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Families living in RVs protest planned parking enforcement near Lake Merced

Families living in RVs near Lake Merced rally together as they face eviction
Families living in RVs near Lake Merced rally together as they face eviction 02:15

SAN FRANCISCO — About two dozen people who live in RVs along Winston Drive near Lake Merced are facing an eviction.

Most residents are families who relocated to mobile homes along the quiet street after losing jobs and housing during the COVID pandemic. The residents have become a small, informal community.

One of those residents, Jonathan, has lived on the street in his RV with his cat since 2019.

"We did this just to get ahead, to bite the bullet," he said. "Living like this allows us like take care of tires, insurance, dental appointments, back to school for kids, gas, because not only rent is expensive, but everything is expensive."

In April, the city placed four-hour parking signs along the street but has halted on enforcement until a pavement project slated for July is complete.

But the group joined forces Tuesday to make their pleas known that they don't have another safe place to go.

"I think there are people that — Yeah, we just rub them the wrong way. Like we're just human beings. We've all got children. I think people need to have a little more passion a little more empathy," said Jonathan.

Roughly 20 demonstrators temporarily blocked the road leading into Stonestown Galleria demanding the city halt enforcement of parking restrictions once more or find the group another safe place to park and live.

Among those hopeful for a resolution are 11-year-old Hazel and her family.

"We want to protest for our home, our safety and be safe. That's all I think about," she explained.

Her family moved into an RV together at the start of the pandemic. She said she often plays with her toys on the sidewalk with watchful eyes of neighbors over her shoulder.

After a while of living together in the RV, she said her family had to expand slightly to add a truck to fit all of their belongings.

Supervisor Myrna Melgar said she's been aware of the encampment since she took office in 2020.

"While lacking housing, these residents are not high needs with mental or addiction problems," she said in a statement. "Their only "crime" is being poor while living and working in a city extremely lacking in affordable housing options."

Melgar said while they have not posed any criminal problems, living on the street remains hazardous for the group and passing vehicles as the city has never zoned it for residential use.

"Some of these risks to residents of the vehicles include the risk of collision from cars traveling on the road, lack of disposal services for garbage and sewage, and the risks of fire from gas powered generators on the dry grass that grows on the unimproved sidewalk," said Melgar in a statement.

While homelessness has decreased since 2022 across San Francisco, the number of people living in vehicles rose to 1,442 citywide, a 37% increase from the same time.

Melgar said although the city has searched for alternative areas for this group, she is "deeply disappointed" the city has so far failed to do so.

According to SFMTA, enforcement of the four-hour parking zone has been on hold since the signs were posted and residents will receive notice in advance of the impending road work.

"Of course we want to (and will) give everyone as much advance notice of that action as we can," SFMTA said in a statement.

For the residents, they said they are open to relocating, but their top priority is safety.

"We will park over there if it's safe," said Hazel, "Not if it's dangerous or dangerous people. If it's safe, yes."

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