As you may know, many cities have ordinances which prohibit folks from living in vehicles. I do not think that #vanlife is a systemic solution to inadequate housing stocks, or pretty much anything else. But I am enjoying it, and my van-dwelling presents a burden to no individual or community. In May 2019, the San Diego City Council passed a revamped vehicular habitation prohibition which they hope will pass constitutional muster, unlike the previous one which was determined to be unconstitutionally vague. Here's my response:
My name is Marty Benson. I’m an environmental attorney and Traffic and Public Safety Commissioner for the city of Encinitas. In 2010, for ethical reasons, I gave up my car and lived electively car-free for 8 years in Los Angeles and Encinitas. Last summer, in a new elective experiment in minimalism, I moved into a camper van full-time with my girlfriend and 50 pound dog. My terrestrial and carbon footprints are smaller than basically everyone you know. And when I moved out of my apartment last year, I single-handedly increased Encinitas’s “affordable” housing stock by one 1 bedroom.
“They’re dangerous. They’re unclean. They don’t have accountability. They don’t have work ethic. They’re sexual deviants. They’re just freeloading.”
When people talk about why we should prohibit vehicular habitation, I keep hearing examples of fictive prospective problems which have neither correlative nor causal relationships with vehicular habitation. I have neither heard, nor can I conceive of, a rational argument as to why we should prohibit otherwise perfectly legal behavior because it is happening in a perfectly legally parked automobile.
Your problem is not one of vehicular habitation. You have two distinct problems: you have a tremendous excess of free private off-street parking and public on-street parking which caused a fantastic inadequacy of affordable housing. For many decades the city of San Diego has subsidized and required thousands of acres of its most precious resource to free housing for cars and a tremendous lack of affordable housing for human beings. The free market responded and adapted, and people started using that storage space in a higher utility function: making meals, eating, reading, working, and sleeping in this space.
If you wish to minimize or end vehicular habitation, the only equitable and humane way to do it is to make vehicular habitation impractical. My recommendation as to the best way to go about this has three prongs: 1. Eliminate off-street minimum parking requirements for residential and commercial usage. 2. Begin charging performance pricing for on street public parking and invest the revenue in public services in that neighborhood. 3. Immediately begin to incentivize and swiftly permit affordable transit oriented infill density redevelopment.
I pick up 1.5-2x as much poop as my dog generates. It is highly improbable that a significant amount of that extra poop comes from the dogs of vehicle inhabitants. Should we evict all of the housed people because some of them aren’t picking up after their dogs? Absolutely not. But that’s exactly the logic driving this ordinance.