PACIFICA (BCN) – On behalf of five Pacifica residents who live in RVs, three civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against the city of Pacifica for its rules that prohibit RV parking on certain streets.
The residents are represented by the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, Disability Rights Advocates and The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, who filed the suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on Mar. 15.
In an announcement published on the Disability Rights Advocates website, the groups argue that "the citywide RV parking ban is a blatant attempt by Pacifica to banish those who rely on RVs for housing and mobility."
The groups claim that such a law violates the U.S. and California constitutions and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Shirley Gibson, directing attorney of The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County said in a statement that as the housing crisis worsens, people are searching for alternative ways to keep a roof over their head.
"RVs provide shelter and safety for those who could not otherwise afford it. Pacifica's ban is a cruel, unconstitutional, and discriminatory attempt to shift their housing responsibilities onto other cities," Gibson said.
A Pacifica ordinance, which became effective in 2020, makes it illegal to park an RV or other oversized vehicle on narrow streets - less than 40 feet wide - or on streets where the RV would be unsafe for traffic.
The city's website says that streets where oversized vehicles cannot park have sign restrictions but not every prohibited street has signage. The lawsuit alleges that the city's signage is inconsistent, making it difficult for RV residents to know where they can park.
People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the law as they experience higher rates of homelessness.
"The RV ban has prevented me from moving forward in my life," Sean Geary, a Pacifica resident with bipolar disorder, said in a statement. Geary is one of the five plaintiffs in the case.
"I am afraid to leave my RV and my dog to take a bus to go to the doctor because I'm afraid of getting towed," Geary said. "I don't feel like I can leave my RV for any length of time, and it's preventing me from getting services I really need."
Jared Carr, a 44-year-old Pacifica resident and another plaintiff in the case, said he cannot park his RV in the city without getting ticketed. Carr has been ticketed at least 27 times under the ordinance.
"I currently do not have money for a security deposit for an apartment. If my RV got towed, I would not have the money to pay the tow and storage charges. I would likely be forced into a tent or a sleeping bag on the street," Carr said.
City Manager Kevin Woodhouse said in an email that the city's ordinance does not ban RV parking and is focused on safety.
"The simple truth is that most streets in Pacifica are too narrow to allow parking of oversized vehicles without creating safety hazards for pedestrians, bicycle riders, and vehicles," Woodhouse wrote.
He said the city is reviewing the complaint and maintains that it is "acting within its lawful authority in adopting and enforcing any of its laws."
The city's website provides a list of streets where oversized vehicle parking is not allowed. RV owners may also apply for a temporary parking permit which allows RVs to be parked on prohibited streets for unloading, loading or cleaning.
Pacifica isn't the only city that has laws around RV parking.
The suit calls for the city to exempt individuals with disabilities from enforcement and/or create a "safe parking" program for RV residents.
"We hope this lawsuit pushes local and state lawmakers to work with RV residents to find safe solutions that respect everyone's dignity," Grayce Zelphin, staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, said.
Read more about the lawsuit at https://dralegal.org/press/civil-rights-organizations-sue-pacifica-over-rv-parking-ban/.
Information on Oversized Vehicle Parking in Pacifica is available at https://www.cityofpacifica.org/depts/police/vehicles/oversized_vehicles_parking.asp.
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