California won’t forgive parking tickets for homeless after Newsom veto

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have required cities to issue parking tickets to homeless Californians.

The move was a disappointment to anti-poverty advocates across the state – who have warned that late parking ticket fees can lead to more debt for already low-income people – and a win for cities that receive revenue from those tickets.

“I understand the author’s intention to provide financial relief to ultra-low-income Californians, but a statewide requirement for parking ticket waivers may not be the best approach,” Newsom said in his veto message Thursday night.

Assembly Bill 1685 would have required local governments and universities that issue parking tickets to forgive at least $1,500 in fines each year for Californians who prove they are living without a home.

The bill aimed to block attempts by local authorities to apply for collections from the Department of Motor Vehicles, which barred vehicle registrations due to unpaid parking tickets, a policy that can result in people unable to pay losing their vehicles entirely.

Mike Herald, director of political advocacy for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, which sponsored the bill, was surprised by Newsom’s decision, calling it “a very disappointing veto.”

“This will mean people lose their vehicles for minor unpaid parking tickets,” he said. “It means that they will be punished because they are poor.”

Newsom pointed to existing local programs that are already forgiving some parking ticket debts to the homeless and “safe parking” programs designed to support Californians who make a living from their cars.

In his veto message Thursday night, he signaled he was willing to work on another solution, but said that bill had problems, including the lack of a limit on the number of times a person could request relief from the program.

For people like Kia Dupclay, who has been homeless for a decade since she was 14, parking tickets became an unexpected financial hurdle that she says perpetuated her instability.

As a victim of the Oakland-area sex trade, Dupclay sometimes lived outside of her car. At one point, she had accumulated more than $3,000 in parking tickets, resulting in further fines for late fees, towing, and related costs in DMV fines. That resulted in her license being suspended, which in turn delayed her ability to find a job, she said.

“These things started to pile up. It all trickles down and becomes a consequence,” said Dupclay, now 29 and an advocate for homeless victims of human trafficking in Los Angeles. “As time went by, when I was worrying about the apartment, hopping from pillow to pillow and sleeping in my car, the last thing I worried about was paying a parking ticket.

“It was the last thing on my mind when I needed basic necessities like food and clothing,” she said.

Member of Parliament Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) wrote the bill, saying that too many tickets can trigger a spiral of debt and worsen poverty.

Bryan cited Sacramento as an example: Five unpaid parking tickets in the city alone would result in $520 in late fines.

“Rather than continue to penalize poverty, let’s save some money with good policies and use it to get people more of the housing and services they really need,” Bryan said during the legislative process. “Losing your financial stability, losing your home. Lose your house, live in your car. Lose your car, set up camp.”

The bill met with widespread opposition, including from the California Mobility and Parking Assn. and the California League of Cities.

The Association of Cities urged legislative leadership not to approve the law unless the state would make up for lost revenue in local budgets from parking tickets.

The group said the program would increase illegal parking and would require onerous work for city officials to certify drivers’ homelessness. Under AB 1685, ticketing agencies would have been required to verify proof of homelessness from health and legal providers or other organizations.

“Parking controls perform the vital functions of helping cities keep streets and water systems clean (street sweeping), performing basic public works (e.g., tree trimming, repairing sidewalks), ensuring access to business and government services by protecting the Encourage revenue and encourage alternative types of parking to transport in heavily congested areas,” the Association of Cities said in a letter to lawmakers in August. “Without appropriate fines, drivers will simply ignore these rules, making these multifaceted goals incredibly difficult to achieve.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti opposed AB 1685, saying it overruled a program created there that gives homeless drivers $1,500 in parking tickets in exchange for community service.

“There is no need to end a program that has enabled us to engage more than 1,900 people living with homelessness and help them find the services and support they need,” said Jose “Che” Ramirez, deputy Mayor of Garcetti for Homeless Services, in a statement. California won’t forgive parking tickets for homeless after Newsom veto

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