Living in Your Car or RV? Here Are the New Rules on Where You Can and Can’t Park
In November the City Council adopted a revised law restricting living in vehicles on city street. The revised law took effect January 7, 2017, but police are holding off enforcement until early February. The change takes the form of a revision of Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) 85.02 – Vehicle Dwelling.
A previous total ban was struck down by a federal court in 2014, on the grounds that it was too vague. That law defined a violation as being seen sleeping in a vehicle or a car filled with household goods, which the court ruled could apply to anyone.
The new version of 85.02 prohibits living in a car or RV within one block (500 feet) of licensed schools, pre-schools, daycare facilities, or parks. It also prohibits living in a vehicle at night on any residential street. The new rule is a test. It is scheduled to expire on July 1, 2018, at which time it will be reviewed by the City Council and a more long-term decision made.
There are currently people living in an estimated 6,600 vehicles in L.A. Until and unless the city is able to come up with solutions to homelessness it is plainly safer to sleep in a car or RV than on the street. It provides a way to retain some belongings, stay out of the rain, and have enough blankets to stay warm on cold nights. But that is only if there is somewhere to park.
Since the court decision in 2014, vehicle dwellers could park anywhere. Naturally those living on residential streets have not wanted to have people camped in cars and RVs in front of their homes. The new law bends the stick to the opposite extreme.
The bare bones of the new rules are:
Persons may live in a vehicle:
Daytime Hours – between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. – more than one block (500 feet) away from licensed schools, pre-schools, daycare facilities, or parks. That is, they can park on a residential street during these hours if they are clear of schools and parks.
Nighttime Hours – between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. – in non-residentially zoned areas which are more than one block (500 feet) away from licensed schools, pre-schools or daycare facilities or parks.
Vehicle dwellers are also subject to all posted ordinary parking restrictions and are under the 72 hour limit.
This is trickier than it looks. How is someone to be sure they are in a legal zone? There are now maps for the whole city, available at:
The maps are organized by the city’s 21 police stations. Mainly for South Los Angeles these are the maps for the Southwest, 77th Street, and Newton divisions.
Every block is marked:
- Red: no living in vehicle at any time.
- Yellow: parking from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm only, no night parking.
- Green: Parking at any time, subject to regular posted signage.
So you can’t park at all in a red zone, and can’t sleep at night in a yellow zone. The L.A. Times estimates that only 10% of city streets are zoned green. And that doesn’t necessarily mean car dwellers can park there. Some have red curbs, limited parking posted in the daytime, gridlock parking restrictions during rush hour, or are in dangerously isolated industrial areas. It is not certain that the new maps will be found legal in a court test.
Mayor Garcetti and the City Council have been trying to develop a Safe Parking plan that would dedicate city-owned and some church parking lots for night parking, possibly with porta potties for sanitation. This has been going very slowly, and it remains to be seen if this plan can create enough spaces to put a dent in the almost 7,000 vehicles that need it.
We have reproduced a part of the Southwest LAPD map below to show how this works.
This information is also incorporated into the city’s Zone Information and Map Access System, online at: www.zimas.org This is a little harder to use, but you can see more detail. At ZIMAS, people can search for an address or intersection, which will bring up a building-by-building map. You can zoom in or out to show a larger or smaller area around the selected location. In the upper left hand corner of the orange map section there is a blue bar with 11 icons on it. If you mouse over the first icon it says “Change background display layer.” Click on that and a box opens in the lower left corner. The third choice is “500 Ft. School/Park Zone.” The fourth is: “Municipal Code Section 85.02 (Vehicle Dwelling).” These will light up streets on the map in the designated Red, Yellow, and Green colors.
While this map system is essential if vehicle dwellers are to avoid citations for illegal parking, plainly virtually none of them have electricity. Access to the maps is entirely over the internet, which excludes the computer illiterate. For the rest, access is limited to visiting a library or finding a way to charge a cell phone or tablet.
Vehicles must comply with all posted parking restrictions at all times.
All vehicles driven or parked on a California street, road or highway must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and insured. You may qualify for the California Low-Cost Automobile Insurance Program. Information is available on the Department of Insurance website or by calling 1-866-602-8861.
Any vehicle that has been parked on a city street or highway for 72 hours or more can be reported as an abandoned vehicle.
Parking in alleys is illegal at all times.
Vehicles without an engine, wheels, or some other part necessary for safely driving the vehicle are subject to immediate impounding.