San Diego is as beautiful as it is expensive. Due to the latter, I found myself living in an old Winnebago at the age of 30.
Sure, I could give up and move somewhere more affordable that has sane laws and a more friendly political climate for those like myself on the right end of the spectrum. But I have a daughter here, and California isn’t known for being fair to fathers in custody proceedings, so for at least the next decade or so, I’m basically stuck here if I want to be a decent father and be a part of her life.
In order to survive the housing crisis, with the median rent at an astronomical $1,992 a month and steadily rising, my options were to rent a room in a house with some random strangers off craigslist, or live on the verge of homelessness and save money. Not being one to share my living space with people who would undoubtedly hate me for my beliefs and likely listen to “trap music” at all hours of the day and night, the choice was obvious.
I’d seen my fair share of retired Marines and Sailors living comfortably off their pensions out of RVs, and dodging parking tickets, so I figured if they could do it, so could I. In a year’s time, perhaps I’d have saved up enough to purchase an acre of land just close enough to the desert to not require $90,000 and my left testicle as downpayment.
It seemed easy at first, I found a running 1973 Winnebago for just $1,200, got the tags renewed and parked near the beach in Oceanside, a suburb of North San Diego County. However, I wasn’t prepared for just how difficult it is to legally inhabit an RV in San Diego. The city has recently passed an ordinance that makes it illegal to park an “unusually large” vehicle on the streets or in public parking spaces from 2am-6am, and the police are all too motivated to enforce this statute with a heavy application of $100 fines. No problem, I thought, I’ll just live out of an RV Park. Well, all the RV parks are overflowing with other rent-dodgers like myself, so they’ve raised their rates to over $750 a month, which just so happens to be the average cost of renting a room.
After large-scale public backlash against the overnight parking ordinance’s victims, largely the homeless population, advocacy groups were able to gain ground through a class action suit, and help many locals fight the tickets on the basis of “necessity.” That is, showing evidence that they have no means by which to avoid being forced onto the streets if they cannot live out of their vehicles.
The suit claims the ordinance is being used to target more than 800 of San Diego’s “most vulnerable residents.” In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim “their vehicles are their only reliable safe shelter….despite no adequate alternative…they’re repeatedly ticketed and harassed.” The City Attorney’s Office issued a statement in response, “This is an area of active litigation. The City is responding through the courts.” Unfortunately, police departments run on money, and so do courts.
I adapted quickly to this game of cat and mouse, learning to set my alarm for 2am and try to make note of places I thought I could park without being ticketed. This is a lot harder than it sounds, and you’d be surprised how many people (mainly Boomers) will call the cops on you for simply being parked on their street at night.
I finally found refuge from the never-ending chase when a friend offered to let me park my home on wheels in his driveway for a very affordable rate. I have electricity thanks to a solar panel I mounted on the roof, and WiFi from my mobile hotspot. It’s a simple life, and it isn’t exactly glamorous to invite a woman “home,” but it’s allowed me to put away $3,500 in savings these past few months.
It is liberating in a way, not being confined to a lease and not having to stress over devoting 60% of my income to rent every month. All my belongings are always with me, and I can take my home with me on vacation. Until I land one of these elusive 6 figure jobs that allows people to buy a fixer-upper…condemned building that used to resemble a house, I will continue to live the nomad life and put away as much cash as I can while spending my days tan and happy.