Fullerton residents living in their RVs can continue sleeping in them after an Orange County Superior Court judge blocked city leaders from enforcing a rule that blocks anyone from leaving their vehicle on the street without a permit.
While the question if the law is constitutional still needs to be decided in court, the new ruling from Judge Ronald Bauer blocks the city from enforcing it until a final decision is made, with a trial currently scheduled for September 2024.
The law at issue – approved by city leaders in 2020 – stops anyone from parking an RV on the city’s street without a pre-approved permit that only lasts for 24 hours, and the law also caps visitors and residents at four days per month.
To read the law, click here.
Housing is a Human Right Orange County, a local volunteer group that advocates for homeless people, and a small group of Fullerton residents announced they were suing the city over the law last year, arguing its loose definition of RV made it a tool to target homeless people who sleep in their cars.
“Its overbroad and vague language has resulted in the arbitrary and discriminatory expulsion of Orange County’s most vulnerable residents – the vehicularly housed,” wrote Corrigan Lewis and Matthew Summers, the group’s lawyers, in their complaint. “This ordinance has upended lives and caused undue additional trauma.”
In a Thursday statement after the judge’s ruling, both attorneys celebrated the judge’s decision.
“We are excited that the Court saw the Chapter for what it is – a vague and poorly drafted attempt to keep the vehicularly housed out of Fullerton,” Lewis wrote.
Fullerton Mayor Fred Jung defended the city’s law in a Thursday phone interview, saying it was only temporarily blocked because the city failed to clearly define what an RV is and the judge’s decision was “short sighted.”
“The decision was based on a very very short technicality, and that is that the definition of RV is vague in our municipal code,” Jung said. “But it doesn’t mean that the ordinance is bad or that there’s something bad, it just means the court upheld it as too vague.”
Judge Bauer approved the injunction blocking the city from enforcing the law on June 26, according to the minute order from his court after hearing from the city and residents.
Several residents, including Frederick Clayton Moon and Jeanette Hodge, said they’d lived in Fullerton for decades, but were forced into RVs because of increasing rents, and were subsequently fined by the city for living in them.
Jung argued that without this law, the city was having a real problem stopping RVs from taking over the streets, and that the city needed to find a way to bring the law into compliance.
“This ordinance was not bad, it was a good ordinance, it curbed a problem that was a significant issue for us,” Jung said. “We gave plenty of opportunities for members of the public to really assist us in defining this … and making it so it made not only sense to our residents and businesses, but was also just for those who are unhoused.”
While the court isn’t set to take up the issue again until the trial next year, Jung said he’s hopeful the judge will give the city an option to properly define what an RV is and enforce the law.
“This will give us an opportunity to just kind of adjust and hone in on the definition of what RVs actually are,” Jung said. “The court’s decision allows us another opportunity.”
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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