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City opposes bill that would legalize sleeping in cars
AB 718 pic
The City of Turlock is opposing a bill that would make it legal for people to sleep in a vehicle. - photo by Photo Contributed

The City of Turlock is joining a number of League of California Cities members in opposing a new bill that would prohibit local agencies from making it illegal to sleep or rest in a parked car.

AB 718, introduced by Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), passed the Assembly 54-12 on June 1. The bill would make it unlawful for a peace officer, or an employee of a city or county who enforces parking laws, to cite and fine anyone for sleeping in their vehicle that is otherwise lawfully parked.

For many who are homeless, their vehicle is their only asset and their sole means of transportation to work and/or school. Criminalizing sleeping in cars will only hinder this already vulnerable population, as many cannot pay fines and subsequent impoundment fees,  according to a fact sheet about the bill prepared by Chu.

A homeless population count conducted in January for the Stanislaus Housing and Support Services Collaborative, found that out of 1,408 homeless individuals in the county, 34 of them had spent the night in some sort of vehicle.

"City parking locations... were never intended or designed for residential occupancy. Such uses raise major issues of sanitation as well as the ability of residents to feel secure in their homes and enable the conducting of business activity," states a letter Mayor Gary Soiseth sent to Governor Jerry Brown informing him of the City's formal opposition to AB 718. "...It is simply not appropriate for the Legislature to attempt to remove local government authority to appropriately protect the public health, safety and welfare of their residents from issues that arise when people live outside of campgrounds in cars and trucks parked on public and private property."

In the letter, Soiseth states that instead of legalizing sleeping in cars, a better way to help the homeless would be for legislators to support the several pending measures that could help restore funds for affordable housing.

Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden said the City's opposition to AB 718 is about maintaining the quality of life for residents of Turlock, and more importantly, the city's ability to govern itself.

"Sleeping in cars is obviously a concern, but for us the issue is local control," said Wasden.

The State needs to allow local governments to maintain control over local laws, said Wasden.