A Tale of Two Crises – Homeless Living in Cars vs. Out-of-Control Scooters

by on April 9, 2019 · 15 comments

in Ocean Beach

This is a tale – albeit a brief one – of two crises – homeless people living in cars in well-off residential areas and what some believe are the out-of-control dockless scooters.

This tale is about how these two parallel crises which have hit our fair city at roughly the same time and how they both are being handled and resolved by our earnest San Diego political leaders. Now whether these twin events are actual “crises” may be debated by history, but they certainly both are urgent matters of concern at least to some.

It was just this past February when the San Diego City Council overturned the local ordinance that banned sleeping in vehicles, a law on the books since 1983, but ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Judge last year.

And ever since, the Mayor’s Office and other city council offices – plus the local media – have been inundated with hundreds of calls from irate well-heeled residents – who also vote – about homeless people living in vans and leaving their messes on their residential streets. Just about every TV station had a report about these complaints.

In response, Mayor Faulconer held a news conference on March 25, flanked by Councilwoman Jen Campbell and local coastal leaders, to announce his proposal to return the ban on life in cars – and to expand the safe lots program.

And in fact, Faulconer’s proposal is scheduled for the next legislative step, a hearing on the committee-level before it heads to the full Council. It goes to the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee meeting on April 17. Local groups are already giving input into the proposals. For instance, the OB Planning Board did just that at their most recent meeting last week.

Now, contrast how this crisis was handled with the crisis of out-of-control scooters.

Complaints about the scooters have been mounting for months – since well back into 2018; people complained how they were taking over the sidewalks and public spaces, with helmet-less riders crashing into pedestrians. ER doctors raised strident warnings and implicitly urged a government response as the numbers of scooter-caused injuries soared at local hospitals. (The OB Rag made scooters one of the top 15 stories of 2018.) We began documenting the “scooter wars”, the rise of injuries, the first fatalities and our own encouragement for the City to take on regulations similar to LA’s.

In mid-February, Faulconer rolled out his “new and improved” set of proposals for the scooters, yet many felt they didn’t go far enough in actually limiting the absolute numbers of scooters and the number of scooter companies who can operate in San Diego. His proposals did go before a Council committee on February 20.

But wait. Nothing has happened to our eyes since. It still sits in limbo. No date has been scheduled for a full City Council debate as of this writing (this was confirmed by Campbell’s office yesterday.)

So, why the disparity in how these issues were treated?

On one hand, within a month, Faulconer was scrambling to deal with the out-of-control homeless people living in their vans and less than a month after that was scheduled to go to the appropriate committee. And it will undoubtedly fly to the agenda of the full Council soon after that.

On the other hand, the scooters have been sitting around for 6 weeks without a set hearing.

The scooters have only been an obvious problem since last summer, the summer of 2018, when a whole bunch of companies just dumped thousands of their machines on our streets and sidewalks. Complaints began bubbling up then.

Both issues were of immediate concern. The homeless people were leaving their messes, people’s property values were plummeting by the second, view corridors were being destroyed. And the local Republican mayor jumped. Who on the Council now would oppose bringing back the ban on living in cars? No one.

Whereas, with the scooters, the only injuries were with the numbers of people heading to the emergency rooms. And many of them were probably out-of-town visitors from Arizona who don’t obviously vote here. The U-T had reportedTourists received more scooter tickets than residents of San Diego. The data show they received two out of every three citations with people from Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz., alone, getting more than 80 tickets.”

Plus, the City Council is split on the scooter issue. Last year, a couple of councilwomen tried to have them banned from the Mission Beach boardwalk – but it was unsuccessful and failed to garner the votes of most Republicans on Council.

This is perhaps the biggest difference between these two “crises”. There is government unanimity on getting the homeless out of their cars and back on the streets and doorways. There is a no consensus on how to deal with the scooters – yet.

You can’t get away from the disparity, however. One issue jumped to the forefront, helped by nightly stories on TV, and within 2 months was set to be heard by committee.

The other issue, the scooters, has been a long-simmering problem, on the backburner for much of the past year.

Some of the obvious differences could be the reason for the disparity. The government is split on one and united on the other. One involves people who live in upscale neighborhoods who vote. The other involves literally only handfuls of people injured, many of whom probably don’t vote here.

Another reason, maybe, is one involves profit-making by capitalist scooter companies overseen by a laizzer-faire capitalist mayor. Our mayor would hate to rein in freewheeling businesses and get an anti-business reputation. He’s bound to run for something.

The other doesn’t involve money making at all. Only property values and campaign contributions.

There it is – the tale of two crises, a continuing saga.




{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Saldana April 9, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Here is an action for readers to take, to provide student RV & car dwellers to move to more secure places to park on community college campuses: support AB302 (Providing safe parking on community college campuses for homeless students).

On April 2 AB302 passed out of the Assembly Higher Education Committee 9-0, and is on its way to Appropriations.

