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RV Dwellers Sue City

Claim Police are Overstepping Parking Ban Enforcement


Homes on Wheels, an organization representing RV dwellers who would otherwise be homeless, has sued the City of Santa Barbara, charging that enforcement of the RV parking ban in certain parts of the city has expanded well past legal limits. Homes on Wheels objects that City Hall does not respect the blue handicapped placards issued to RV owners who park in “No RV Parking Zones.”

One of the plaintiffs in the case is an artist who regularly sells his wares at the Sunday beach art show on Cabrillo Boulevard. Because he drives an RV, he’s ticketed if he parks near the show. Two miles of Cabrillo Boulevard have been declared off-limits to RV campers. Peter Marin, another plaintiff, objected that the basis by which police and traffic engineers designate an area a “No RV zone” is arbitrary and capricious. The city’s ordinance allows for such a designation if a determination is made that there’s “an excessive” number of RVs congregating. City police, Marin charged, have frequently deemed even the presence of one RV “excessive.”

Marin said the city has declared so many areas off-limits to RVs — enough to fill eight and a half single-spaced, type-written pages — that handicapped RV drivers have been effectively barred from access to parks, churches, and hospitals. And he charged the law has been so broadly interpreted that even construction sites, dance studios, and acupuncture clinics have been declared RV-free zones. Marin, a longtime homeless-rights advocate, contends that many RV owners become homeless when they can’t afford the tickets issued, their registrations lapse and their RVs are seized.

City Attorney Ariel Calonne said state law gives bearers of handicapped placards the right to park longer than the local ordinances allow. But it does not give them the right, he added, to park where no parking is allowed. He explained that the city council’s Ordinance Committee has redefined “excessive” to mean two or more RVs. He said Homes for Wheels filed an identical suit three years ago and that it was thrown out of court.

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