Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Youth Media program, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Digital Editor Sonya Quick at squick@voiceofoc.org.

Oversized vehicles can no longer park overnight in Santa Ana.

The ban affects all vehicles, including recreational vehicles, exceeding 22 feet in length and 7 feet in height, parked within 50 feet of an intersection. City officials said the law was needed to alleviate safety concerns and obstruction caused to other drivers by oversized vehicles at night. Violations will be a misdemeanor.

“It’s not mandatory to… charge someone with a misdemeanor,” said Mayor Pro Tem Juan Villegas, but not having the misdemeanor penalty “takes away the teeth” of the law.

The Santa Ana City Council voted 4-2 Oct. 15 to give final approval to the ordinance, with Jose Solorio and Vicente Sarmiento opposing. The ordinance was given its initial approval at the Oct. 1 City Council meeting by a 4-0 vote with Miguel Pulido absent and Sarmiento abstaining.

“We have a lot of immigrants in our city (who) are before the courts … trying to improve their immigration status and so having potentially a misdemeanor for a pretty basic, nonviolent activity would reflect very badly on their record,” Solorio said. “I do think that moving forward without the misdemeanor penalty is better.”

An attorney, Ugochi Anaebere-Nicholson, speaking on behalf of the Public Law Center, a nonprofit providing free legal services to low income residents in Orange County, also opposed the ordinance.

Anaebere-Nicholson cited “serious concerns about the constitutional violations as well as the violations of state and federal disability rights laws affecting individuals who are homeless.”

Councilman Sarmiento echoed Anaebere-Nicholson’s sentiments, saying he supports an option that does not criminalize violations.

“To the extent I am supportive of (the new law), what I would support is the second option because it doesn’t include those consequences I think that none of us want to see,” he said, “which is folks having to deal and be part of the criminal justice system simply for trying to find a place to reside.”

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