Good evening Mayor Harmon and city council members. My name is Ethan Stan, and I am speaking this evening on behalf of the San Luis Obispo chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, or SLO DSA.
DSA chapters across the state organize around housing issues, and our chapter is no exception. We believe housing is a human right, and that a housing-first approach should be at the core of our City and County’s efforts to eliminate homelessness and housing insecurity in our community. We recognize and appreciate the effort of the SLO City Council and other local governments to address this issue—many of which were outlined in a SLO Tribune article written by council member Christianson and Vice Mayor Pease on March 21, 2019. Unfortunately, we do not believe these efforts are enough to make a dent in the housing crisis in our community
There is, however, one thing we believe the City Council can do to ease the enormous pressure put on our homeless and low-income neighbors: repeal Chapter 10.34 of the City Municipal Code, also known as the overnight car camping ban.
The car camping ban has been on the City’s conscience for years—thankfully, in 2012, the City loosened the ban by reducing penalties from a criminal violation to a parking ticket and fine of $100.
However, even this goes too far. We live in a city with an $11–12 minimum wage, where homeless and low-income residents have to cobble together 2–3 part-time jobs to even approach 40 work hours per week. Even if someone works full-time, their take-home wages are devoured by our city’s astronomical rents and high cost of living. In the event of a lost job or eviction, a car is often the last significant piece of personal property people have. If the City of SLO does not want these people sleeping at the edges of our city—under bridges, in parks, and in doorways—then their car is the last resort for a safe place to sleep, an incredibly basic human right. To add hundreds of dollars in fines on top of those already dire circumstances is immoral, and we are better than that.
As of this moment, the City of SLO is telling our residents “Go it alone. Don’t be homeless. And if you are, move somewhere else.” As a community that prides itself on being progressive, inclusive, and welcoming, this ordinance cannot be farther from who we say we are. And for that reason, the SLO DSA demands the City Council to repeal the overnight car camping ban.
Please, do not allow our City’s Code to kick struggling SLO residents while they are down. Thank you.