BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     AB 718


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          Date of Hearing:  May 13, 2015


                       ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT


                              Brian Maienschein, Chair


          AB 718  
          (Chu) - As Amended April 21, 2015


          SUBJECT:  Local government:  powers.


          SUMMARY:  Prohibits a city, county, or city and county from  
          prohibiting or otherwise subjecting to civil or criminal  
          penalties the act of sleeping or resting in a lawfully parked  
          motor vehicle.  


          EXISTING LAW:   


          1)Provides, under the California Constitution, that a city may  
            make and enforce within its limits all local, police,  
            sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict  
            with general laws.  


          2)Authorizes a legislative body to pass ordinances not in  
            conflict with the Constitution and laws of the state or the  
            United States.  


          3)Prohibits local governments from regulating the movement or  
            parking of vehicles, unless specifically authorized by state  
            law.  With respect to parking, under current law local  








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            governments may, by ordinance or resolution, do the following:  



             a)   Prohibit or restrict the stopping, standing, or parking  
               of vehicles on a local road or on a state highway in their  
               jurisdiction with the approval of the Department of  
               Transportation;


             b)   Prohibit or restrict the stopping, standing, or parking  
               of vehicles that are six feet or more in height within 100  
               feet of any intersection, street, or highway during all or  
               certain hours of the day;


             c)   Prohibit or restrict the parking or standing of vehicles  
               on certain streets or highways, between the hours of 2 a.m.  
               and 6 a.m.;


             d)   Designate certain streets for the exclusive parking  
               privileges of residents and merchants adjacent to the  
               streets for their use or the use of their guests and issue  
               parking permits that exempt them from the restriction or  
               prohibition of the ordinance or resolution; 


             e)   Authorize preferential parking permits for members of  
               organizations, professions, or other designated groups,  
               including, but not limited to, school personnel, to park on  
               specified streets, if the local authority determines that  
               the use of the permits will not adversely affect parking  
               conditions for residents and merchants in the area; and, 


             f)   Establish procedures for the abatement and removal, as a  
               public nuisance, of abandoned, wrecked, dismantled, or  
               inoperative vehicles from private or public property.  








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          4)Makes it an infraction to violate any provision of the Vehicle  
            Code or any local ordinance adopted, pursuant to the Vehicle  
            Code.  


          FISCAL EFFECT:  None


          COMMENTS:  


          1)Background.  According to the U.S. Department of Housing and  
            Urban Development, California had 113,952 homeless people, or  
            20% of the nation's overall homeless population, as of January  
            2014.  Of California's total homeless population, 27% were  
            chronically homeless, 20% were in households with at least one  
            parent and one child, 10% were veterans, and 10% were victims  
            of domestic violence.  California also had the largest number  
            of homeless families, unaccompanied homeless youth, and  
            homeless veterans.  California has one of the nation's highest  
            rates of "poor renters," or people that spend more than 50% of  
            their income on rent.  While most homeless people in the U.S.  
            lived in emergency shelters or transitional housing in 2013,  
            most homeless people in California were unsheltered.  For  
            example, in Los Angeles only 22% of homeless people had a  
            shelter bed in 2013.  California's high housing costs and  
            shortage of shelters leave many homeless people with no  
            choice, but to rest and sleep in public.  



            The Policy Advocacy Clinic at the University of California,  
            Berkeley Law School released a report in February of this year  
            titled "California's New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment  
            and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State."  
            The report states, "Homelessness is a persistent problem in  
            California.  California cities have responded to this problem  








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            by enacting municipal codes that criminalize activities  
            associated with homelessness.  Most of the current municipal  
            anti-homeless laws were enacted during the last 25 years.   
            This proliferation of laws shows no signs of abating.   
            Importantly, California cities are substantially more  
            restrictive than the national average in terms of  
            criminalizing sleeping, resting or lodging in legally parked  
            vehicles.  While only 33% of non-California cities studied by  
            NLCHP [National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty]  
            restrict sleeping or lodging in vehicles, 74% of California  
            cities do so."  Homelessness not only has grave human  
            consequences, it also creates challenges for local  
            governments, both rural and urban.  The researchers at the  
            Policy Advocacy Clinic at the UC Berkeley Law School conclude  
            that enforcement efforts may burden cities with significant  
            financial costs.  


