Goleta Church Welcomes RV Residents, But Neighbors Angry

Tuesday, July 9, 2013
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Tensions were high Monday night, July 8, at the City of Goleta’s Planning Commission hearing, where the topic of debate was neighborly love.

Approximately 30 residents approached the podium to voice their opinion on whether or not to let the Cambridge Drive Community Church have a temporary overnight camping permit, also known as a “safe parking permit.” The permit would allow those with prior approval to park their motor vehicle overnight in the church’s parking lot between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., after which time the permit holder must vacate the premise until the following night. At the moment, only one person has applied to be part of the parking program. Only one other church in Goleta, the Community Covenant Church, currently has a similar permit.

Those who spoke in opposition to the program are worried about sanitation issues, the safety of the students at nearby Kellogg Elementary, and the character of the homeless people who would be sharing their street block. Said one resident, “There aren’t at any of these campsites at local parks and beaches, so why put one in a residential neighborhood?”

There were also some residents in favor of the permit, which had reached the Planning Commission after its prior approval by the Zoning Administrator was appealed. The supporters cast the permit as a moral issue, calling the church’s move an act of compassion necessary during unpredictable economical times. “What we are doing here is exactly what a church should be doing,” said Pastor Roy Donkin. Supporters called the program a “safe parking permit” instead of an “overnight camping permit,” and viewed the homeless as victims of society rather than threats to the community.

Amid the highly opinionated two-and-a-half hour debate, New Beginnings — a community outreach center in Santa Barbara that runs the program, which is designed to transition those struggling with homelessness back into housed society — attempted to enlighten concerned residents on how it will be maintained and controlled. New Beginnings insisted that sanitation is of the highest importance; that the vehicle occupying the parking lot must have adequate and sanitary bathroom facilities; that any vehicle with a permit must be licensed and insured; that there will be daily monitoring of the site and its persons; and, lastly, that a thorough background check will be run on any permit holder to ensure the saftey of those in the neighborhood. Residents will potentially know more about the person residing in the Cambridge parking lot than about anyone else in their neighborhood, said a New Beginnings representative.

By night’s end, the four planning commissioners (the fifth commissioner, former city councilmember Jonny Wallis, is recovering from a stroke) split their votes 2-2, which means that the permit is approved. The decision is final and not appealable to the Goleta City Council, although the concerned neighbors could approach the council with plans to amend the city ordinance that allows this program.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Typical anti-camper/homeless attitudes.

Let's break this down: Background check for the right to live somewhere? If you can afford a house, no background check, can't afford of house, background check.

Sanitation facilities? Don't R.V.'s have toilets? Typical Nanny State sneak-in-through-the-back-door way to criminalize those who can't afford the hyperinflated cost of housing.

The bigotry/fear of "those people" (my emphasis) goes on. Disgusting.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2013 at 7:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with Clausen, God forbid any of these decent upstanding neighbors ever experience a medical calamity or the like that sends them on the streets.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2013 at 7:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Streets are not zoned for residential use by either RVs or tents, nor are parking lots. Use a legal RV park if you want to live in an RV. Period.

Property owners are identified in the public record, subject to zoning ordinance regulations and held accountable by the government for proper payment of taxes with severe penalties for default.

RV squatter privileges should never supersede those of a property owner.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2013 at 9:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you C-3PO.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2013 at 10:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Kudos to Planning Commission chairwoman Meg West and Commissioner Bill Shelor for voting to deny the appeal. Julie Solomon and Brent Daniels voted to revoke the permit.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2013 at 10:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am sympathetic to both sides of this issue. On the one hand, we should show compassion to people who, through either bad luck or bad judgment, find themselves living in an RV. On the other hand, parking lots and streets are not the proper location to park RVs. If we want to show these people compassion, we should subsidize their space rent in an RV park. RV parks have sanitation hook-ups, security, fresh potable water, and other amenities that make them appropriate places for RV camping. In fact, the County could permanently rent a few spaces in all the RV parks in the County to hand out to RV dwellers who meet a means test. The parks would be motivated to go along because they would be guaranteed rent on spaces whether or not the spaces where occupied. I am sure that the folks who find themselves living in RVs would rather park their RVs in a place with all the proper infrastructure and amenities to serve them.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 9:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The permit only allows a limited number of RV's to park in the church's parking lot, not out in the street.

RV Park subsidies are an interesting idea, but I suspect most RV Parks in this area are packed to capacity.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Like I keep sayin' the economy is on life support - soon, it won't even take a medical catastrophe to put some posters here out on the street.

When things get REALLY bad, we'll just see hom many people still feel like squawking about "vagrants".

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In addition to the rules listed, one must not use birth control in the privacy of their camper, one must pray to the lord, and gay campers are not allowed.

Riceman (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 10:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The historic schoolhouse there at the church likely has delicate plumbing.

This article also should report on the maximum limit of RVs that could be permitted there and their inhabitants.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 10:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey foofighter, since when is staying somewhere for 1 night 'residing' there?

In fact, a year ago it was completely legal to park your RV in the street for a night, they just started the oversize vehicle permit process in Goleta within the last year or so.

So that was a pretty giant hole there in your argument.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hmmmm . . . who would Jesus evict?

(Not that it really matters. He's dead. Just sayin' . . .)

Draxor (anonymous profile)
July 14, 2013 at 9:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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