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Orange County Focus

FOUNTAIN VALLEY : New Law Would Ban Sleeping in Vehicles

March 05, 1994|DEBRA CANO

People living in their cars, campers, vans and motor homes will soon have to find someplace else to park and sleep overnight.

The city is considering a new ordinance that outlaws people from sleeping in their vehicles on city streets.

"The whole idea of this is it's a more restrictive ordinance to put on the books," said Mayor John Collins.

"Right now, we do not have a clearly defined ordinance regarding inhabitation in vehicles. . . . You can't have people living all throughout your streets--it's a sanitation, congestion and health situation."

Residents expressed concern to the City Council this week during a public hearing. But the council postponed a decision on the ordinance until the March 15 meeting. The proposal would ban people sleeping in vehicles on private property also.

The city last year received 22 complaints about people living in their vehicles, said Andrew Perea, planning services manager.

Residents agreed that the problem is citywide. But it seems that Lilac Avenue--off Harbor Boulevard near Edinger Avenue in the northern part of the city--is a popular area where people flock to sleep or park their vehicles.

"I feel like a prisoner in my own home," said Marion Gahan, who lives off Lilac Avenue in the Tiburon North Townhomes. "I don't feel it's right to live under these circumstances."

The proposed ordinance also includes establishing a permit process in which a residents can obtain a permit for a maximum of 15 days a year to park a recreational vehicle in front of their home or on their property.

That would allow sleeping in recreational vehicles on a limited basis.

But some residents oppose the permit process.

"I don't understand why Fountain Valley should make an exception and allow people to live in their RVs," said Jean Kulemin, who also lives in the Tiburon North Townhomes. "It will exacerbate the problem."

Wilton Blank of the Fountain Valley Recreational Vehicle Assn., a citizens group formed to protect the parking rights of RV owners, said the permit process is a fair compromise in not making the ordinance too restrictive.

The ordinance, said Gahan, will be difficult to enforce.

"Policing isn't going to be the answer," she said. "Signage is going to be the answer that says no overnight parking."

But Collins said if the ordinance is adopted, it will be enforced.

"Once the ordinance goes into effect, it gives police the authority to stop what's going on," he said.

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