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Fullerton’s RV Parking Ban May be Unconstitutional

Brooke Weitzman, directing attorney with the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, sent a letter to Fullerton City officials on December 15, urging a delay of enforcement of a newly-passed ordinance that bans RV parking from City streets without a permit. The letter also calls the ordinance, which City Council passed unanimously in November, unconstitutional.

“We represent many individuals who live in Recreational Vehicles in the city of Fullerton. Some of these individuals have disabilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act and others are seniors. All have, at times, parked within the City or at the Safe Parking locations. The ordinance is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced,” Weitzman’s letter begins.

Weitzman is the lead lawyer representing plaintiffs in the Orange County Catholic Worker v. County of Orange, et al–the settlement agreement of which has been driving recent efforts of cities, including Fullerton, to build homeless shelters and housing.

RVs parked along Valencia Ave. in Fullerton.

Other Cities’ Attempts to Criminalize Living in Vehicles Have Been Found Unconstitutional

The letter cites other court cases in which different cities’ attempts to criminalize RV parking have been found unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit Court determined in Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles (2014), that a law that prohibited the parking of a vehicle as living quarters was unconstitutional.

“The language of the Fullerton law is similarly unconstitutional,” the letter states. “Fullerton seeks to criminalize merely parking or stopping on public or private property any vehicle capable of human habitation. This is no different in impact than the law struck down in Los Angeles.”

“Several recent Ninth Circuit Court decisions, as well as State law, prohibit the towing of a vehicle without proper notice and a per-removal hearing, whether the vehicle is on private or public property,” the letter states.

Court cases and laws have found that such policies violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment right against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Smith v. Reiskin (2018) “held that no Fourth Amendment exception justified unlawful seizure of a homeless man’s vehicle when it was not parked in a manner that would jeopardize public safety or the efficient movement of vehicular traffic,” the letter states.

Criminalizing Homelessness During a Pandemic

The letter further states that the ordinance should not be enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic for public health reasons.

“Orange County is currently in the height of the pandemic, reaching new records of illness every day and all hospitals in the region are exceeding capacity. As we open overflow outdoor emergency rooms, it is a particularly dangerous time for the City to force senior and medically vulnerable individuals out of the vehicles where they can shelter in place and on the streets,” the letter states. “This will only exacerbate the public health crisis.”

The City Manager Responds

At the December 15 Fullerton City Council meeting, two residents currently living in their RVs in Fullerton questioned the City’s new ordinance.

“Where are the public signs posted anywhere?” asked Joseph Palmer, who currently lives in his RV in Fullerton. “It should be posted on the entryway of every main thoroughfare. I’ve been on almost all thoroughfares and I cannot find a sign.”

Palmer says that the industrial businesses around where he parks allow him to park there because he actively helps deter crime and drug use.

“I’m kinda like their security guard,” Palmer said.

City Manager Ken Domer said that the City is still in the process of putting up appropriate signage.

Domer told the Observer via e-mail that the City will not enforce the new RV ordinance during the current Stay-at-Home order, which is set to last about three weeks, but could be extended.

Safe Parking Program to End December 31

When City Council passed the RV ban in November, one justification was that the City has a Safe Parking program that allows a limited number of people living in their vehicles to park overnight on a City lot near Union Pacific Park.

This program is currently set to expire December 31, leaving uncertainty for those living in RVs and other vehicles who use that program.

At the December 15 Council meeting, a man named Walter who lives in his RV and uses the Safe Parking program, expressed uncertainty about what he will do when the program ends.

“I was wondering why on December 31 the program ends. They want to start giving us tickets and there’s nowhere for us to park in the daytime. Why can’t this program keep on going?” Walter said.

Walter lives in the RV with his girlfriend, and both of them have disabilities.

When asked via email whether the City plans to extend the Safe Parking program, Domer said, “We would like to see the program continued but it is a matter of funding.  We are exploring CARES Act funding as well as CDBG opportunities.” CDBG stands for Community Development Block Grant, a federal grant program for housing services.

In her letter, Weitzman states, “We applaud the hard work Fullerton has done to start addressing the housing crisis in the City. The shelter and steps toward affordable housing are critical pieces of the solutions. However, they do not justify the unconstitutional criminalization of other people experiencing poverty within the City.”

