Now legal: To sleep in your car in L.A.

Now legal: To sleep in your car in L.A.

9th circuit seal ninth circuitIn a decision hailed as a human rights victory by homeless-rights activists, a federal court struck down a decades-old Los Angeles law prohibiting the use of vehicles as residences.

The ordinance, Section 85.02 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, declared, “No person shall use a vehicle parked on or standing upon any City street or upon any parking lot owned by the City of Los Angeles or under control of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors as living quarters either overnight, day-by-day, or otherwise.”

In the case, Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles, three judges on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned a lower court ruling that upheld the ban. Dating back to 1983, the ban wasn’t enforced until 2010, when an LAPD task force was created in response to complaints centered in Venice neighborhoods. According to the city, Section 85.02 was employed in response to “the illegal dumping of trash and human waste on city streets that was endangering public health” in the area. 

That didn’t fly with the court. One plaintiff, Patricia Warivonchik, lived in an RV located in a church parking lot, which raised little prospect of public trash; another, Steve Jacobs-Elstein, was arrested as a result of being cited on a Venice street waiting in his car to volunteer at a church’s soup kitchen.

Aware of the selective and unpredictable enforcement of the ordinance, the court slammed the ordinance for its unconstitutionally vague language. Historically, language of that kind has raised substantial questions as to whether citizens’ Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were being violated.

Judge Harry Pregerson, writing the opinion, thrilled social justice-minded legal activists with his emphasis on the legal history of laws and regulations “designed to prevent the physical movement and economic ascension of the lower class.”

Ambiguous laws

Nevertheless, Pregerson’s legal reasoning did not hinge on class analysis. “Plaintiffs are left guessing as to what behavior would subject them to citation and arrest by an officer,” he wrote in the opinion’s key passage. “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? These are all actions Plaintiffs were taking when arrested for violation of the ordinance, all of which are otherwise perfectly legal.” 

The ordinance clearly stacked the odds against homeless Angelenos, who spend relatively more time in their cars because they reside in them. But as Angelenos of all classes are aware, idling in a car while eating or using a smartphone is commonplace.

Although Pregerson focused specifically on the illegitimacy of the ordinance’s discriminatory enforcement, the court’s ruling underscored a broad, venerable principle of law: vague rules compel selective enforcement. Without a rational basis for punishing some but not other possible infractions, officers will be required to enforce a law arbitrarily, relying on hunches, quotas, or more capricious and selective means. Otherwise, vague laws will simply go unenforced — as did Section 85.02 until four years ago.

A local fight ends

The ruling follows on the heels of another legal action ended earlier this year. In January, Venice residents abandoned efforts to impose overnight parking restrictions, another attempt to address the presence of homeless living in RVs and cars.

Although the city of Los Angeles enforced regulations against parking “oversized” vehicles overnight, California Coastal Commission opposition to the Venice Stakeholders Association plan drove the group to sue for permitted parking in Los Angeles County Superior Court. With that suit now dropped, no obstacles remain to homeless Angelenos living in their vehicles.


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  1. Donkey
    Donkey 27 June, 2014, 13:23

    The cost of the RAGWUS is the main reason that housing is so expensive and the feeders had the sleeping in your car laws passed to keep the property taxes going up. Face Americans, everything is so expensive because government has made it that way. The nut jobs in California are going to add $1 dollar a gallon to the price of gas!! 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • HAARP TI
      HAARP TI 29 December, 2016, 06:51

      Taxes.. based on God particle in CERN.. monetary system based on the imagination of the beholder .. value without any backing other than a color code frequency of the iron grid (as a dead constant state of blood — black hole maker) emitted by the EBS system and sucked into a HAARP field on.

      Reply this comment
  2. Queeg
    Queeg 28 June, 2014, 07:58

    The main reason for high housing costs is rent gouging by globalist investors taking advantage of their very own under employed, underpaid, mistreated service workers…

    The modern “CompanyStore” broaching on indenture or outright slavery.

    Wake up. Urban centers are decayed and human misery is awful. It will spread and spread and spread.

    While Donkey cocktail party grazes with his like kind…..slaver globalists.

    Reply this comment
  3. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 28 June, 2014, 16:11

    The cost of housing is high because Duncey’s posts are stupid.
    Same drivel every day…Zzzzzzzzzzz

    Reply this comment
  4. rangerrebew
    rangerrebew 6 July, 2014, 14:03

    This is so illegals have a place to stay, nothing else. If the legislature truly had compassion for the homeless they would have passed this years ago. Besides, how many homeless, jobless people actually have cars? No, this is about illegal immigration and finding a way to house the illegals.