I have been asking our college district’s Academic Senate, fellow instructors, homelessness activists & advocates, the local American Federation of Teachers, elected officials in other college districts, and many others to review the bill and submit letters of support to the author.

Please review the bill, consider submitting a letter, and/or help gather support from friends, neighbors, clubs, and community organizations.

Here is the bill info: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB302

Thank you.


Sam April 9, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Or they could move to a city that they can actually afford to live in. Just a thought.


Eric April 9, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Damn dude that’s cold blooded. Or these kids can be provided a safe place to sleep so they can finish their extortion priced educations so they can get a job and start paying off their student loans.


Sam April 9, 2019 at 5:16 pm

“so they can finish their extortion priced educations”

… at community college? Give me a break.


Chris April 9, 2019 at 9:04 pm

You haven’t been watching the new much huh? There has been a growing # of full time university students who cant afford a roof over their head. In fact it’s nation wide and getting worse for a long time.


Tyler April 10, 2019 at 6:52 am

Those aren’t the ones living in their vans at Dog Beach. Non of them have seen a classroom in a long, long time.


Debbie April 9, 2019 at 5:11 pm

Where are the parents of these kids going to school and living in their cars? What parent thinks living in a vehicle is smart or safe? IMO kids need to stay home and go to school or live home and get a job.


korla eaquinta April 9, 2019 at 6:55 pm

Overnight parking in the beach communities is a serious problem and not always synonymous with homelessness. People still see non enforcement of overnight parking as a serious problem. How would the city go about “encouraging” people to use that safe parking lot? And what else could be done to deal with the overnight parking problem in the beach communities?

How about Vehicular Vacation Rentals? Some people choose this as a lifestyle.

We MUSt look at the big picture. ALL sleeping in vehicles needs to be addressed.


Derek April 10, 2019 at 4:12 am

What about issuing residents parking permits for overnight parking? You could issue then also to hotel guests etc. And have a time frame, say 3am that all cars on the street need permits then roll in the tow trucks. I’ve seen many communities where pass taking is a problem for residents use permit parking.


Linda April 10, 2019 at 9:53 am



Sam April 10, 2019 at 2:19 pm

This is an excellent idea, although 3 am is way too late, more like 8 or 9 pm?


Anna Daniels April 10, 2019 at 10:22 am

So what are the real issues associated with people sleeping in cars? People who sleep in cars leave trash on the streets? People living/sleeping in cars might be homeless? People living/sleeping in cars might be students?
1) All that trash: If there are no or not enough trash receptacles, trash ends up in the street. It is that simple. The beaches have a trash problem and it’s not because of homelessness. I recall that the beach areas getting extra trash pick up during the summer. We don’t kick out the tourists. Any of you live by a school? Kids litter.
Hang a plastic trash bag on your fence. You’ll be surprised how many people will use one.
2) Who gets to sleep in a van on the street? Tourists on a budget: For $70/night, you can rent an Airbnb van, “making magic by the sea.” (Reader, 3/4/19)

But senior citizens, often women, who can no longer afford their rent and are reduced to sleeping in their cars can’t? What about people who suddenly lose their jobs and can’t pay the rent? And yes, what about those students who depend on food pantries at our colleges to eat and have no stable living situation?

Entrenched private and public interests continue to thwart rent stabilization efforts; to approve and build low income/affordable housing throughout every council district; to stop the conversion of SROs to market rate housing; to address the sunset clause that enables subsidized affordable housing to revert to market rate.

Declaring war on homeless people, ignoring a humanitarian crisis and enabling more wealth inequality is infinitely easier. But they are not solutions.


Bearded OBcean April 11, 2019 at 10:30 am

So the answer to vagrants/tourists living in their cars in front of our homes is to accommodate them by hanging trash bags out front? Really?


Derek April 11, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Sorry, phone auto correct…

Obviously I meant parking not pass taking, Linda.

Anna, I don’t believe anyone is finding fault with the many good people that find themselves living in a vehicle through life’s unfortunate circumstances. The fact is, you can live in a vehicle and still treat people’s property respectfully. I myself was in such a perdicament during a period of my life and that did not cause me to litter, use folks bushes as a restroom, or be a problem to others who I happened to come across.

To hang a garbage bag out is plum ridiculous… They can easily take their trash to a dumpster or garbage can in the vicinity. As well, parking in the community is extremely limited and there are many other places they could go and park that there is more availability.

It’s unfortunate that something like parking permits is needed, but many times you need rules to keep folks from taking advantage of everyone else.

This is far from declaring war on homeless people and I’ve heard no one say they don’t want real solutions.

The beach is not the only place to park and sleep in your vehicle. They’re there because they want to be in the beach community where the fun is. They can park the vehicles somewhere else for the night where there is more room if they can’t afford the high rent that comes with living at the beach.


Frank Gormlie April 12, 2019 at 9:26 am

Dockless regulations are scheduled to be on the April 23rd city council agenda. The agenda for that meeting will be confirmed and posted next Wednesday the 17th. This according to Joshua Coyne at D2 Jen Campbell’s office.


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