The city of Santa Barbara may ban RV and oversized-vehicle parking on some downtown streets and neighborhoods.
Councilmen Dale Francisco and Randy Rowse on Tuesday led an effort to crack down on RV parking, saying that people should not be “camping in neighborhoods.”
The city’s ordinance committee will now work on drafting a new law that prohibits parking.
“The city of Santa Barbara is not a social welfare agency, though we have contributed toward that,” Francisco said. “That is not our business. One of our businesses is to make our neighborhoods safe.”
The vote was 5-2, with Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilwoman Cathy Murillo objecting.
Both women said the issue is complex and not as easy as just putting up signs in a neighborhood banning RV parking. Currently RVs are allowed to park for up to 72 hour in some residential neighborhoods. In other areas of town near the waterfront, RV parking is not allowed between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Schneider went back and forth with Francisco over the proposal.
Schneider, a longtime affordable-housing and homeless activist, said the proposal from Francisco and Rowse is the wrong way to go. She said this solution will just push the problem somewhere else in the community.
“I understand and appreciate the frustration that people have,” Schneider said. “Frankly, I just don’t see this as a solution.”
Schneider said the real solution is to get to the root of the problem: finding more parking spots for people who live in their RVs.
The New Beginnings Safe RV Program currently works with area churches and nonprofits to provide overnight parking. Schneider said the community should work to find more churches and nonprofits to be part of the program.
The city also should look at opening up more of its lots to RV dwellers, she said.
“The way to address the issue is to figure out a way to not live in an RV,” Schneider said.
Franciso, however, said the proposal was very simple. Give the police chief and the public works director authority to determine whether a particular neighborhood is appropriate for RV parking.
“This whole thing about social justice and social welfare and everything else that is an enormous issue,” Francisco said. “There are lots of problems in society. We in Santa Barbara are not going to solve those problems.”
Rowse agreed: “This isn’t about a social justice program.”
Murillo also urged a more layered solution.
She said many RV dwellers are working families. She recalled knocking on the door of an RV on the Mesa once and finding out that a family lived in an RV and their teenage daughter slept in their second vehicle behind the RV.
She said many RV dwellers are not “camping,” but trying to live in Santa Barbara.
“There is a whole spectrum of people,” Murillo said, adding that the city needs to have “a community discussion and a restorative approach to this problem in our city. I would like to look for solutions to this problem.”
Several neighborhood residents and members of the business community spoke at the meeting in favor of stronger regulations against RV parking.
Many of the speakers are residents of the Upper East of Santa Barbara, where RVs tend to park. Speakers said the large vehicles block views of people backing out of their driveway.
“Our driveway backs out into Garden Street,” said resident John Jameson. “When you have an RV sitting by the driveway,s it’s sort of ‘cross your fingers, hit the gas, and hope for the best.’” he said.
Other speakers said these people disrupt their enjoyment of their homes.
“We have noticed a real congestion of RVs parking in our neighborhood,” said Upper Eastside resident Deborah Lynch. “It is becoming a de-facto campground.”
Homeless advocate Nancy McCradie said the city should be more tolerant toward RV dwellers.
RVs provide valid shelter for many people to get them off the streets, she said.
McCradie said she has always held a job, but she never made enough money to pay the rent. Living in an RV allowed her to get off the streets and avoid an abusive relationship.
I am one of the only people who have applied for a camping permit in the city of SB for my RV and gotten it.
She said the city needs to include RV dwellers in any discussion about changing the rules.
“This time . . . we need to bring the RV people to the table,” McCradie said. “We have never done this. They have really good ideas. “
Still, Francisco said this is not a social justice issue. The solution, he said, is simple.
“It is not a good thing to have people camping in front of your house whether you are a renter or a homeowner,” Francisco said. “It is abusive.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.