Divers and residents of La Jolla Shores want to ‘vanlife’ on Vallecitos. to slow down

The ‘vanlife’ trend that has become popular on social media, and even more so amid the stay-at-home, remote work lifestyle caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, has made its way to La Jolla Shores, grumpy divers say and residents there.

In recent months, RVs have been sighted parked along Vallecitos, a short street with limited parking on the south side of Kellogg Park.

“The problem has grown exponentially and now overnight parking has officially gotten out of hand at La Jolla Shores,” said a local diver who wished to remain anonymous. “When I arrive at 5am there may be no parking or just one or two parking spaces at the top of Vallecitos. In a past life I would have my choice. Instead, I have to walk two blocks to the ocean. My scuba gear weighs 85 pounds.”

La Jolla Shores is known for scuba diving due to its gradual entry into the ocean and the underwater canyons just offshore.

In a week, the diver said, she photographed 28 RVs — many with out-of-state license plates — parked along Vallecitos and in the nearby Kellogg Park parking lot. The second week of January, she counted eight vans parked bumper to bumper in Vallecitos, she said.

“Night parking has officially gotten out of hand at La Jolla Shores,” said a local diver.

(thanks to photo)

“These people have so much confidence in their home, I saw a pair of shoes resting on the floor in front of a vehicle, and the vehicle was even parked in the red. [no-parking zone]’ said the diver. “There was a beach chair parked in front of another vehicle, the owner was sleeping inside. …Other campers emerge in the morning in their PJs as they look blurry-eyed to the [nearby public] bathroom. When I got out of the ocean and went to my car [one day], I passed a man washing his cookware in the sink [restroom facility].”

In San Diego, it is against the city code to live in a car.

“It is unlawful for any person to use a vehicle for human habitation on a street or public property unless the street or public property has been specifically authorized for such use by the city manager,” the code states.

Habitation includes “sleeping; to bathe; preparing or cooking meals; possessing or storing items not associated with normal vehicle use, such as a sleeping bag, bedroll, blanket, sheet, pillow, used bedding, kitchen utensils, cookware, cookware, camping gear, food, water, personal care items” and others, according to the code.

Sydney Ferbrache, who has stayed in her van in San Diego (but not La Jolla Shores), said vanlife’s popularity has increased with the pandemic. “It exploded because people started working remotely and realized they could work anywhere,” she said. “It gives us enormous freedom. There are vans of all scales, which are allowed [my partner and I] a more budget friendly way to get around the country without flights, hotels, rental cars and in a way that we can bring our dogs.”

She added that some vans are more cost efficient than some studio apartments.

Ferbrache, who writes about life in her van on her blog ‘Divine on the Road’, said the presence of a motorhome encourages others.

“If you drive into a lot or an area and see a few vans, you know there is a community,” she said. “You can feel vulnerable when you’re the only one. You get to La Jolla and find a parking lot on the beach and half are vans. That is always exciting.”

The issue has been reported to the La Jolla Shores Association, a community group that deals with issues related to the area.

“We’ve had reports of people parking RVs all day at the southern comfort station [restroom facility] on Vallecitos,” said LJSA President Janie Emerson. “That street is short-term parking and is a loading and unloading zone; you are not allowed to park there. We started to get families parking there and using the comfort station. They would be parked in the red and open the RV doors and shower their kids, put on their pajamas and send the kids to bed.”

A person uses a sink in the restroom of Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores, allegedly after getting out of a nearby van.

A person uses a sink in the restroom of Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores, allegedly after getting out of a parked van nearby.

(thanks to photo)

Emerson argued that the presence of the vans “prevents others from accessing the beach.”

But beyond warning the police, “There’s not much we can do,” she lamented. “We don’t want to end up like Sunset Cliffs, but without enforcement it doesn’t matter. And there is no enforcement.”

Emerson said she notified the San Diego Police Department and City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla.

LaCava told the La Jolla Light that the situation is “problematic on several levels”. He said his office has requested enforcement.

“During recent conversations, SDPD continues to inform my office that the sergeants patrolling The Shores are aware that illegally parked vehicles are an ongoing problem in that area and that they will be providing additional surveillance in the area,” LaCava said.

Residents are encouraged to report illegally parked vehicles and other violations to SDPD’s non-emergency line at (619) 531-2000 or to file a report through the city’s Get It Done app. ◆

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