SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Sacramento is debating whether to create a parking lot to allow homeless people a safe place to park and live in their cars, but the choice may not be up to the city.

Assembly Bill 891 would require California’s biggest cities and counties, including Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Solano, and Placer, to each spend at least 55 thousand dollars a year to provide safe parking lots for those who live in their cars.

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If it becomes law cities and counties with more than 330,000 people would be required to establish a safe parking program by June 1, 2022. The safe parking programs would be required to have a bathroom facility and onsite security. Those wishing to use the safe parking would need to apply and possibly undergo a background check.

AB 891 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee Friday. It previously cleared the committee but was placed on the suspense file. The author then added an amendment “granting a city or county that establishes a safe parking program immunity from civil liability for an employee’s good faith act or omission that fails to prevent an injury to a person participating in the program that occurs in, or in close proximity to, a safe parking program location. The bill would limit this immunity by making the immunity inapplicable to gross negligence, intentional misconduct, or violations of other provisions of law.” The bill now goes before the full Senate for a vote.

Analysis done by the Homeless Policy Research Institue found most safe parking programs that already exist require those who want to participate have a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance; sex offenders and recent violent felons are also generally prohibited from using the lots.

Once the safe parking programs are established, cities and counties would work with local nonprofits to make sure those who live in their cars know about the option.

The money spent by cities and counties to provide safe parking lots would be eligible for reimbursement by the state, which could cost in the low millions annually.

The bill’s author, Asm. Autumn Burge (D- 62nd District), said the bill is needed California deals with a housing crisis. “Establishing a safe parking program in California’s most populated cities and having at least one in each county will provide a safe place for vehicle dwelling. These programs can be overseen and controlled by local entities, they will result in these vehicles being moved away from nightly street parking and into designated lots, and create a sense of normalcy for individuals who are living out of their vehicles. The goal of this measure is to help transition these individuals into more stable and permanent housing.”

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In other programs, participants get permits for 30 to 90 days. Those permits are renewed based on how much the participant has used the available case management services.

The original draft of the bill required all 58 counties in California to participate. The amended version only requires cities and counties with a population higher than 330,000.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are 22 counties meeting that threshold:

  1. Los Angeles: 10,105,722
  2. San Diego: 3,283,665
  3. Orange: 3,155,816
  4. Riverside: 2,355,002
  5. San Bernardino: 2,121,220
  6. Santa Clara: 1,911,226
  7. Alameda: 1,629,615
  8. Sacramento: 1,495,400
  9.  Contra Costa: 1,123,678
  10. Fresno: 971,616
  11. Kern: 878,744
  12. San Francisco: 864,263
  13. Ventura: 847,834
  14. San Mateo: 763,450
  15. San Joaquin: 724,153
  16. Stanislaus: 535,684
  17. Sonoma: 500,943
  18. Tulare: 458,809
  19. Santa Barbara: 442,996
  20. Solano: 434,981
  21. Monterey: 433,168
  22. Placer: 374,985

According to the US Census Bureau data from 2015 there are 11 cities in California with a population of more than 330,000 and would be required to establish a safe parking program:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. San Diego
  3. San Jose
  4. San Francisco
  5. Fresno
  6. Sacramento
  7. Long Beach
  8. Oakland
  9. Bakersfield
  10. Anaheim
  11. Santa Ana

Stockton has a population of approximately 306,000; Modesto’s population is approximately 211,000.

Several cities in the state already have similar programs, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and San Jose. The counties where those cities are located would not need to create an additional safe parking lot.

As for where these lots would go– cities and counties would identify local lots or other properties that could be used, in coordination with the Department of Transportation and the Department of General Services website.

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A separate bill, AB 302, would require California Community Colleges to create safe lots for homeless students, also passed the Senate Appropriations Committee Friday.