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LA councilmember calls for ‘vehicle lodging passes’ for people sleeping in cars

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The special permits could be used on specific non-residential streets

Two RVs
RVs parked on Vermont Avenue.
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Los Angeles residents may soon be able to obtain special parking permits allowing them to sleep in their cars overnight.

A motion introduced Wednesday by City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield proposes that the city develop a “vehicle lodging pass program,” under which homeless residents “actively seeking shelter” could get temporary permits to park on streets in non-residential areas.

According to a count undertaken by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority at the beginning of the year, nearly 9,000 residents live in cars, trucks, and camper vans across the city of Los Angeles.

Rules approved by the council two years ago bar people from sleeping overnight in vehicles parked near homes, schools, and parks. Other areas, including commercial corridors and industrial areas are theoretically open to those living in vehicles.

But councilmembers have added dozens of streets to the list of places off limits to overnight parking since the rules took effect in 2017.

Blumenfield’s motion describes the effect of this as a “vicious cycle” by which streets are closed off, driving up demand for parking in other areas and leading to the closure of more streets.

Prior to a 2014 court decision, LA banned residents from using vehicles as dwellings in all parts of the city. But the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that law as “unconstitutionally vague.

Since then, city leaders have struggled to balance resident concerns about over-parked streets and sanitation issues with the constitutional rights of those with no other form of shelter than a vehicle.

Under the program proposed by Blumenfield, homeless residents seeking housing through programs administered by LAHSA and other agencies would be able to get temporary permits to park at “specific locations.” The program would also limit the number of passes that could be issued for a given street.

“The city’s goal is to provide shelter and housing opportunities to those who are homeless, not to perpetuate and normalize vehicular dwelling,” the motion reads.