily source blood which he spritzes the area with including me. Not copious excessive amounts but enough for the attendant to have to clean the check- out monitor. Of course this incident was the result of some sort of provocation on my part, of course the way I process information is polluted, of course my perceptions are faulty and distorted, of course this event was a figment of my furtive imagination along with several witnesses and a surveillance camera. Your fellow Americans can have the likes of him. And yes I am educated, everything is ass-backwards. And yes I am a freeloader/parasite, but some more than others. I have no expectations of anything, especially from this Society.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

        • Slowerfaster says:

          Dirk A …Yes, this has been covered.

          Fact is, America the Great …America the Empire is in the final stages of a terminal illness.
          Attribute what you want: materialism, greed, super-ego.
          Those seem to function somewhat OK in supposed ‘good times’, but utterly fail when the economic masters make their inevitable ‘mn istakes’ and put on the brakes. Then, Stupidity and orchestrated ignorance emerge.
          For generations, the myth of “The American Dream” has been the prevailing modus of the socially illiterate masses.
          Now, many of them know subconsciously what a phony con-game that was and is; yet they are too prideful to admit that they were suckered.
          Most of these at first react with a ” I MUST HUSTLE MORE ” mentality, like the workhorse in “Animal Farm”. Others sink into depression and guilt.

          Gandhi said, “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed “.

          For those that can’t practically leave ( like you and me ), all we can do is to live simply …almost monastic; and try to avoid the killer whores and CRE’s as much as possible.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

          • Dirk Anderson says:

            “…America the Empire is in the final stages of a terminal illness.” I’m not so sure of that. I don’t think I would equate American dominance (mainly for resources) with the Imperialism of say Ancient Persia, Alexander the Great etc…dominance for the sake of dominance. I want a strong America.

            Apparently, I can’t even go into a grocery store anymore without out being threatened etc. Appears the Police are on the clock and to busy amusing themselves on Blogs, social media, and what have you?

            I do not begrudge anyone for having personal wealth etc. go about your business and enjoy it. No need to put it in my face, like some five year old; I wouldn’t know you existed.

            I think it is a bit presumptuous on your part to detail how anyone else should live. I can leave any time I want. When I do 20 dirt bags will take my place. And the City will prefer them, especially if a revenue stream can be generated.

            In my daily, excessively public existence, I see a sick, diseased, Society. That weakens America internally.

            This is a good Article and instructive thread, time to move onto the next.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

        • Dirk Anderson says:

          You are a Paso Robles Police Officer of some 25 years experience? Is that not the community that handed out quite a pay- out to get rid of that sexual predator police chief you had (send her my way, I’m lonely). What were you doing for 25 years? wetting yourself with tears over the homeless? I’m not a pet dog, I’m not going to assume the fetal position and suck my thumb because it makes you feel big. You make my case, I don’t want anything from you people.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  6. euroamerican says:

    When we provide housing, medical care, food, education for people who are here illegally. What is wrong with a system that can not provide for our Veterans, and our homeless citizens. We as a country should be taking care of our own first. We spend billions on foreign aid, we borrow from China with one hand, and give them foreign aid with the other where is the rationale. We should be doing something for OUR people. My business does put me in contact with some of our homeless, and they are polite decent people who have found themselves in an awful predicament. I have talked with Europeans who have visited the US,and have been flabbergasted to see homeless people here on our streets. How can America have homeless you are such a rich country. As an American I am ashamed that we can not do something to save these people. We are all too ready to fight a foreign war (that can never be won) to help those people have a life we feel they deserve to live, yet here fight among ourselves as to whether these Americans should be allowed to live in their cars. Oh yes lets build a homeless complex that’s Government run, because they have done such a good job with Medicare, Veterans care, social security, spending our hard earned tax money. How about first getting the mentally ill homeless off the streets, and getting them the medical help they need. Training the people with job skills, and getting them back into the work force. Providing some form of transitional housing, not a compound. Treating these people with some dignity. There has to be a solution, we do not need Government agency run housing with administrators receiving these ridiculous salaries who do nothing but perpetuate their own livelihood…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 7

    • MaryMalone says:

      I have been involved in politics since I was a toddler. Over the last 50 years, one of the constants has been the claim that America is near-moribund.

      Through several wars (declared and covert), social revolutions (liberal hippies and conservative Wall Street financial thugs), political crime bosses, corrupt Supreme Court Justices, and the slaughter of our children on the oil-drenched altars of avarice and greed…I could go on and on…America has rolled with the punches and come out on top.

      Despite all of the challenges, America has proven to be a resilient old girl. Her resilience is due to her ability to deal with the challenges of change.

      I doubt that will change any time soon.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

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