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Wednesday, November 21 , 2018, 2:46 am | Fair 48º


Santa Barbara Votes to Ban On-Street Parking for Oversized Vehicles Including RVs

The City Council also extended its ban on recreational marijuana businesses in preparation for the likely passage of legalization Proposition 64

The issue of recreational vehicle parking received a passionate dissection Tuesday, as the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to ban all on-street parking for oversized vehicles, including RVs. 

The new parking regulations will apply to vehicles that are more than 25 feet long, 80 inches wide or 82 inches high, with a number of exceptions.

The issue of RV parking has been fervently contested in the city for two decades, with stakeholders tending to either decry safety issues and inconveniences posed by RVs, or argue for the need to ensure RV dwellers have a place to live.

“I think this is a difficult issue to come to a balance point on, but I think we’re there,” Councilman Gregg Hart said. “I think we’re the closest we’re ever going to get.”

Santa Barbara’s parking restrictions have changed severity over the years and have been the subject of three lawsuits by Homes on Wheels, a group representing people who live in RVs. 

Currently, a so-called excessive number of the large vehicles — defined by the city rules as two or more — cannot be parked within 500 feet of schools, day care centers, parks, libraries, hospitals, homeless shelters and other institutions.

The city also currently has the New Beginnings Counseling Center administer its Safe RV Parking Program, which provides 115 off-street parking spots for RVs. 

Residents have complained that RVs parking in their neighborhoods result in sanitary, safety and noise issues.

“Large vehicles, as you well know, have demonstrated impeded sight lines and street passage,” one resident said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “They impact vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as add to parking congestion.”

Others argue that stepping up parking restrictions forces down-on-their-luck residents out of the city.

“If we are going to create an ordinance that displaces a specific subset of our population, then we need to account for those displaced individuals and families,” said Kristine Schwarz, New Beginnings’ executive director. “Otherwise we are quickly going to see clients getting tickets and being towed and, consequently, being disconnected from their homes and belongings.”

The new ordinance doesn’t address RVs, per se, but “oversized vehicles,” which can pose a number of traffic safety issues, said Derrick Bailey, the city’s supervising traffic engineer.

Many of Santa Barbara’s streets, he said, were built before the advent of modern transportation and RV-sized vehicles.

Included in the ordinance’s exemptions are buses; vehicles where people or goods are actively being unloaded to an adjacent residence or business; vehicles actively making temporary or emergency repairs; federal, state or local government vehicles, public utility and emergency vehicles; and those displaying valid disabled placards.

Scroll down to read the draft copy of the new ordinance.

The black-and-white rules remove virtually all of the personal discretion involved in enforcement, said City Attorney Ariel Calonne.

What the ordinance doesn’t address, he added, were the myriad of social issues related to RV dwelling.

New street signage reflecting the new rules could be put up at entry points to the city and its neighborhoods, and would total about 373 signs, Bailey said.

In its decision, the council also directed the city’s Access Advisory Committee to explore options for on-street parking for disabled residents, and began the process of convening an ad hoc committee to examine additional off-street parking opportunities for RV dwellers, which would include New Beginnings and other stakeholders.

The ordinance works well, Councilman Randy Rowse said, “in terms of neighborhood compatibility, in terms of traffic safety,” and is “is well crafted and well put together by (city) staff.”

Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, who more than a couple times expressed concern over the impacts the ordinance will have on RV residents, asked her colleagues to make up for those impacts by directing more funding to the Safe RV Parking Program.

“These regulations will make life more difficult for those whose lives are already very difficult,” she said.

Calonne said that there could be an unregulated gap of about 40 to 50 days between the repeal of the old ordinance and implementation of the new one.

Also on Tuesday, the council members extended the city ban on recreational marijuana businesses.

The prohibition was originally enacted Sept. 6 in response to the increasing likelihood of Proposition 64 passing, which would legalize recreational marijuana use and sales in the state.

The ban, which is technically an interim emergency zoning ordinance, is now set to end on Sept. 5, 2018. Prop 64, if passed, would go into effect Nov. 9.

Banning recreational marijuana businesses means that the city will have the opportunity to develop its own regulations for them, rather than allow the state to make those calls, according to city staff.

City project planner Andrew Bermond told the council that developing regulations and passing an ordinance for them would be about an 18-month process, and would address logistical considerations including where the businesses would be permitted.

That process would undergo numerous reviews by city regulatory bodies and public outreach efforts.

The emergency ordinance required that the city determine that non-medical marijuana businesses could pose an immediate threat to public health and safety.

Of particular concern for officials were the potential impacts related to where those businesses would set up shop in the city, such as the effects of having such a business near a school.

The city currently allows a limited number of medical marijuana storefront dispensaries, which are not impacted by this ordinance. 

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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.

Santa Barbara City Draft Ordinance Restricting Oversize Vehicle Parking by Noozhawk on Scribd

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