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Discrimination Against Vans for Height Is Still Discrimination

Renaming an Ordinance Does Not Make It Any More Lawful


The City of Santa Barbara is in the final period of review prior to beginning enforcement of its revised RV Ordinance. The city has a long and well-documented history with its attempts to ban parking of RV users on its streets. Like many other communities, the homeless population has been surging, and RVs offer better refuge than a shelter for many. The city has and is fighting lawsuits.

The city has chosen to re-title its RV Ordinance to deal with complaints about the RV users in specific neighborhoods. By naming the revised ordinance “Oversize Vehicle Ordinance,” the city believes it has a bulletproof law that pads around the RV alone by incorporating narrower van-type vehicles, which can include Volkswagens, some pickups, every van manufactured today, and a host of others, as well as large trucks.

On its face it would appear the law was written cleanly and never involves class discussion or use of a vehicle, it is strictly about size and safety. Discussing safety, the city provides “facts,” and I contend “alternate facts.” The city describes a safety issue and many times in council meetings, or news articles, including photographs, pictures of RVs are shown, specifically photographs of wide RVs while discussing why any van is a safety issue.

A van is no wider than a car or SUV. It conforms to most striped parking spaces and conforms to small streets, as that was its design criteria. The city, in my opinion, is conflating, in this way, the van with a wide RV in its presentations.

Clearly a wide RV or truck will stick out into the travel lane on most streets and is the safety issue. A van by comparison is the same width as a car, and conforms to lengths usually less than a standard pickup. A van does not extend out into the travel lane and thus is not a safety issue.

The city argues height is a safety issue. I don’t agree. The city has the ability to stripe corners as it currently does so large vehicles do not obstruct vision, but then allows large trucks to “stand” or park with a permit. There is no safety concern in that regard.

A mitigation measure could involve requiring that one park a set distance from corners in neighborhoods that are problematic, though not city-wide as this is not a city-wide issue.

Also it is clear the city has raised the height of many signs around the city. Why? For the trucks and Land Shark and Trolleys? These vehicles tower over everything else, but a standard van is now the target of this ban.

As we all are aware, Santa Barbara exists on the ocean and adjacent to a National Forest. We have a diverse population. The rights of our population are seemingly at a crossroads where our access to the ocean and the mountains for recreation is being restricted. Restricted due to vehicle choice and how one might get a paddleboard to the beach, or a group of kids on mountain bikes to the mountains for the day. By the city’s guidelines, everyone must use a car or a pickup. Other vehicles are discriminated against.

While the city has offered to possibly issue permits to the homeless to continue to park RVs on the streets, workers in trucks and even visitors in RVs, a homeowner, a tourist, a family or anyone else who owns and uses a van will be outlawed to park in the City of Santa Barbara and left unable to use their vehicle as intended.

Many vans may be commercial and for business during the week, but for family on the weekend. The city would like to ban a family who has come to our city in a van to surf, cycle or maybe race in the Tour of California or surf in the Rincon Classic or participate in many of the great events based here. The city ignores the facts that many chose a van because their recreational gear can be securely and safely stored inside while travelling. When parked a van does not expose its contents to theft or visually be an eyesore as a truck may appear when loaded with items. It’s a matter of choice within reason, but not one of safety except the safety of the owners’ contents. Everyone is against theft, and a van makes sense for American drivers.

The law regards “intent” being 90 percent of the law. We have witnessed two of Donald Trump’s travel bans be halted due to “intent.” It’s been documented and shown as a “Muslim Ban” by the courts. I contend the city of Santa Barbara also has an “intent” issue. The intent is and has been well documented in print in the media and in photographs — 99 percent of these show wide RVs and discuss programs to help the homeless. It is the same RV Ordinance cloaked in a new title.

I contend the city has thus created an ordinance that is neither based on safety but based on a rational that if they never mention the words RV or homeless and cloak it as “safety” it’s solid. One cannot conflate and project guilt on others who have no safety issues and ignore the fact of their “intent.”

I believe the city should reconsider what it has created and understand it cannot negate its thoroughly documented attempts to ban RVs. It’s “intent” is proven. I contend the city should remove its height restriction since width and length are the safety issues that are commonly addressed in parking lots around the country, other cities, and in Santa Barbara. Our waterfront lots restrict length and where RVs can park. By using simply length and width criteria, the city can avoid the real safety issue of wide RVs and trucks that block streets. It’s that simple.

I have not touched use, owner status, cost of vehicle, or class. The city though has made contentions comparing of $75k Sprinters to broken-down RVs. Well, this is misinformation and flat wrong. A Sprinter costs $35k or $42k for a passenger van. Same as any Ford F150 or SUV. While some like to call out MB Sprinter, it is also the case with the Dodge Promaster, Nissan, Ford Transit, VW Vanagon, and many others. Discriminating against them does a disservice to any business in the City of Santa Barbara that believes it will cause a loss of a number of customers.

I tell people to not visit, as soon they will be targeted and ticketed for coming here. In this regard Santa Barbara is doing a disservice to our community.

I have lived here for 17 years and always owned a van. I don’t have the safety issues where I live and neither do most within city limits. If there is a neighborhood so impacted, spot that neighborhood and stripe the corners. Clearly this new approach to the RV ban does nothing to change its “intent”. The law is clear. Discrimination against the van in Santa Barbara is simply a way to cast a wider net and attempt to cloak/hide from its real desire. I hope the city will reconsider what it has created and do so in an ethical and fair fashion for all of Santa Barbara.



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