Fullerton officials are looking to get around a recent court ruling banning them from enforcing an anti-RV camping law that critics say targets homeless people sleeping in cars.
Now, they’re changing how the city defines RVs.
On Tuesday, city council members voted unanimously without much discussion to adopt an urgency ordinance to change the language in the city code to meet what officials said was the original intent of the rule.
They also voted to introduce a regular ordinance with the change.
“Primarily we’re making changes to the definitions in terms of the term recreational vehicle to include ones that have been physically modified to be equipped for human habitation and also to provide a reasonable time to park for businesses and services within the city,” said Krista Macnevin Jee, deputy city attorney, at the meeting.
The decision comes after an OC Superior Court Judge Ronald Bauer in July blocked Fullerton officials from enforcing a law that stops anyone from parking their recreation vehicles on city streets without a pre-approved daily permit.
The judge found that the definition of RV was vague and ruled Fullerton officials can’t enforce the law until a court decides if the rule is constitutional.
Housing is a Human Right Orange County, a homeless advocacy group, and some 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.
Kurtis Gamble, an advocate for the homeless, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the city has been tough on RV parking and those vehicle owners have rights to the street space as well.
“We cannot continue to discriminate against our RVs whether it be homeless or the residents themselves,” he said. “I hope tonight that we do the right thing, because if not another lawsuit is going to come along.”
Mayor Fred Jung pushed back on Gamble’s use of the word discriminate.
“That’s a terrible word to use here because I don’t think the term really has any significance to what we do,” he said.
In a previous interview with Voice of OC, Jung said the court’s decision gives them a chance to revise their definition of RV.
“The court’s decision allows us another opportunity to just kind of adjust and hone in on the definition of what RVs actually are,” he said.
While residents have taken concerns about the anti-RV law to court, officials are looking at making further changes to how they respond to homeless and mental health calls.
Last month, Orange County Supervisors voted unanimously to put licensed clinical social workers right inside the Fullerton police department, as part of a two-year pilot program for $1 million.
Fullerton officials approved the program that same day.
It’s an approach more and more cities in the county seem to be adopting
Meanwhile a report released by the sheriff’s department showed close to 400 homeless people died in 2021.
According to that report, 28 people died living on the streets in Fullerton.
The county’s 2022 point in time count shows that there were 272 homeless people in Fullerton last year and 202 of them were unsheltered.
Hosam Elattar 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 @ElattarHosam.
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