This week we’ll turn the way back machine back a decade to see how public policies work in practice. In June 2010 I wrote the following in a local print newspaper”
There are hundreds of trailers, old cars, pickups and motor homes parked all over Lompoc, the Council wants to update the parking ordinance to eliminate this problem; but are they creating another problem as they solve this one?”
There was a workshop at 6:30 p.m. June 2010 at City Hall to come up with some ideas about how to solve the problem. This all started years ago when people began to complain about “illegal campers” on the city streets. You’ve seen the tired old camp trailers and motor homes on the street, which have now become a home for the homeless.
During the council meeting of May 4th, 2010, the newly created Code Enforcement Team provided a status report to the council and recommended they consider a revised ordinance to “Prohibit parking of hitched trailers and self-propelled recreational vehicles of any size between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., unless they are (i) recreational trailers or self-propelled recreational vehicles with approval of the Chief of Police for not more than a total of six (6) days within any one-month (1-month) period and not more than fifty (50) days within any twelve-month (12-month) period, (ii) moving trailers or (iii) trailers being used to provide a service to the property on the block on which the trailer is parked.” http://www1.cityoflompoc.com/councilagenda/2010/100504/100504n1.pdf.
These old relics look bad, but if you don’t have a house to call home, they become your castle. Then there are all those vehicles parked on the streets for more than 72 hours, which is the current rule. You may have a couple of them in your neighborhood; they are easily spotted by the amount of trash around the wheels, flat tires or cobwebs anchoring them to the street.
The town looks bad, so, “something has to be done,” but what do you do in a politically correct world — “you use a sledgehammer to kill an ant.” This approach may preclude litigation, but is it too much?
There is nothing in the staff report to indicate they were asking for a workshop, just the recommendation above. Then came the comment period; many people were justifiably concerned and some like (former Council member) Will Schuyler suggested a workshop environment was the best place to hash out the new rules. Others were just plain unhappy.
Finally, the council directed staff to convene a workshop.
Something did need to be done, but simply enacting a new rule that would find and tow an estimated 1,000 vehicles of all types that would suddenly require storage seems to create a logistic nightmare. So, once again we are faced with a leadership issue.
For every problem there is a solution; in this case the entire process needs to be looked at from end-to-end. First, the person buying a new boat, camper, motor home or “toy hauler” needs to figure out where they are going to park it; it is obvious many people haven’t given enough thought to this issue.
Next, if the owner doesn’t have enough space on their own property, then some enterprising businessperson should be encouraged to provide a secure and environmentally responsible location for them to park, for a fee of course.
Then, if the city enacts an ordinance like this, they need to identify sufficient storage space to handle all these vehicles — before they start towing vehicles.
That leaves us with the homeless problem. Has anyone explored the possibility of creating space for these folks at the Bridge House, or creating a proper space somewhere else for them to park their rigs?
Once again this creates a leadership challenge and requires some “thinking out of the box” to come up with a resolution. Perhaps a nonprofit community housing group could step up and make a proposal to help solve this issue.
End of 2010 commentary.
Let’s fast forward to June 2021; since this was first written, a significant effort has been taken to remove many of these vehicles from city streets. But just like with the “homeless problem,” once one part of a problem is resolved two others show up.
Our streets are still cluttered with derelict vehicles; however, some have been moved to residential yards.
And a safe parking location, to be operated by a nonprofit, was identified for homeless folks living in their vehicles on Feb. 16, but as of June 3 it still wasn’t in use.
It’s hard to regulate personal responsibility when many feel empowered to just do whatever they want to no matter what impacts the action has on the community at large. And, when government tries to correct a problem, they many times find themselves in an endless “do loop” of repetitive enforcement.
I am guessing that in 10 years the same commentary could point out the same results.
— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving for 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.