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Santa Barbara RV Dwellers Fighting City Hall

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March 16, 2011 by   Leave a Comment

Attorneys for Santa Barbara, Calif., RV dwellers want a Superior Court Judge to throw out a settlement they made with the City in 2007, because, they say, the city isn’t honoring its terms, the Santa Barbara Independent reported.

Specifically, they argue that the city promised to prohibit RV parking at night, and during the day, in limited areas only—essentially between the 101 Freeway and the beach. Yet, in the last two years, “No RV Parking” signs have been sprouting up all over town, effectively discriminating against an entire class of vehicles and the people who live in them.

“Our position is the city did not honor the settlement,” said Joe Allen, one of two lawyers for the nonprofit group, Homes on Wheels (HOW).

The motion wants the 2007 settlement vacated and HOW’s original lawsuit reinstated. A hearing is scheduled for April 7.

In early 2003, the city passed an ordinance making it illegal to park an RV on any street in Santa Barbara overnight and for no more than two hours at a time during the day. Allen, and The Legal Project’s Glen Mowrer, challenged the law on behalf of HOW. The settlement they ultimately reached with the city was to have allowed RVs be prohibited at night in the waterfront, but allowed in other areas above the 101.

In 2009, when the city’s RV ordinance was updated, it gave the Public Works Department authority to post “No RV Parking” signs on any street that was within 500 feet of a school, a park, a hospital, a church or a handful of other locations. Browning Allen, transportation manager for the City Public Works Department, said such postings would only be considered when a number of RVs were congregating on a block and if someone complained.

“We get a request, then the police department will take a look,” said Allen. After that, his department evaluates whether the particular RVs are within 500 feet of one of the prohibited locations and if they are indeed causing a problem.

“For some of the areas where were having RVs parked, they were doing things that weren’t appropriate for our community,” said Browning, alluding to drug dealing and prostitution. Then he added, “We got a lot of RVs in town and not everyone is doing something that is a problem.”

As of September 2009, 136 “No RV Parking” signs had been posted around the city.

Nancy McCradie is one of HOW’s three original founders. She lived in an RV with her husband, “Protest” Bob Hanson, for decades.

“Everywhere that people park, or have been parking two or three (at a time), a sign goes up,” she said. What happens is, someone finds a spot, then another RV comes and parks there too, because nighttime spots are rare, and also because RV dwellers have something of a community. But as soon as more than one vehicle is located on a street, it draws the attention of city Transportation officials, McCradie said.

Hammett, 42, lives in an RV, which he parks on a street bordering the freeway. He’s legal there during the day, he said, but at night he drives to a private lot, where the owner is nice enough to let him stay.

“I’ve not gotten tickets, I’ve gotten warnings,” said Hammett. “At odd hours, (police) asked me to move on.”

“To selectively say that RVs are somehow harming the community, whereas monstrous buses or four-wheel tractor trailers aren’t, it makes one suspect that this is an attack against the poor who have no housing,” said Mowrer.

Between 120 and 140 vehicle dwellers are now participating in the New Beginnings’ Safe Parking Program, according to Nancy Kapp, who is one of its two managers. The program lets vehicle dwellers park in designated parking lots around the city and county. Some are public, some are privately offered by churches and business. But vehicle dwellers must to leave their lots by 7 a.m.

But for some people, even having to move a vehicle around the block is a stretch, Kapp said.

“You got to understand, these people are homeless. A lot of them don’t have money for gas.”

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