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Legislation Undermining Local Ability to Address Vehicle Habitation Revived in Last-Minute Play

Legislators Should Vote “No” on AB 718

August 23, 2016
AB 718 (Chu), a bill that would undermine local ability to enforce ordinances or penalties on individuals living in their vehicle is now eligible for a vote on the Senate Floor.
The measure, which failed last year on the Senate Floor, remained on the Inactive File for all of 2016, only to be revived last week.

AB 718 may be well-intentioned, but its policies are flawed and fail to offer any real or meaningful solution to addressing the difficult challenge of homelessness. Instead it will make it harder for communities, their residents, local businesses and efforts to bring new economic development to California cities, by sanctioning a “new normal” of living in vehicles.
This year, the Legislature responded to California’s homeless crisis by passing the No Place Like Home proposal that will provide $2 billion for housing with supportive services. This is a very positive step and more is needed. Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) is advocating for $3 billion affordable housing bond for the 2018 ballot that is still pending approval during the final days of the Legislative Session. These are the types of efforts that will help make progress addressing this problem.
AB 718, however, takes policy making in the wrong direction. It is not appropriate or prudent for the Legislature to remove local government authority to protect the public health, safety and welfare of their residents from issues that arise when people live in cars and trucks parked on public and private property. These issues cannot responsibly be ignored. 
Moreover, the bill is not restricted to people who are homeless, and applies to anyone who is sleeping or “resting” in a vehicle. Such vagueness leaves this law subject to broader interpretation and abuse. For instance, police officers may find it more difficult to deal with suspicious vehicles where the occupants claim to be “resting” but may be in an area for other reasons. Vacationers with disposable income may begin to view local streets and roads as less costly camping options than public and private campgrounds.  
For these reasons, the League of California Cities® has joined with a coalition, including the California Police Chiefs Association, International Council of Shopping Centers, California Chamber of Commerce, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and California Business Properties Association, to urge legislators to reject AB 718 and continue with efforts to identify additional resources for affordable housing, emergency shelters and supportive housing.
Next Steps
With the bill now eligible for a vote in the Senate, cities are urged to contact their senators immediately and ask them to vote No on AB 718.

© League of California Cities