A lawsuit filed by a group of advocates for the homeless aims to repeal a law that prohibits parking large vehicles on the streets of Santa Barbara. Glen Mowrer, a local attorney and the director of The Legal Project, a group that finds homeless citizens legal representation, filed the lawsuit Thursday to publicly question the constitutionality of the law.
“The county has a responsibility it has so far ignored,” Mowrer said.
The law, which first went into effect last Wednesday, prohibits the parking of any large vehicle on city streets for more than two hours or between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Although the law also restricts the parking of vehicles longer than 33 feet from waterfront areas, its opponents claim the bill is unconstitutional because it unfairly targets the approximately 400 homeless residents who live in recreational vehicles.
Police cited 37 people for violating the new rule on Wednesday alone.
Mowrer said the fight for homeless rights in Santa Barbara has been ongoing. He started The Legal Project, a division of the nonprofit Committee for Social Justice, about three years ago, after retiring from his position as a public defender.
“For the past three years, the project has tried to help people who live in RVs without any alternative housing,” he said. “We hope the suit will get the law thrown out and bring the city back to the table for a discussion.”
The suit names Police Chief Cam Sanchez and the city as defendants. Among the suit’s plaintiffs is Rogelio Trujillo, a Santa Barbara resident and owner of Trujillo Garden Service. Trujillo said the new law affects him even though he has a home.
“The law doesn’t allow any trucks over three-fourths of a ton. I have a one ton truck I use for my business that I park across the street from my house,” Trujillo said. “I’ve been working for 30 years and I’ve always parked there.”
Furthermore, Trujillo said he is also suing the city because he believes the law is unfair.
“It’s wrong for the city to single out homeless in RVs. It’s selective law enforcement,” he said.
Nancy McCradie is one of the Santa Barbara residents living in an RV who is aggrieved by the new bill. She said the fight against the law is in the interest of all the city’s residents, not just the homeless ones.
“They’ve been picking on us, and we’re sticking up for everyone,” McCradie said.
McCradie, a resident of the city for the past 22 years, said the media has previously tricked people into thinking the law will eliminate the homeless problem, when it actually affects many non-homeless residents.
“These people are on disability or on Social Security. They’re just trying to live within their means,” she said. “If you read [the law] in its entirety, you see it’s not just affecting the waterfront area. We’re not just fighting for ourselves. Nobody is going to be able to park anywhere.”
Mowrer agreed, saying that the law would also unfairly punish people for whom large vehicles are part of their business and tourists who might not know the law.
Although the city has 30 days to respond to the suit, representatives from the city could not be reached for comment.