Faced by an overflow crowd of angry residents recently, the City Council in Petaluma, California retreated from a proposed ban on parking motorhomes and boats on residential streets, according to The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif.
Instead, a split council asked the police chief and city manager to crack down on the owners of RVs who leave them on the street for more than 72 hours.
Several council members previously favored a ban, responding to complaints from residents who said neighborhoods are blighted by motorhomes and boats parked on the street for weeks or months at a time.
But the reversal led Councilman Mike Healy to say his colleagues were politically “diving for cover.”
About 100 people turned out for the recent meeting, the first time any serious opposition had surfaced to the ban at a public meeting.
Only a handful of the 30 who spoke supported the ban.
The proposal, styled after laws in cities such as Del Mar, would have banned motorhomes and nonmotorized vehicles from parking on public streets in residential neighborhoods.
Residents still would have been able to park them in their own driveways. They also could get permits for about six times a year to park outside their homes to prepare for or unload from trips.
The city now has a 72-hour limit for any vehicles parked on public streets. Healy said it is common for some residents to get around the time limit by moving their vehicles within their neighborhoods.
Motorhome owners, mostly polite but fervent, complained about the inconvenience of getting permits to park in front of their houses. They also complained about the cost – at least $600 a year – to store their RVs or boats. They said storage yards wouldn’t have enough space to meet the demand if the city instituted the ban.
Cliff Elrich, who owns a 27-foot-long fifth-wheel and a 21-foot-long boat that he puts in storage, said he wanted to be able to come to his house to load and unload before and after trips.
“I do not park over 72 hours,” he said. “You’re taking away a freedom I have as a taxpayer: This is my chief complaint.”
Spiros Karidis, who owns a trailer, also opposed the ban. “You’ve got that 72-hour law enforce it,” he said. “That would take care of your problems.”
Tim Christensen said the law would pit neighbor against neighbor by inviting people to turn in other residents.
But Healy said the big vehicles are a public safety issue when people can’t see playing children or motorists leaving their driveways.
Gerald Moore supported the ban, saying motorhomes block the view of his street. He said his wife has to signal when it’s safe to back out of the driveway.
Healy asked his colleagues for a partial ban, requiring the towing of those vehicles – regardless of whether they’d been moved – after 72 hours on any residential street.
Mayor David Glass and council members Pam Torliatt, Bryant Moynihan and Mike Harris asked Police Chief Tom Simms and City Manager Mike Bierman to return with a proposal for cracking down on violators. “I don’t think there’s a consensus at this point,” Glass said.
Healy and council members Keith Canevaro and Mike O’Brien agreed an outright ban may be too restrictive on those who need to prepare for and unload from their trips. But they were the only ones who appeared willing to endorse a more-restrictive partial ban.
Similar efforts in recent years to ban motorhomes in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park also failed in the face of angry residents.