Sevastopol City Council will vote on an ordinance prohibiting parking of motorhomes during the day

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The city council of Sevastopol must vote on Wednesday a “compromise” ordinance that would effectively ban all RV parking on city streets during the day, but allow overnight parking in commercial areas.

The proposed restrictions follow the city’s controversial safe parking pilot program in the north of the city for homeless people living in their caravans and motorhomes.

The year-long “RV village” ordinance and program comes largely in response to a long-running encampment with at times up to 20 vehicles on Morris Street near the Barlow Mall.

Councilor Diana Rich, who has taken the lead on local homelessness policy and supports the ordinance, described the measures as “a compromise” to provide shelter for many people living in their motorhomes on and around Morris Street while preventing future vehicle encampments.

“It’s not a perfect solution,” Rich said. “But we have to keep an eye on the needs of the community as a whole.”

The vote was originally scheduled for last Tuesday, but the council ran out of time at the public meeting to consider the measure. He instead scheduled the vote for a special meeting on Wednesday evening.

The current draft ordinance would prohibit all recreational vehicles – that is, a “motorhome, trailer, motor home, camping trailer or any other vehicle or trailer” – from parking in the city ​​streets in residential neighborhoods at all times.

It would also:

  • Car park bar in commercial or industrial area between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Prevent the parking of large vehicles in public parks or city-owned parking lots unless a person is “conducting city-related activities during business hours on site”;
  • Prohibit the parking of such vehicles within 30 feet of the corner of any street, so as not to obstruct visibility on the roadways.

Violations could result in citations, towing, or both.

The order would not apply to commercial vehicles. It would also allow a 48-hour parking exception for mechanical breakdowns and was amended to allow a “homeowner, tenant or out-of-town visitor” to park in front of a specific residence for 72 hours.

If approved, it would likely come into force at the end of March.

The county’s latest homeless count at the start of 2020 showed 129 people without homes in Sevastopol, up from 69 two years earlier. All lived outdoors or in vehicles.

The proposed settlement has raised concerns among some homeless advocates who have called it inhumane.

“It’s the criminalization of homelessness,” said Margaret DeMatteo, housing policy attorney at Sonoma County Legal Aid.

In addition to violating the constitutional rights of homeless people, DeMatteo said the order would be a violation of a 2018 federal court ruling that effectively bars cities in western states from enforcing ordinances prohibiting camping on the most public properties without first offering shelter to the homeless.

City officials said the ordinance is consistent with the court’s ruling because it allows overnight parking in some parts of the city.

DeMatteo said Sonoma County Legal Aid attorneys have begun contacting people living in vehicles in the Morris Street area to understand their situation. The nonprofit advocacy group also sent a letter to city council outlining its concerns about the ordinance.

Similar RV parking laws in Los Angeles and Mountain View are currently being challenged in federal court.

Last week, Sonoma Applied Village Services, the nonprofit selected by the city to operate the RV Test Village, launched an all-hours parking program at 845 Gravenstein Highway North.

Adrienne Lauby, chair of the SAVS board, said the village is already at capacity with 18 vehicles. A wooden fence has been erected around the property and private security is on site, Lauby said.

On Monday, two motorhomes remained on Morris Street, which appeared to be lined with vehicles from Barlow shoppers. A few dumpsters set up by the city and local advocacy groups were filled to the brim with trash and debris. About five other caravans and motorhomes were parked in nearby streets.

Lauby said the nonprofit West County Community Services is reaching out to people living in those vehicles who weren’t able to move through the secure parking program.

“They are working very hard to help these people, especially with the upcoming parking regulations,” Lauby said.

Nearby business owners, including the Barlows, complained that residents of the encampment had damaged private property, left trash on the roadway and caused other health and safety hazards.

In response, authorities recently tightened parking enforcement on Morris Street.

Starting on Boxing Day, police in Sevastopol began issuing more citations for parking and vehicle code violations. Until then, officers had been working for months with homeless advocates, including the SAVS, to bring the motorhomes into compliance, police said.

Over the past year and up to January, officers made 100 police reports related to drug-related activity, property damage and other crimes on Morris Street, police said. There were 35 arrests, including 10 for drug-related crimes and 15 for outstanding warrants and probation violations. Authorities also towed 21 vehicles.

The police decision led to secure parking operators accepting a handful of vehicles into the RV village weeks earlier than expected, angering some neighbours.

A newly formed community group, Friends of Northwest Sebastopol, sued the city in January to end the secure parking program. He argues that the council rushed to approve the village without considering its impact on neighbours.

An initial hearing in the case was held Thursday, according to the Sonoma County Superior Court website. Sevastopol officials said they were confident the combination would not succeed in derailing the RV village.

You can reach editor Ethan Varian at [email protected] or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian.

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