            In June of 2014 the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit  
            struck down a Los Angeles ordinance that prohibited people  
            from using a vehicle parked or standing on any city street or  
            parking lot as living quarters either overnight, day-by-day,  
            or otherwise (Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles).  The court  
            found that the ordinance paved the way for law enforcement to  
            target the homeless and was therefore unconstitutionally  
            vague.  Additionally, the judge questioned if the conduct the  
            ordinance was trying to prohibit criminalized otherwise  
            innocent behavior, and posed a number of questions about what  
            types of behavior in a vehicle would subject an individual to  
            citation and arrest. The opinion stated "Is it impermissible  
            to eat food in a vehicle?  Is it illegal to keep a sleeping  
            bag?  Canned food?  Books?  What about speaking on a cell  
            phone?  Or staying in the car to get out of the rain?  For  
            many homeless persons, their automobile may be their last  
            major possession - the means by which they can look for work  
            and seek social services.  The City of Los Angeles has many  
            options at its disposal to alleviate the plight and suffering  
            of its homeless citizens.  Selectively preventing the homeless  
            and the poor from using their vehicles for activities many  








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            other citizens also conduct in their cars should not be one of  
            those options."  


          2)Bill Summary.  This bill prohibits a city, county, or city and  
            county from prohibiting or otherwise subjecting to civil or  
            criminal penalties the act of sleeping or resting in a  
            lawfully parked vehicle.  


            This bill does not prevent local governments from establishing  
            local parking regulations, as authorized by the state, to  
            address the hours a vehicle can be parked on the street.  For  
            example, this bill would not prevent a city from prohibiting  
            overnight parking, unless a vehicle obtains a residential  
            permit.  


            This bill is sponsored by Housing California.  


          3)Author's Statement.  According to the author, "Local  
            ordinances make it illegal for a person to rest or sleep in  
            their own private vehicle, even if otherwise lawfully parked  
            on a public way within a local jurisdiction.  The aim of this  
            type of ordinance has no other legitimate purpose than to  
            target people experiencing homelessness.  In fact, punishing  
            people who have no other form of shelter by ticketing,  
            citing/arresting them, or impounding their vehicle, has a  
            disastrous effect on the person experiencing homelessness who  
            rests in their vehicle.  Many people who sleep in vehicles are  
            women and children who do not feel safe in a shelter, are  
            ineligible to stay in a family or women's shelter because of  
            the gender and age combination of their children, or who do  
            not feel safe out on the street or in other unsheltered  
            spaces.  Contrary to belief, many people who rest in vehicles  
            have some type of employment. For them, the vehicle is  
            transportation to work as well as shelter.  For a parent with  
            children, it is transportation to a school or medical  








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            appointment.  For all of these people, the vehicle is  
            sometimes the last personal asset they own.  Punishing a  
            person with fines, impoundment or seizure of a vehicle that is  
            shelter, transportation, the connection to employment,  
            education or medical care, and an asset only deepens poverty  
            and prolongs homelessness.  Increasing the number of people  
            without shelter or deepening their poverty reduces public  
            safety and increases other types of local costs."  


          4)Related Legislation.  AB 5 (Ammiano) of 2013 would have  
            established a number of rights for homeless people.  Among the  
            numerous provisions in AB 5, the bill would have provided the  
            right to occupy a motor vehicle or recreational vehicle either  
            to rest, sleep, or use for the purposes of shelter, provided  
            that the vehicle is legally parked on public property, without  
            being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or  
            arrest from law enforcement, public or private security  
            personnel, or Business Improvement District agents.  AB 5 was  
            held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  


            Similarly, SB 608 (Liu), currently pending in the Senate  
            Transportation and Housing Committee, would enact the Right to  
            Rest Act and contains many of the same provisions as AB 5.  SB  
            608 also includes the right to occupy a motor vehicle or a  
            recreational vehicle, provided the vehicle is legally parked  
            on public property or parked on private property with the  
            permission of the property owner.  


