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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 12:39 am | Fair 47º


Santa Barbara’s RV Ordinance Soon May Be Modified to Better Define ‘Excessive’

Santa Barbara police officers could call two or more recreational vehicles parked on city streets an “excessive” amount — and force them to move — if proposed ordinance changes go into effect.

Two notable updates to an RV ordinance the Santa Barbara City Council approved in 2008 were unveiled Tuesday to the city’s Ordinance Committee, including requests to define the term “excessive” and to eliminate “temporary recreational vehicles.”

City counsel Ariel Pierre Calonne said modifications could reduce the level of discretion police officers have to restrict RV parking with the ordinance, which authorized the city to put up “No RV Parking” signs within 500 feet of schools, child-care centers, churches, recreational facilities and more.

Temporary RV describes any automobile that’s equipped for human habitation or sleeping purposes, something Calonne believed could open the city up to litigation, along with continuing without a clear indication of how many RVs was too many.

The city has been sued over the ordinance before, he said, and a recent ruling by a Los Angeles court deemed a similar ordinance too broad, giving police too much discretion.

“That definition is so broad that it could apply to someone driving through town with a sleeping bag in their car,” Calonne said.

He said the city settled a previous lawsuit, the terms of which allow it to forbid RV parking with minimal signage on the waterfront between the bird refuge and Castillo Street.

The committee unanimously voted to eliminate temporary vehicles from the ordinance but split on whether to follow staff’s suggestion to deem three or more RVs excessive.

Committee chair Randy Rowse and City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss voted to adopt an amendment stating “two or more,” while Mayor Pro Tempore Cathy Murillo said three.

The ordinance amendments will be forwarded to the Santa Barbara City Council for introduction and adoption at a future meeting.

During public comment, resident Diane Duncan, who lives on Cliff Drive and owns three adjacent properties there, said the RV trash and safety problem was getting worse, noting how dangerously close RVs were parking to homes and schools.

On any given day, as many as six RVs are parked, she said, sometimes for 10 consecutive days.

“These RVs pose a serious safety threat to being able to see oncoming traffic when pulling onto Cliff Drive,” she said. “I urge your action to resolve this problem.”

The city could soon face another lawsuit for its RV ordinance, this time related to violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not allowing RVs housing people with disabilities to park closer to churches and hospitals, said homeless advocate Peter Marin.

Hotchkiss sympathized with Marin but said the minority dealing drugs or other illegal things was ruining it for everyone. An RV could also lessen property value for someone who purchased a house, he said.

Marin agreed with Hotchkiss’ point that RVs don’t need to be close to schools, but said limiting where they can park caused the clumping.

“Most of the people in RVs are decent people struggling to get by,” he said. “Many are vets. Many solutions are possible, but no one has sat down and figured out what to do.”

Calonne said ADA rules don’t clearly state whether cities must have RV parking near hospitals or schools, adding that 500 feet away shouldn’t be an insurmountable barrier.

He feared prohibiting all parking near schools would prompt a lawsuit, and Murillo shared similar sentiment.

Rowse and Hotchkiss went ahead anyway, voting 2-1 to ask the entire council to consider prohibiting all RV parking near schools.

“These are people’s lives we’re talking about,” Murillo said, noting she would do research before the issue comes before the council.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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