Although an oversized-vehicle parking ordinance was adopted in Santa Barbara five months ago, the debate continues over RV parking.
The City Council this week received an update on its ad-hoc stakeholder committee’s work to round up parking spaces in private lots throughout the city for RV dwellers who may soon be banned from parking on city streets.
In October, the council voted to prohibit vehicles over a certain size from parking on city streets, though some types are exempt from the ban.
Kristine Schwarz, a committee member and the executive director of New Beginnings Counseling Center, reported that her organization’s Safe RV Parking Program oversees 40 overnight spaces that can accommodate oversized vehicles, though only 22 of them are utilized by those vehicles.
New Beginnings Counseling Center is also heading up the search for more daytime parking spaces.
“Ms. Schwarz has determined that the current need for daytime space as of today is 26, and that could go up depending on the needs of the program,” said Sue Gray, the city’s Community Development business manager.
The city and New Beginnings are working their way down a list of potential sites for daytime parking spots for RVs, in addition to the existing catalog of nighttime spots. Gray noted that so far, a total of eight spaces at four sites have been identified, though their exact locations remain confidential.
The new parking restrictions apply to vehicles that are more than 25 feet long, 80 inches wide, or 82 inches high.
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.
The ordinance is technically in effect, said City Attorney Ariel Calonne, but it has yet to be implemented because an electronic permitting system for exemptions is not yet up and running, and more public notification is planned.
The city is also still analyzing the potential unintended consequences of the new rules.
Calonne estimated that in late April or early May, he and city staff will be able to present a better picture of the ordinance’s effects to the council.
At that time, he added, the council can decide whether to tweak or even repeal the ordinance.
On Tuesday, council members declined to pursue a grace period from the ban or special permit for RV dwellers enrolled in the Safe RV Parking Program.
The rationale for the parking ban, Calonne noted, revolved around the safety issues that come with being unable to see around large vehicles parked on the street.
Temporarily letting off one class of oversized vehicle owners, thus perpetuating those safety issues, made defending in court the safety rationale a difficult task, he told the council.
Many RV dwellers, their advocates and Councilwoman Cathy Murillo have emphasized that safety concerns have to be considered alongside the effects of the ban on people who live in RVs, whose livelihoods could be impacted and who could be rendered homeless if sufficient parking alternatives are not identified.
Some concerned RV residents turned out to participate in the ad-hoc committee’s meetings in November and January.
“What was special to me was to have the RV dwellers literally sitting at the table and being able to express their needs and the fact with our housing crunch, they’re forced to live in their vehicles,” Murillo said Tuesday.
She and her colleagues agreed that the ultimate goal of both finding more RV spaces and citing violators of the ban is to entice and guide RV dwellers to permanent housing solutions.
New parking ticket offenses
The council also approved six more offenses that will land someone a parking ticket in the city, including violating the new oversized vehicle parking ban, which will cost a transgressor $48. Removed from the fee schedule are violations of the previous oversized-vehicle code.
Leaving a vehicle in a city parking lot for over three days will now result in a $78 ticket.
According to the Santa Barbara Police Department, which requested the changes, there has been an uptick in the abuse of disabled parking plates and placards.
Misusing either now leads to a $353 ticket. A fake placard is punishable with the same amount, and an altered license plate means a $48 ticket.
Funding for Cabrillo Ball Field renovation
The city has also applied for a state grant about $1 million to renovate its Cabrillo Ball Park at the corner of Milpas Street and Cabrillo Boulevard.
The renovation project, expected to begin fall of 2018, includes redoing the field’s turf and irrigation system, improving physical accessibility to the park, adding new landscaping and park lighting, installing new fitness-equipment stations, and making bathroom upgrades.
According to city staff, the Housing-Related Parks Program grants will be announced in June. Project costs are expected to total $1.2 million, much of which will be covered by existing Parks and Recreation Department funds.
New pedestrian and tourist wayfinding signs
The council also approved $351,000 for a contract to begin the first of two phases of a project to put up wayfinding signs around the city.
The first phase will put up 169 signs for pedestrians along the Waterfront and Cabrillo Boulevard, in the El Pueblo Viejo district, around the Santa Barbara Airport and along State Street to guide people to landmarks and tourist attractions.
Other signs will guide drivers to parking lots along the Waterfront and downtown.
The second phase would install 120 signs to direct drivers from the freeway to tourist destinations and to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.