letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Deal With People Living in Vehicles


There is so much that is right about this city.

This is not one of them.

Why are laws against sleeping in vehicles not enforced in San Francisco? Is it equitable to residents that laws are not enforced? Why is living and sleeping in vehicles on the streets of San Francisco tolerated? Who is responsible and accountable for enforcing the city ordinance? Why is Supervisor Chan’s office unable to facilitate action and resolution through the various city agencies and the police department? 

Over the last five months, I have filed dozens of 311 tickets for encampments of people living in RVs, vans and school buses parked along Fulton Street as well as 14th Avenue. Eight tickets filed involve a yellow school bus. It is my hope that the 311 ticketing process identifies this yellow school bus as an ongoing, unresolved issue. There is no change; the vehicles remain and more park and occupants live/sleep in them. I have reached out to Supervisor Chan’s staff on multiple occasions and received ineffective replies. These vehicles violate many rules but the most egregious is the San Francisco ordinance that prohibits people from inhabiting cars from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

The city’s, and Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (DHSH) Team, and the Richmond PD lack of coordination and enforcement of people living in vehicles is  unconscionable to me as a resident.

I understand that issues with the unhoused in San Francisco seem intractable. 

I understand DHSH cannot force people to accept services.

I understand that vehicles cannot be towed with people living in them. 

What are the next steps, DHSH, Supervisor Chan, Richmond District PD?

Julie Newbold, Richmond District Resident

9 replies »

  1. Your next step is to leave these people alone. Stop calling parking enforcement. You are causing people to loose the only roof over their heads. People are not doing this to bother you, it’s not a choice. It’s homelessness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am one of those people you keep reporting. Problem is, I am an ethnic Traveller. I have almost always lived on wheels.

    I just wrote a book called The Vehicle Dweller’s Legal Primer. It has 84 Supreme Court citations about why, in America, people have a right to use their property. It’s on Amazon or for free on my blog ( which is simply my name with a dash in-between first and last).

    Better question for you to ask, why is the only RV park in San Francisco in one of the most foul poisonous locations possible? Why are there no other (legal) campgrounds?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad there is some pushback against the uptight mindset pervasive in the Richmond District. Several years ago I was a member of the Richmond Community Police Advisory Board. (CPAB). Many of the members were so intolerant about the homeless, I quit in disgust. Most telling was the fact the Captain of the Richmond Police Station was more empathetic towards the homeless than most of the advisory board.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am glad that you view actions as unconscionable Mrs. Newbold.
    It is also reassuring that you “understand” the issues. However hassling these people with 311 calls who are not doing any crime other than sleeping in their vehicles is not really what I would call “understanding” the situation. You probably feel that you are doing your civic duty, but I think you equate getting rid of people you see with solving the problem.
    Asking supervisor Connie Chan whether she has steps to get rid of people you see is also kind of quaint, because that indicates that you really don’t understand the problem, and really just don’t want to see people sleeping in cars. Making the reality of people who cannot afford housing a crime does not ameliorate the problem, building more housing does.
    Notice that I said ameliorate, not solve. We live in a society where 47 to 55 percent of the people are unable to afford a $500 emergency. There are larger issues and forces affecting why people wind up homeless that a national/state problem. Even something as basic as the lack of national health care is a culprit. Get in an auto accident, get taken to a hospital by an ambulance, and you find yourself in $50,000 debt. People go bankrupt because of health care bills btw.
    These other issues more relevant are not being addressed when you call 311 to find someone to come remove the sight of the problem manifesting itself on the streets where you like to walk.


  5. What “services” are these people rejecting and where else could they park their vehicles and sleep in peace?

    Criminalizing them solves nothing!


  6. Julie, getting admonished by these characters probably means you are asking reasonable questions. Of course there is an SF law prohibiting sleeping in cars, but enforcement is limited, and prosecution never happens. At some point San Franciscans decided they did not want their streets lined with mobile homes. In the Outer Richmond, there is no permit parking, so mobile homes only need to be moved across the street 2x per month to avoid a ticket. Beyond the blight, parking spaces taken by homeless are not without a cost to society. Parking spaces are needed for commerce which generates tax revenue to pay for our government. You were criticized for your indifference to the homeless who, according to your attackers, are all living in the streets due to the in-affordability of housing, but one need only read the above-comments of Ramon who ironically used your post to market his book about his lifestyle choice of living out of his car! He likely pays no taxes, but he hilariously complains that SF doesn’t give him a better street parking with a better view, separate and away from the “foul poisonous” location and existing neighbors. Seems like Ramon doesn’t want to live around these people either.


  7. Hey grant.

    I am not a character. My name consists of more than one character just like your name consists of 5 characters.

    No one is attacking anyone, so please make your point without calling those who criticize “attackers.” If a point being made is factual and valid, that does not mean the person making the valid point is “attacking.”

    Or as someone else said, “I am not arguing with you, I’m explaining why you are wrong.”

    The anecdotal point about Ramon does not refute the stochastic process. Some would say Ramon is a straw man to beat down while disregarding the larger reality. It’s called confirmation bias. Pick a single data point out of the enormous body of data that justifies what you are already inclined to believe. Reality however is a little more messy.

    Please don’t pigeon the reality of people who wind up living on the streets into an anecdotal story about one person cherry picked by you to represent the ilk of everyone else.


  8. https://sfrichmondreview.com/2023/03/10/engardios-first-town-hall-meeting-covers-the-sunsets-many-challenges/

    From the article: “There’s not a lot we can do. Our hands are tied by our Police Commission, who sets policy for what we can do and how police officers can and cannot enforce existing laws,” Engardio said.

    “Our hands are also tied by the courts. Some judges have ruled that we cannot tell people they are not allowed to have a tent or be in an RV if we can’t offer an alternative for them to go. And our city attorney is fighting that ruling because it really ties our hands with what we can do.”


    • At least some of the Replies have debunked the increasing intolerance on display in San Francisco. Who cares if people live in their vehicles? Only the intolerant, as personified by Joel Engardio, whose fervent dream is that these folks disappear. Then he can live in his Disneyland Fantasy land.


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