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15 replies »

  1. As annoying as it must be to many residents to have the occasional senior couple or family with _no place else to go_ (except perhaps into _somebody else’s neighborhood_), parking their RV in their neighborhood overnight, I do stand up and APPLAUD Brooke Weitzman’s action to defend these people’s fundamental dignity and rights as, we do remain a country where even people who annoy us can’t be made to simply disappear.

    Yes, there may be ten thousand people to blame. But while the cities, county, states mutually blame each other for each other’s problems, these PEOPLE have a right _to be_ somewhere.

    Fullerton currently has a safe parking program. It’s not perfect. Among its somewhat shocking deficiencies is that it _advertises_ that those who would utilize the program must be willing to submit to a NIGHTLY search of their vehicle – all their belongings – in order to participate in it.

    Needless to say, NIGHTLY searches of _all one’s belongings_ is not exactly something that most people of dignity would voluntarily submit to. Hence, they take their chances in our neighborhoods.

    Yes, the City has concerns of how it could continue to pay for a safe parking program. Yet, the alternative is to have people who would use the program, sleeping in their cars and RVs throughout the city.

    We also have all kinds of people of good will often in elected office on the city, county, state and even federal level who could help us find the funding, if only we would ask, rather than look for, or cling to ideological reasons to _not ask_.

    So in the end, if we choose not to be good, we face the wrath of lawyers, defending those who would be the scapegoats of our selfishness, insisting that we choose better or face the consequences.

    Long live the Constitution of the United States of America.

  2. Don’t want to go tit for tat but … or we could do the right thing, that is, either continue the safe parking program, perhaps in a simpler / less costly / less restrictive fashion, or _give up_ on _impounding_ the RVs of poor people with _nothing else to live in_.

    Yes, having RVs all parked over the city is annoying. What’s even more annoying is _having no alternative other than living in one’s RV_.

    And yes, this is certainly _not_ only Fullerton’s problem. That this is why there are all sorts of organizations for mayors, city managers, etc, including the North SPA, etc … that could be used to organize _humane_ regional solutions (that are also _constitutional_) to this problem without punishing people for being poor.

    This can be solved without resorting to cruelty.

  3. Funny, I get searched every time I go to a federal building or get on a plane. The indignity of it all. Why can’t we have rules when giving them a safe place to stay?

    If it’s a right to park on the streets maybe you can check with Our Lady Of Mount Carmel on the Balboa peninsula, I’d love to camp there on the beach.

    I’m sure you can out quote me on the Bible, but when did we quit helping by teaching people how to fish?

  4. But one can go to a polling place (Michigan, Arizona) or a demonstration (Huntington Beach) with a shot-gun, so what exactly are we protecting the other residents from? Plus when one goes to a federal building, one thankfully isn’t generally going there with everything one has in this this world…

    • Most of the rv’s are run down, they dump trash all over the streets , thats the issue its littering and a hazard thats the issue some of these people steal to make a dollar (not all) thats the other issue i say put them up at the neighborhood the lawyer lives in and see how that goes over

      • Or they can just find a place for them to park legally… It might require talking to a number of the other towns nearby, share the burden as it were, but just do this, so that there’s a place for these people to go, that isn’t simply “away” And this is where the lawyers are good. They keep our feet to the fire. Otherwise we’d choose to do nothing or do this _really slowly_ and blame poor people for the annoyance of existing.

      • Yea you are 100% correct . I’ve seen this personally and had people in RVs offer my family members and myself drugs. I’ve had RV people try to attack and sexually assault me trying to get to school . Please don’t let this happen . At least make people get permits to live in our neighborhoods. Criminality is a big deal and someone needs to stand up and keep the people safe. RVs and vans are not all disabled seniors but a lot of methed out dealers. I’ve seen car windows smashed, laptops stolen and many worse things happening. People need to wake up and stop being so politically correct. Nobody is saying harass the homeless or RV people but most of them aren’t great for the community. Have you guys been lo LA?

      • Natalia, have the City insist that there be a place for these people to go, and this problem becomes much easier to solve.

        Who could the city demand this from?

        In the first place, from the County (this problem is simply not Fullerton’s).

        In the second, from the North SPA (northern part of the county, again this is not simply a Fullerton problem).