    Reply this comment
    • Brandon
      Brandon 12 March, 2015, 22:46

      Hey Ranger. You would think, but it’s not the case. Everyone I knew that slept in their cars out here were not illegals. Most are middle class caucasians who came here seeking their dream. Some are workers or students stuck in a hole. Believe it or not most illegals here in Los Angeles all have a place to stay before they come here. Many don’t have cars, they take the bus. We don’t have a large Latino homeless population because they have all the jobs. Seriously they only hire each other. The other reason for it being mainly middle class caucasians is because when money runs low, they would rather live in their car than the lower income areas. I’ve slept in my car for a couple months here and there. Even when offered a couch. I would rather sleep in my car then someone’s couch. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in the ghetto. Even if I had an apt.

      Reply this comment
      • Willow
        Willow 25 May, 2015, 18:51

        Thank you for your sensible and kind response. It’s nice to see on these comment boards. 🙂

        Reply this comment
      • EG
        EG 17 September, 2015, 09:48

        agreed. I am actually in a situation where I simply dont want a room for rent. Ive worked in LA and been severely herassed by managers for one reason or another and I strongly feel it was simply because of making myself appear attractive. Anyways, no matter how people have screwed me over since i moved out here as soon as i turned 18 seeking my own dreams and goals i have never been able to get on top of any situation where someone has wronged me. This means i didnt sue, i didnt know what to do, i didnt know who to turn to or talk to. With this said I am now in a situation where I recently had money to blow on a room for rent but instead got a huge suv car to sleep in. I am litterally to fed up with people in LA at the moment and simply do not want the likes of roommates breathing down my neck or someone trying to take all of my money. I have decided to sleep in my car and am willing to keep it up as long as possible or neccesary. Could be a long time… I am kind of afraid that people will judge me or cause problems for me since i could be seen as a “homeless” person. Wich is just another rediculous situation but like really i cant help how i want to live or the fact that i honestly dont even feel its even worth it. Anyways, I think i got a good plan going, looking to find “campsites” where i can park and sleep overnight currently…. Thanks that was a very rational and realistic post in my opinion.

        Reply this comment
      • Handsomedanger
        Handsomedanger 24 February, 2016, 00:34

        New to sleeping my car. I have been living in Kansas for 12 years already. So it’s notlike I don’t know how to make it, I just have a terrible drug habbit at the the moment and my gf of 13 years was diagnosed bad and disassociative disorder. She is getting help from her family now since we were evicted . This is pretty much my first night on the street. Mainly because I’m a middle class white dude who doesn’t want to live below Jefferson ( I was getting close, my last place was on 27th). to the last my money and got a minivan check it out with milk crates and futon mattress and I’m comfortable

        Reply this comment
    • Modestpilgrim
      Modestpilgrim 8 February, 2017, 10:32

      Are you fucking retarded?!?! Most “illegals” I know work and actually pay rent. What are you on about racist fag?!?

      Reply this comment
  5. Arthur
    Arthur 8 September, 2014, 20:55

    I’m glad some court officials finally saw through the legal, moral and logical problems with laws designed to confine and further denigrate the homeless and poor. It is foolish to think this ruling had anything to do with “immigration” since no one benefits from anyone being poor and homeless, especially immigrants.

    Reply this comment
  6. askquestion
    askquestion 15 April, 2015, 09:41

    Would someone please help me understand the legal implication of this? Does this ruling effectively apply to the entire state? Why or why not?


    Reply this comment
  7. Zee
    Zee 26 July, 2015, 17:07

    May I sleep in my car with my wife and cat or not

    Reply this comment
  8. Kizmyaz
    Kizmyaz 13 August, 2015, 18:00

    Is it illegal to sleep in your car in San Diego?

    Reply this comment
    • Kizmyaz
      Kizmyaz 13 August, 2015, 18:07

      I’m saying if L. A. Overturned the law.. To where it’s no longer illegal to sleep in your car or be a homeless person sleeping on the streets.. I want to know if it’s illegal in San Diego.. I can’t seem to get a straight answer on this..

      Reply this comment
      • Arthur
        Arthur 7 February, 2017, 01:03

        No. That only applies to the city of Los Angeles. However, it does set the key precedent that can be used by other people wishing to sue to protect their rights while homeless.

        Reply this comment
  9. sheri
    sheri 7 December, 2015, 23:12

    SLEEPING IN CAR (legit everything)
    YAH or NAY
    I live in orange county ca. *Santa Ana, *Irvine, *Rancho Santa Margarita, *Mission Viejo, *Dana Point, *SJC, *Laguna Niguel, *Laguna Beach, *San Clemente
    Appreciate accurate infornation. Penal codes , etc.

    Reply this comment
  10. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 27 April, 2016, 06:46

    Common sense strikes but still in chico you can be fined for setting off a nucular device and itsa crime to disturb the butterflies in Pacific Grove the nuts still fall in the golden state

    Reply this comment
  11. Ron
    Ron 25 November, 2016, 08:14

    Landed here, post 2016 Thanksgiving, because there is a young man living in his Massachusetts-plates car in front of my Glendale, CA. home. I saw him parked nearby a few days earlier. I am torn between ignoring and asking, finding out his story. Has anyone ever gotten involved with non-RV individuals?

    Reply this comment

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