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City Council On Board With Restrictions to Curb RV Parking

The Public Works Department gets the go-ahead to put up 'No RV Parking' signs in certain areas of the city.

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The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday cleared the way for the city’s Public Works Department to put up “No RV Parking” signs near schools, child care centers and other areas. (Rob Kuznia / Noozhawk photo)

Responding to the growing number of people living in their RVs, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted to grant the city the authority to restrict the parking of RVs near schools, child care centers, recreational facilities and churches, among other places serving vulnerable populations.

The unanimous vote means that the city’s Public Works Department can put up “No RV Parking” signs within 500 feet of such places.

City officials said they will do so only in problem areas, such as the 500 block of East Montecito Street, near North Calle Cesar Chavez.

There, employees of the nearby online advertising company Commission Junction have repeatedly complained of being harassed by RV dwellers. Officials say the number of RVs parked in that general area at any given time has increased to about 15.

Steve Amerikaner, a local attorney representing the Santa Barbara Business Center, which owns the business complex that includes Commission Junction, encouraged the council to vote for it.

“(Commission Junction’s) employees have experienced a number of direct problems, including observing plainly illegal conduct — drug dealing, dropping waste material in the street — a number of other things that are not only unpleasant to see but also have been perceived as physically threatening to those employees,” he said.

He added that the situation has forced the company to employ a security guard to walk people to their cars, and to consider leaving Santa Barbara.

“That’s 200 employees,” he said. “That’s a serious problem.”

The business complex that houses Commission Junction includes the Tri-Counties Regional Center serving children with developmental disabilities, so the ordinance could apply to the area.

In an effort to minimize the phenomenon of simply pushing the RVs from neighborhood to neighborhood, the council also directed the staff to expand a program called New Beginnings that allows RV dwellers to park in certain designated lots at night.

Councilwoman Iya Falcone applauded the effort to expand New Beginnings, but also vouched for the stories of the Commission Junction employees, one of whom used to be her daughter.

“I personally was regaled with some fairly terrific and horrific incidences,” she said. Falcone shared an anecdote her daughter had mentioned, in which an RV dweller, after his request for money was denied by an employee, urinated on the employee.

“These things have been happening,” she said. “They are not kidding when they say it is very, very compromised down there.”

Councilman Das Williams, who was instrumental in getting the city staff to water down its earlier request for the ability to restrict RV parking anywhere in the city, cautioned his colleagues not to pre-judge people living in RVs, reminding them that he had to live in his vehicle for a time at age 17.

“I never urinated on anyone,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who you would meet in the street and you might not even really know they are homeless. … Our policy should not be one punishing people just trying to get by.”

One of them is Fred Terrones, an RV dweller who lost his truck-driving license after hurting himself on the job eight years ago. Terrones, whose RV was parked near Commission Junction on Tuesday afternoon, said his workers-compensation allowance couldn’t pay the extent of his child support, so child services had his license revoked. In a past life, he owned two homes, and even made $100,000 one year, he said.

Terrones agreed that some of the RV dwellers are a problem. He said he has tried to dissuade some of them from having illegal barbecues on the sidewalk, and to talk sense into the one who urinates near the property. But the barbecuers keep doing it, and the man is mentally ill, he said. He added that one woman who used to park an RV was a crack addict, but said she recently left the area.

“I’ve been trying to keep peace in the neighborhood,” he said, “but people just don’t understand.”

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