Many local governments are passing laws restricting the rights of RV owners to park their rigs at curbside, but a constitutional challenge to RV parking limitations recently arose from an unexpected source, advocates for the homeless, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Homeless advocates sued the city of Santa Barbara, Calif., on Thursday, (March 20) alleging that a new law restricting the parking of RVs on city streets is unconstitutional.
Hours after filing the suit in Santa Barbara Superior Court, more than two dozen full-time RVers and their attorneys gathered in front of City Hall to denounce the law.
In this instance, the full-time RVers opposed to the parking restrictions are not affluent retirees, but the working poor for whom an RV is the only type of housing they can afford.
“The law will effectively drive out the city’s poorest of (the) poor,” said Peter Marin, a social activist and chairman of the Committee for Social Justice, according to The Times. “In effect, it amounts to a war of rich against poor.”
The Santa Barbara ordinance prohibits RVs from being parked on city streets for more than two hours, except between 2 and 6 a.m., when RV parking is totally banned.
Advocates say more than 50 parking citations, each carrying a $23 fine, have been issued since the law took effect last Wednesday (March 19).
Filed on behalf of Homes on Wheels, a local advocacy group, and three individual plaintiffs, the suit challenges the constitutionality of the law and questions the legality of an ordinance that is not posted and bans only certain types of vehicles.
The city has 30 days to respond, but City Attorney Daniel Wallace said he believes the lawsuit lacks merit. “We feel the city has the authority to enforce the ordinance,” he said. “It’s not unconstitutional. We essentially disagree about the legal merits of the case.”
Attorney Glen Mowrer, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a handful of “RV residents,” said the law targets the poor.
“About 400 families live in RVs in the Santa Barbara area – they have no place to go,” he said. “This law applies throughout the city, but it will probably only affect people who live in their vehicles.”
One of those who believes the law is unjust is Nancy McCradie, who holds two jobs and heads the Homeless on Wheels project. She has lived in an RV since leaving an abusive husband more than 20 years ago. “I live a very, very good life,” she said. “It’s better than living in an apartment with a ton of cockroaches.“
Meanwhile, Linda Hernandez, a mother on disability, said she cannot afford to rent an apartment but does not want to leave Santa Barbara and take her children out of school. Hernandez said she received her first ticket in five years Thursday morning.
“We have a home – it’s on wheels – but it’s a home,” she said. “I’m trying to keep my family stable. … We’re trying to make a home here. I’m not running.”