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Say No to the Nighttime RV Ban at the Coastal Commission Hearing

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Event Type:
Robert Norse
Location Details:
Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley
6001 La Madrona Dr.

Staff advises that the item (#16e on the Agenda) may not be heard until 10 AM or later, but suggests people come at 9 AM "to be sure". They also warn that meetings may take until mid-afternoon or even evening. However 10-11 AM was the estimated (extremely approximate) time.

To call during the meeting only for input to the Coastal Commission:
(415) 407-3211.

The full agenda packet for my appeal can be found at under Central Coast District, item 16e.

Only those who spoke or wrote to City Council around the anti-RV ordinance previously will be allowed to speak unless the Commission decides that a "substantial issue" is involved.


HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) opposes the proposed ban on RV parking city-wide during the nighttime hours of midnight to 5 AM. We believe it violates the City LDC as well as being part of a broader unstated anti-homeless policy of eliminating visible poverty from public areas without respecting the rights of the entire community to have access to those areas.

It limits public access unnecessarily to the Coastal Zone.

It discriminates against poor people (and indeed anyone) who live in or drive RV's by denying them coastal access.

It puts a particular burden on those whose only affordable housing is a vehicle by making it illegal to park them at night.

It discriminates against those who DO NOT own or rent property in Santa Cruz by denying them a permit process.

It was done with no determination of its impact on those living in their vehicles in the City and threatens their health and safety.

It is especially cruel and abusive considering the acknowledged shelter crisis.

The Zoning Administrator’s claim in his June 1st report (p.3) that parking/camping areas are available nearby ignores the inaccessibility of these areas to extremely low-income folks, just the kind of people who habitate RV’s and need legal places to park during the banned hours.

The citing of 4 incidents of illegal discharge within 2 years does not justify the wholesale exclusion of all RV vehicles. The vague claims of “criminal and illegal activities” is without specific documentation.

The 400 notices of illegal RV parking in a year is not understood in context with the broader number of illegal parking for vehicles generally. Nor is it clear what the nature and significance of these notices are except to cast a shadow of suspicion on those who live in RV’s.

Finding 3 on p. 6 of the Zoning Administrator’s report is similarly vague, containing no record of citations, arrests, or convictions for the “littering, bicycle theft, private water pirating, gasoline theft, wastewater leaking, and drug activity”.

Contrary to finding 4 (p. 7), the parking restricts specifically limit RV access to the beach for poor people in RV’s. “Bona fide recreational access to the beach”—if you consider that applies to everyone, not just to those with money is clearly affected and restricted. Contrary to finding
#12 (p. 8) the project sacrifices free access to or along the beach and removes entirely free and accessible parking for RV’s.

Nor has any study been done regarding the impact of this ordinance on those whose only housing is a vehicle in a city with shelter for less than 5% of its homeless community.

It does include NOT a provision for Safe Parking spaces at night, such as Santa Barbara provides, that might provide a refuge or safety valve for those banned at night.

It prejudices the right to travel, by eliminating the right to park an RV in Santa Cruz for those visiting.

It was passed without meaningful police documentation of the alleged problems justifying the unusual exclusionary policy.

It is being done without a procedure for consulting the neighborhoods involved as is the accepted practice for requiring permits to park in other cities (as well as in Santa Cruz for vehicles generally).

The oversized vehicle restriping law passed last year provides overly broad authority to the traffic engineer to expand the zone in which parking spaces for larger vehicles can be completely eliminated without recourse to public comment or public vote. This particularly impacts homeless folks who live in such vehicles, and specifically in Coastal zones where it can be expanded by traffic engineer action.

The LCP acknowledges (p. 9) that a basic goal of the Coastal Act is to “maximize access to the coast for people of all income ranges…” (my emphasis). Similar item #10 on p. 11 on ‘distributing public and private recreational opportunities, visitor accommodations and support facilities in a manner which ensures public access, [and] equality of coastal recreation…”

We feel this law should be sent back to the appropriate Commission or City Council committee for more public input with the individuals seriously affected (poor people who live in their vans, homeless service providers, tourists who visit the city) and to more closely consider its consistency with the City’s LCP.

We feel specific documentation on the abuses real and alleged that supposedly motivate this law rather than the anecdotal stories presented are necessary to fairly and full consider the issue. We suggest specific remedies other than total ban are appropriate. The current law is an overly broad approach that hurts poor and homeless people particularly. And shames our community generally.


10.40.120 No person shall stop, stand or leave standing any oversized vehicle on any public
highway, street or city parking lot between the hours of 12:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. unless otherwise
authorized under Municipal Code Chapter 10.40.120.

