Friday, August 12, 2005 | When a draft of an oversized vehicles ordinance was presented to the city’s Land Use and Housing Committee in April, the document was met with jeers, cat calls, whistles and boos from the hundreds of members of the public packing the room.
The upshot of that meeting, once the committee had listened to hours of individual testimony from everyone from RV owner organizations to community planning groups, was simple: the committee told city employees to go away and try again.
So that’s what Julio Fuentes, a senior traffic engineer who has been spearheading the project since it was introduced by Councilmen Scott Peters and Michael Zucchet in 2004, and his team did.
They worked with RV owner groups, boat owners, representatives of the RV industry and community groups to bang out a compromise.
The fruit of that labor emerged this week in the form of a Draft Oversized, Non-Motorized and Recreational Vehicles Proposed Parking Ordinance. (Read the draft ordinance.)
Whether the draft document, which could be refined before the next committee meeting Sept. 14, represents a workable compromise depends on who you ask.
Representatives of RV owners, the RV industry and boat owners who were involved with the focus group appear united in their opinion that it’s not much better than the first attempt. They say the law was superfluous to begin with.
“All of us, to a person, say we don’t need new laws, we need enforcement of the current laws,” said Larry Purcell, a boat owner who participated in the focus group. “The new ordinance is a knee-jerk reaction to a few vocal constituents in the beach area. I don’t see how anyone who owns an RV can support it.”
Purcell’s comments were echoed by representatives of RV groups, RV owners and a lobbyist for the RV industry, who were also involved in the focus group.
Fuentes said the group was made up of interested parties from all sides of the debate. It has met six times in the last three months. The main sticking points, he said, were defining what constitutes an oversized vehicle; whether any overnight parking at all should be permitted; and how the city might oversee and implement a permit system that would allow RV owners to store their vehicles on the street in front of their house for limited time periods.
Although the draft proposed ordinance is undoubtedly less strict than the original legislation – which one RV owner labeled “Draconian” – it retains certain elements that are of serious concern to RV and boat owners.
Chief among these is the city’s proposal to introduce a system of permits.
RV owners would be required to apply to the city for an overnight parking permit for their vehicle as they loaded it for a trip or as they unloaded it and cleaned it after a trip.
Concerns centered on how such a system would be managed and implemented, and how much such permits would cost, something that has not yet been worked out.
“The bottom line is they’re creating a complicated mousetrap with a permit system and a fee that’s not defined,” said Mitch Berner, a lobbyist in the focus group who represents the RV industry. “I believe it’s a mistake to even bring this ordinance back before the committee in September.”
The focus group members did not fault the work of the city, however. They said Fuentes and his team have been working tooth and nail to carve out an agreement that fits all sides.
They said that what the Land Use and Housing Committee asked for was a dialogue between the city and interested parties, not necessarily rock-solid decisions.
Outside this dialogue remain dozens, if not hundreds, of RV dwellers who claim that the ordinance is a thinly-veiled attack on their way of life. Although touted as a safety ordinance, aimed at taking dangerous vision-obstructing vehicles off the city’s streets, they say the real aim is to push them out of town by making it impossible to live in an RV within the city limits.
Steve Hansen, who has been living in his RV with his wife and two children for the last two years, said that the mere fact that the issue has resurfaced is enough to make him nervous. Asked what would become of his home if such an ordinance were ever passed, he spat in disgust.
“What I would probably do, is I would end up leaving it right down in front of City Hall and just leaving town,” he said. “What else can we do, you know?”
The issue comes before the Land Use and Housing Committee at 2 p.m. Sept. 14 in the City Council Committee Room on the 12th floor of the City Administration Building at 202 C St.
Please contact Will Carless directly at
“Trailer Trash or Tidy Travelers? Life on the road with San Diego’s legion of RV dwellers.”