Oversize vehicles may see new restrictions in beach, bay communities
by Dave Schwab
Published - 12/19/12 - 02:44 PM | 3330 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Now that a city committee has recommended adoption of a tougher ordinance to the City Council, the proliferation of oversize vehicles in parking lots and on residential streets may be greatly curtailed. 
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After years of debate and delays, San Diego City Council’s Land Use and Housing (LU&H) Committee unanimously endorsed a proposed two-year pilot program along city beaches toughening enforcement of existing regulations banning oversize vehicles from parking longer than 72 hours on public streets.

The committee’s recommendation on the Neighborhood Parking Protection Ordinance, proposed by District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, will be forwarded to the City Council for final approval.

“The proliferation of illegally parked oversize vehicles on city streets is a public safety, quality of life and environmental issue that has acute impact on San Diego’s visitor-serving beach and bay communities,” said Faulconer. “Constituents report vehicles parked illegally in front of homes and businesses for weeks — or even months — at a time, taking up valuable parking spaces, blocking view corridors and limiting access to driveways and alleys. This is an appropriate time to revisit an ordinance that provides more effective tools for the city to address illegally parked oversize vehicles.”

The proposed ordinance requires drivers of RVs and large trucks, as well as vehicles towing boats, to obtain permits available online to park overnight in beach and bay neighborhoods.

The proposed program implementing the new oversize-vehicle ordinance mandates four parking enforcement officers to watch for vehicles at least 22 feet long or 7 feet high. The ordinance would allow officers to issue citations immediately, without directly confronting vehicle occupants, if vehicle-parking permits are not visible.

Councilmen Todd Gloria and David Alvarez, representing districts 8 and 3, respectively, expressed concern the pilot program would only affect beach areas, noting the problem exists inland as well. Both, however, sided with the committee majority in favoring the ordinance after being told by Matt Awbrey, Faulconer’s deputy chief of staff, that San Diego police favored restricting the pilot program to beaches only initially due to significant additional costs involved with providing signage, enforcement personnel and public outreach to expand it citywide.

“The Neighborhood Parking Protection Ordinance is meant to be cost-recoverable,” said Awbrey, adding it could be expanded citywide later if the two-year trial period is successful.

LU&H Committee chairwoman and District 5 Councilwoman Lorie Zapf attached an additional condition to the new proposed ordinance calling for it to include boats and trailers.

“Clearly, a lot of the problem is boats and trailers — they’re just a hazard,” said Zapf. “A lot of our public right-of-way is being used and abused, almost to the point of there being free storage on our public streets.”

A number of beachfront residents, most from Pacific and Mission beaches, testified at the Nov. 28 LU&H hearing about safety, environmental and crime hazards — as well as obstruction of public views — posed by illegally parked oversize vehicles in their neighborhoods.

“Thomas Edison once said, ‘There’s a better way to do everything — find it,’ ” said Pacific Beach resident Louis F. Cumming, who petitioned the LU&H committee to support the new ordinance. “This could be the theme of today’s meeting.”

Cumming testified the ordinance, as proposed, doesn’t go far enough in defining — and restricting — oversize vehicles.

“This ordinance should include all non-motorized vehicles including trailers, campers, boats, dune buggies, ATVs and jet skis,” he said.

La Jolla community planner Joe LaCava endorsed Faulconer’s proposal.

“The key is that it’s really a problem in the beach areas,” LaCava said. “Let’s test it there, and not get caught up in a citywide proposal. Let’s get this buttoned down, see how it works, then go from there.”

Mark Underhill, a software business owner, longtime Mission Beach resident and RV owner, testified against certain provisions of the proposed oversize-vehicle ordinance. His family, he said, goes on frequent trips out of town, and the proposal could pose problems for RV owners who travel like him. The 72-hour time limit on permits, he argued, could unreasonably limit the number of trips responsible RV users like himself could take.

“If I’m gone for five days I would have to apply for two permits, which is limiting because I’m only allowed 24 a year,” Underhill said.

District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner expressed concern that sufficient notice hadn’t been issued prior to the LU&H Committee hearing to RV owners and related groups given that the hearing closely followed the Thanksgiving holiday when many RV residents might travel.

The issue of an ordinance restricting oversize vehicles on city streets has been discussed since December 2004 when it was first heard at LU&H. In 2008, a pilot program and citywide ordinance were brought before the City Council for consideration, but the item was tabled and never voted on due to city budgetary constraints.

The cities of Encinitas, Del Mar, Coronado, El Cajon and the Unified Port of San Diego all have existing ordinances in place regulating parking of oversize vehicles.

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