Parking Sought for Homeless in Cars

Dr. Scott Sale, who is spearheading Safe Parking L.A., spoke to the Pacific Palisades Community Council on March 8.

He made a plea to every council member who belongs to a faith-based organization to ask their church/synagogue leaders to to consider opening their parking lot in the evening to homeless vehicle dwellers.

“Faith organizations are wired to do this,” Sale said.

Safe Parking, a 501(c)3, is currently at two locations in Los Angeles, in South L.A. and in Koreatown, and would like to expand to other areas in the city.

Dr. Scott Sale

Currently those living in their vehicles on the streets of L.A. are governed by Los Angeles Municipal Code 85.02, Vehicle Dwelling, which is in effect through July 1, 2018. It allows vehicle dwelling between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. more than one block away from licensed schools, pre-schools, daycare facilities and parks.

Between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., vehicle dwelling may take place in non-residentially zoned areas which are more than one block (500 feet) away from licensed schools, preschools or daycare facilities or parks.

“I have $209,000 that Sheila [County Supervisor Kuehl] granted me,” said Sale, who added that he has yet to spend the money. He said he’s having trouble getting buy-in from faith-based organizations. “Religious preschool parents are our biggest nightmare.”

But Sale said that District 11 Councilman Mike Bonin is on board with the plan. Bonin has told him that the parking lot at Corinth Avenue by his West Regional Office would be available for Safe Parking.

One PPCC board member wondered about the neighbors on Corinth, in West L.A.

“Bonin doesn’t care about the neighbors,” Sale said. “He’s blessing the lot; it’s right next to the police station.”

Sale said that vehicle dwellers often locate Safe Parking lots through word of mouth, and that the hours are dependent on whatever the lot owner specifies. A porta-potty is brought to the location and a guard/security is provided. People parking must have a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance.

Sale said that ideally a parking lot should hold a minimum of five cars overnight and each parking lot owner gets $500 a month for “soft” costs such as water and electricity.

Potential vehicle dwellers must fill out an application and sign a waiver that includes the rules about noise and camping. Single men are screened in the National Sex Offender database.

He said the system has worked well in San Diego and Santa Barbara.

Under Dreams for Change, San Diego initiated its first Safe Parking program in 2010, according to the website. The program exists on two sites and serves 70 families and individuals each evening.

Santa Barbara’s Safe Parking program is operated under New Beginnings and began in 2004, according to its website. There are 115 parking spaces at 20 “confidential” locations, and parking is usually from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (Interestingly enough, this program is rated on Yelp and has averaged 2.5 stars in three reviews.)

According to the New Beginnings website, those living in vehicles are offered job tutoring and resume preparation.

For more information, visit safeparkingla.org.

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