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Coastal Commission Intercedes Over Santa Cruz RV Overnight Parking Ban

SANTA CRUZ — The city of Santa Cruz’s plan to ban overnight on-street parking for large vehicles requires state review, a coastal public oversight committee said Thursday.

Shortly before a permit appeal hearing on the city’s oversized vehicle ordinance this week, California Coastal Commission officials reversed an earlier recommendation not to intervene. Initially, commission staff flagged environmental justice concerns about the law, but eventually wrote that they believed the “impact on public access in question is negligible” in their pre-hearing report. of Thursday.

The ordinance’s language includes a citywide ban on street parking and large vehicle parking lots from midnight to 5 a.m., except with a limited visitor’s permit or during certain emergencies. Members of the local group Santa Cruz Cares filed the appeal, asking the Coastal Commission to step in and assert jurisdictional authority as the ordinance applies to coastal access.

In May, the citizens’ group appealed the new municipal law, which has languished, unenforced, since its approval on November 9, in numerous similar appeal hearings at the city level. In a description of its concerns listed on the Santa Cruz Cares website, the group accuses the city of working to “directly create more homelessness.”

The city, according to a July 8 letter to the commission from Director of Planning and Community Development Lee Butler and Assistant City Attorney Cassie Bronson, aims to reduce the long-term entrenchment of oversized vehicles.

“One of the Council’s objectives in passing the OV (oversize vehicle) amendments is to break the rooting cycle and encourage OV residents to, at a minimum, spend the night in secure parking, where they can access to restrooms and garbage facilities, reducing the amount of OV residents who urinate/defecate/litter on streets, sidewalks, and nearby areas of the city, such as ESHAs (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas)” , indicates the letter of the city.

Significant loss of public access

In a belated agenda addendum, committee staff wrote that they had “received important new information” the previous week, the cause of its cancellation. To wit, staff wrote in a follow-up report, the impacts on shore access were greatly increased by a less-discussed provision of the law that would prohibit the parking of any oversized vehicle – 24 hours a day, 365 days. per year – within 100 feet of any crosswalk, intersection, stop sign, official electric flashing device or approach to any traffic light.

“The city estimates that this restriction would entirely eliminate approximately 54% of oversized vehicle parking areas in the 24/7 coastal area, and that number may actually be higher,” the Central District Manager said. Coast, Dan Carl, late in the commission meeting Thursday.

Chair Donne Brownsey said she supported Coastal Commission monitoring as “the absolutely correct recommendation here”.

“I thought the NSI (no substantial issue) – we were just being asked to make a decision based on absolutely flawed information,” Brownsey said.

The Commissioners unanimously approved the recommendation for a “substantial problem” finding. No member of the committee requested the opportunity to hear a debate on the decision on Thursday.

Support parking programs continue

On social media on Thursday, Santa Cruz Cares members called the commission’s vote a victory.

“We hope that the city council will provide other services without criminalization in the defeat of this ordinance,” the group posted on several social media platforms. “We can still have safe parking sites and sanitation support like mobile gray and black water services, garbage collection and outreach from social workers without a ticket and without towing people into oblivion. »

Then the matter will be placed on an unspecified future agenda as a “de novo hearing” before the Coast Commission. This week’s vote mirrors a similar finding made by the Coast Commission in 2016, when an earlier version of the city’s overnight recreational vehicle parking ban was appealed to the body. Commissioners at the time told the city that if it were to ban RV parking on city streets, officials should create another place for drivers, beyond a half-baked plan to send drivers to a private SafeSpaces program running out of religious organization parking lots.

Santa Cruz officials said the latest ordinance is designed to address public safety, health, nuisance and coastal resource issues associated with people who may use oversized vehicles as a place to sleep, according to the report from the city. commission. In addition to setting restrictions on vehicle parking, the ordinance sets standards for the creation of 55 secure overnight parking spaces in three “tiers” of availability. On levels one and two, three emergency spaces have been reserved and six short-term reserved spaces, respectively, so far. 30 other spaces of level 2 or more are allowed. In the city’s letter to the commission, officials said parking programs have thus far been underutilized and often become vacant overnight.

An additional 22 spaces, available day and night at the National Guard Armory in DeLaveaga Park, will be part of the Level Three Secure Parking Program under contract with the Association of Faith Communities and overseen by non-profit group The Free Guide, which is aiming for an early August launch, according to Free Guide executive director Evan Morrison.

John Smith

The author John Smith