        In the last case, okay repeatedly and continually embarrass the County and the other mayors of the North Spa for choosing to do nothing, and simply designate some place within the city to serve as that parking lot.

        If problem gets too large, then bring in CNN, etc and again EMBARRASS the County for doing nothing. In a County with the Big A and HUGE parking lots along the beaches, THIS SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM TO SOLVE.

        But the days of telling poor desperate people “Just leave and we don’t give a damn where” are over. These people living in the RVs have fundamental rights too. Once there’s a designated place for them to go, enforcement becomes _much easier_ and certainly far, far more morally acceptable.

        As for quick fixes even now. There is simply _no reason_ why the city could not put up a surveillance cam or two on your street, even temporarily. There is a _very long continuum of possibility_ from a “Raus Homeless!” jackbooted “solution” to doing _absolutely nothing_.

        That we seem to _choose_ to think in these BINARY TERMS is again _our choice_. And the courts are now beginning to insist that communities behave better than a collection of 6th graders thinking in that way.

        Instead, we are adults and this is not a hard problem for us to solve (and fairly for all).

        That we keep thinking we can get away with doing nothing or beating up people we find troublesome / annoying is on us. We can EASILY do better than this.

  5. It’s simply “do onto others as you’d like others to do onto you.” We have a Constitution, we have the 4th Amendment that restricts unreasonable searches and seizures. (1) One certainly can’t take _everything_ that one owns simply because one’s deemed “annoying.” And (2) then in terms of searches: if there is probable cause, get a warrant, it’s not that hard, but requires _at least some effort_. But being required to submit to _nightly searches_ of _everything that one has_ is _unreasonable_. Indeed, one of the immediate causes of the American Revolution was exactly a reaction of the colonists to this kind of arrogance on the part of the British who also believed that they were just there in the colonies to “maintain law and order.” No. There has to be _probable cause_ for search / seizure and simply _being poor_ is _not_ “probable cause.”

  6. I can understand laws to keep places clean, giving tickets for loitering but parking RVs on public street is little over .. especially these times when there is so much hardship for so many people. These politicians need some compassion and understanding that many people in this situation have no place to go. They just need a place to park.

  7. UPDATE: December 22, 2020 – (COVID-19) Lease Immediately

    The Illumination Foundation 15,700 square feet Fullerton Navigation Center/Emergency Shelter located on 3535 W. Commonwealth Ave in Fullerton need to immediately lease some of the available 1 million square feet – 65 acres space located at Goodman Logistics Center Fullerton site at 2001 E Orangethorpe in Fullerton just across the street from the OCTA Bus Company, Division 6.

    The Safe Parking Program in Fullerton (COVID-19 Site) should immediately relocate as a 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year location for RVs, Cars, Vans, Travel Trailers, Campers, Oversize Vehicles, etc. The Goodman Logistics Center site already has a gated with lights RV parking site with about 140 spaces available for lease.

    Again, the Goodman Logistics Center Fullerton is located in the City of Fullerton SB-2 Industrial Emergency Shelter Overlay – By-right Zones.

    Goodman Logistics Center Fullerton, 2001 East Orangethorpe Avenue,
    Fullerton, CA, 92831
    FOR LEASE
    1.8 – 17.6 ac
    LEASE RATE
    Contact Broker for Pricing

    Goodman Logistics Center Fullerton
    Flexible use and Build-To-Suit

    https://www.cbre.us/properties/properties-for-lease/land/details/US-SMPL-24677/goodman-logistics-center-fullerton-2001-east-orangethorpe-avenue-92831?

  8. Churches are allowed to receive funding via the OC Continuum of Care program. In 2009 former President Barack Obama approved the HEART Act (2009). Churches can apply/bid on the $26 Million in funding that the OC Continuum of Care program receive yearly on behalf of the OC homeless community.

    President Barack Obama – Former (2009-2017)
    Continuum of Care Program – Funding
    Religious or Faith-based Organizations

    Organizations that are religious or faith-based are eligible, on the same basis as any other organization, to participate in the Continuum of Care program.

    HEARTH Act (2009)

    DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT 24 CFR Part 578 [Docket No. FR-5476-I-01] RIN 2506-AC29

    Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Continuum of Care Program

    § 578.87 Limitation on use of funds

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3709438289102218&id=100001082518004

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