“Oversized vehicle” shall mean any motorized vehicle as defined of Section 670 of the Vehicle Code or combination of motorized vehicles and/or non-motorized vehicles or trailers that meets or exceeds twenty-two feet in length at any time or a combination of the two following criteria, exclusive of fixtures, accessories or property: seven feet in height and seven feet in width.
(a) To determine the height, width or length of the vehicles defined in this section, any extension to the vehicle caused by mirrors, air conditioners, or similar attachments as allowed by Section 35109, 35110 or 35111 of the Vehicle Code as may be amended shall not be included.
(b) Oversized vehicle does not include pickup trucks, vans, or sport utility vehicles, which are less than twenty-five feet in length and eight feet in height.”

ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS: City Council Staff was directed "to proceed with the Coastal Development Permit process with a no parking rule from 12:00 a.m. – 5 a.m.; and report back 3 months after the ordinance goes into effect with some options for additional measures in the ordinance that could possibly expand the hours, as well as a permitting option for RV parking."

"New appeals undergo a two-step process before the Commission, known as the 'substantial issue' phase and the 'de novo' phase. At the 'substantial issue' phase, section 30625(b) of the Coastal Act requires the Commission to hear an appeal unless the Commission determines that no substantial issue is raised by the appeal.

If at least three Commissioners request to take public testimony at the substantial issue phase of the appeal prior to determining whether or not to hear an appeal, the only persons qualified to testify orally before the Commission are the applicants, persons who opposed the application before the local government (or their representatives), and the local government. Testimony from other persons must be submitted in writing."

The appeal, in my view, is unlikely to get past the "substantial issue" phase, since Coastal staff, huddling with the City staff, has already found "no substantial issue" and its recommendation to defeat the appeal is being forwarded to the Commission. I am told the Commission rarely goes against the recommendations of its staff.

However, there seemed to be some confusion among the staff. One staffer was unaware that the law allows nighttime parking permits only to those who rent or own and not to unhoused people, van dwellers, and tourists unless local housed residents made application. Another knew about the exclusion of homeless from permits and apparently didn't think its exclusion of those folks was significant.

To support those who are impacted by the "RV's Begone!" law, those fighting gentrification and thinly disguised anti-homeless laws generally. This battle is likely lost (though you never can tell), but the struggle will continue. It may be a chance to meet and exchange contact information with folks living in RV's or supporting those who do.

The fact remains that in Santa Cruz, affordable housing for the poor is often a vehicle. Banning nighttime RV parking is the yet another step in the continuing criminalizing process. For those who were (foolishly) hoping for real alternatives in the Presidential election, there are real struggles to be fought locally on a day-to-day basis that matter. Getting together with others may make that more likely.

Commission Phone Number before the hearing: 831-427-4863
Commission Phone Number during the hearing: 415-407-3211
Added to the calendar on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 9:26PM
§Text of Norse Appeal Letter to the Coastal Commission
by Robert Norse
I presented a similar letter to the Mathews City Council. Without any meaningful response.
§Letter of Support from Southern California Activist
by Robert Norse
Peggy Lee Kennedy and attorney Carol Sobel have successfully expanded protections for the unhoused with the Jones decision and settlement formally overturning the L.A. nighttime sleeping and sitting ban and the Desertrain decision protecting people in vehicles.

Comments (Hide Comments)
by Santa Cruzan
The staff recommendation is to deny the appeal and, thus, approve the ordinance. The staff report noted the parking restrictions are in line with other parking restrictions in place in the city as well as the beach curfew hours. The local office of the Commission made it clear in a letter attached to the report that it also supports the ordinance.
by Robert Norse
Santa Cruzan is correct. The law and the existing legal institutions can be useful in creating more power for the privilege and disenfranchising and dislodging the poor. It's convenient cover and provides a veneer of propriety. If politicians and "experts" rubberstamp repression, what's the problem?

Remember: No homeless service providers or homeless van dwellers nor the impact of destroying more accessible (RV) alternate housing was considered. Instead the anti-RV laws were the product, of Councilwoman Rochelle Niroyan's catering to a small mob of NIMBY bigots. Their only concern seemed to be their property values, their personal paranoia, and their exalted sense of privilege.

It is of a piece with the Mathews' City Council's crackdown on (poor) vendors and performers downtown caging them in increasingly smaller blue boxes.

It follows the Council's refusal to recognize the most elementary rights and needs of those outside--to sleep at night--when it crushed a very limited reform to end the Sleeping Ban sections of the Camping ordinance in March.