          5)Policy Considerations.  The Committee may wish to consider the  
            following:


             a)   Charter Cities and Counties.  In order to fulfill the  
               author's intent that this bill applies to all cities and  
               counties, the author may wish to clarify that this bill  
               applies to all general law and chartered cities and  








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               counties.  


             b)   Impoundment.  In support of the bill, the American Civil  
               Liberties Union (ACLU) requests that the bill is clarified  
               to include an explicit prohibition on the impoundment 


             of vehicles.  In order to fulfill the author's intent, the  
               author may wish to clarify that the prohibition in the bill  
               includes, but is not limited to, the impoundment of  
               vehicles.  
          6)Arguments in Support.  Supporters argue, "Tragically, an  
            increasing number of local jurisdictions have enacted  
            ordinances that punish people for the mere fact that they  
            sleep in a vehicle.  This type of punishment reflects an  
            alarming level of ignorance to the daily reality of people who  
            experience homelessness.  For many women and children  
            experiencing homelessness, sleeping or living in a vehicle  
            affords them a sense of safety that they cannot experience  
            sleeping outdoors, which is often the only other option in the  
            absence of adequate shelter beds across the state.  A vehicle  
            is not simply shelter for them, but also the transit source  
            that connects them to their only source of income.  Likewise,  
            a vehicle can also represent the difference between whether a  
            homeless child gets to school or a disabled individual keeps  
            in touch with a medical provider.  Educational attainment is a  
            major predictor for leaving homelessness in adulthood. Access  
            to healthcare is critical for people subjected to life's  
            elements.  The average life span for an adult experiencing  
            chronic homelessness is less than fifty years of age.  


            "Finally, a vehicle is perhaps the only asset that many people  
            experiencing homelessness have left.  Citing vehicle owners  
            because they sleep in their car, subjecting them to fines they  
            can never afford to pay, and putting them at risk of vehicle  
            seizure deepens homelessness, exacerbates mental health  
            problems, leads to increased contact with law enforcement, and  








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            lowers public health in the community.  Further miring  
            individuals, families, and children in homelessness by  
            ticketing them for their poverty only deepens their health,  
            education and economic problems, and ensures that more people  
            remain homeless longer."  


          7)Arguments in Opposition.  Opposition argues, "This bill is a  
            preemption of local authority to regulate and enforce laws  
            governing the use of public and private space.  Local  
            ordinances arise and are adopted by communities to address  
            specific issues affecting health, safety, and broader public  
            welfare.  The issues raised by this bill are less about  
            parking and more about the use of vehicles for human  
            habitation, including sleeping and resting.  City parking  
            locations whether on public or private property - other than  
            campgrounds - were never intended or designed for residential  
            occupancy.  


            "While this bill seeks to remove local authority to regulate  
            such activity, the community impacts that will be imposed by  
            this bill cannot be avoided.  By combining the terms 'sleeping  
            and 'resting' within a vehicle, to the time that the occupant  
            may be otherwise outside of the vehicle, the bill appears to  
            be designed to allow an individual to live in a vehicle  
            anywhere on either public or private property where it is not  
            otherwise forbidden to park a vehicle.  It is one thing to  
            park an empty car in front of someone's house; it is quite  
            another for an occupied vehicle to be parked 'resting' in  
            front of the house for hours and days.  Commercial properties  
            would face similar issues.  One or more vehicles could park in  
            front of a business removing potential parking spots for  
            customers, and depending on the conduct of the occupants,  
            potentially intimidate the public from visiting the location."  
             


          8)Double-Referral.  This bill was heard by the Transportation  








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            Committee on April 24, 2015, where it passed with a 12-1 vote.  
             


          














          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          Housing California [SPONSOR]


          Abode Services


          Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, Humboldt County


          American Civil Liberties Union of California










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          Caduceus Justice


          California Labor Federation


          Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organization


          Corporation for Supportive Housing


          East Bay Community Law Center


          Ella Baker Center for Human Rights


          Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance


          LA Human Right to Housing Collective


          Los Angeles Anti-Eviction Campaign


          Los Angeles Community Action Network


          National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and  
          Youth


          River City Food Bank


          Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee









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          Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness


          San Diego Housing Federation


          San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness


          Share the Bulb


          St. Anthony Foundation


          St. Mary's Center


          Venice Community Housing Corporation


          WellSpace Health


          Western Center on Law and Poverty


          Western Regional Advocacy Project




          Opposition


          American Planning Association, California Chapter










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          California Association of Code Enforcement Officers


          California Business Properties Association


          California College and University Police Chiefs Association


          California Law Enforcement Association of Records Supervisors


          California Police Chiefs Association 


          International Council of Shopping Centers


          League of California Cities




          Analysis Prepared by:Misa Lennox / L. GOV. / (916) 319-3958