PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — The Palo Alto City Council voted to repeal a controversial year-old ban on car camping Monday night.
By a 7-1 vote, the City Council voted to reverse an ordinance that made sleeping in one’s private camper, RV or car a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail, according to Palo Alto Online.
The ban was adopted in 2013 after residents complained about people sleeping in cars and occasionally causing disturbances in their neighborhoods.
Since then, the city has faced heavy resistance from homeless advocates who argued that the ban is unconstitutional, particularly after the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit struck down a similar law in Los Angeles last June.
At Monday’s meeting, councilmembers heard from several people who live in cars, like Oliver Terry, who said he currently lives in a van with his mother while he studies dental hygiene at Foothill College. He said he is doing everything he can to get out of his current situation by going back to school and working with the Downtown Streets team, a nonprofit that helps homeless men and women find employment and housing.
“I just don’t want this whole vehicle-dwelling thing to put a mark on my legal record and offset my entire life,” Terry said.
Terry’s mother said despite living in tough conditions, it didn’t stop her son from furthering his education.
“This winter we have no winter shelter,” she said. “We will freeze in our vehicle. But we would die without a vehicle. And without a vehicle we lose our place to sleep safely.”
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