It comes on the heels of the cutoff of services public and private to those outside as part of a phony "crime" scare (with crime defined as obvious homeless survival behavior such as sleeping, being in a park after dark, etc.). The absurdly named "Public Safety Task Force" provided cover to drive needle exchange from the City, initiate phony "rehabilitation' programs simply designed to scoop up "undesirables" from the downtown, and increase co-ordinated penalties against the poor for class "crimes".

The Homeless (Lack of) Services Center [HLOSC] has shut down its meals after fencing in their "campus", setting up guard stations, demanding ID, and harassing folks on the public sidewalk with a "no impact" zone. HLOSC remained silent as right-wing vigiantes and their allies and opportunistic followers on City Council move to "purify" the town for wealthier yuppie arrivals.

MHCAN (Mental Health Clients Action Network) is under attack from police combined with camera-wielding businesses and neighbors eager to shut down one of the most successful "mental health" restoration services in town. Its numbers have been reduced to a fraction (1/4th) of their previous size, reportedly to facilitate a nearby speculator/developer who wants to take over the property.

Private churches have increased restrictions and/or ended services bowing to the darkening "blame the poor" mythology. Calvary Episcopal--the red church downtown--has stepped up restrictions with its "keep off the lawn", "get a ticket to get a meal", and "don't take your food outside" policies. On the Westside the Circle Church has shut down its 'Sunrise Cafe; and driven out its liberal pastor Steve DeFields Gambrel.

Mayor Mathew's explicitly anti-homeless nighttime parking bans have spread all over the City since she introduced them back in 2003. Her shameful attack on Father Joel Miller of Calvary Episcopal ("Cynthia Mathews--Scrooge for the Season" at alone should make her unfit for reelection this November.

"Park" rangers now roam Pacific Avenue with ticket books and stay-away order power to give more muscle to replace the discredited "Hospitality" yellow-jackets.

The attack on RV's must be understood as part of a broader class war in Santa Cruz which impacts not only those outside but workers, renters, students, and the general population with the homeless as the traditional scapegoat.

The rising up of Black Lives Matter in other cities is heartening. Of course it isn't happening here where the NAACP, Project Pollinate, the ACLU, the RCNV take no action to deal with blatant class and racial discrimination by local police authorities. BLM should set an example for all of us here--to abandon occasional symbolic demonstrations and liberal protestations--to take the stronger principled actions that need to be done to stop bigotry-as-usual.

We should remember that Hitler ushered in fascism in Germany legally step by step. It was the voters and politicians and the existing political system that put him in power. Not only can it happen here, but it is happening here. Our silence will not stop the wave of wealth and privilege that will sweep renters, students, workers, the elderly, and the disabled out of town.
by Santa Cruzan
The Commission hearing was interesting and it looks like the ordinance's application in the coastal zone may be heading back for a de novo hearing.

Evidently at least 35 California coastal cities have passed RV parking rules, including outright 24/7 bans city wide. The vast majority have imposed the rules without obtaining a coastal development permit.

The City of Santa Cruz's position is that a permit isn't actually required. However local Coastal Commission staff said one was. The basis for staff's position is a 1993 memo written by then Executive Director Peter Douglas. Other than this old memo, there are no guidelines for such situations (and most everything else the Commission does).

From the comments, some of the commissioners want guidelines developed so that they're not have to make decisions on a case by case basis. The tenor of comments on this and another appeal seemed to be that much of the commission workload should actually be handled by staff implementing guidelines the commission had put in place.
by Santa Cruzan
After sleeping on it, here are some additional thoughts on yesterday's hearing.

The Coastal Commission has gone through some recent changes-new commissioners who fired their Executive Director. That decision set off a fire storm of controversy that still burns.

Again and again yesterday, commissioners came back to a question of staff, "where are the guidelines" for doing whatever? The answer was there aren't any. Even their chief counsel agreed. Every decision the commission or staff makes is based upon someone's interpretation of the Coastal Act.

This appeared bothersome to commissioners. Over the decades, the Coastal Commission has faced accusations of being arbitrary and flying by the seat of its pants. The development community hasn't been happy, particularly with the commission's view of what constitutes coastal development requiring a permit.

This brings us to parking ordinances in the coastal zone. The cities generally view these as exempt from the Coastal Act. City councils pass them and they're enforced. There's the 1993 memo that in 99% of cases hasn't been enforced. This definitely opens the door to the City of Santa Cruz suing the commission if a de novo hearing goes against it.

I detected a nervousness among the commissioners about how the body has historically done business. How this will be resolved is unclear right now.
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