On any given day, a brigade of RVs, campers and other large trailers park along the streets surrounding lower Great Highway as their owners sleep inside.
Residents in the Outer Sunset district say the campers are overstaying their welcome by conducting illegal activity and leaving behind trash — and even raw sewage — that permanent residents are forced to deal with.
“Some of them park for six to nine months,” said John Zwolinski, a Sunset resident and co-founder of the La Playa/Great Highway Neighborhood Watch. “They try to permanently live there.”
Zwolinski and other members of the neighborhood watch said they do not want to persecute the poor, but noted that camping overnight in San Francisco is against the law and some of the campers are bringing illegal activity, including drugs, to the neighborhood.
As many as 30 vehicles park overnight along Great Highway, Zwolinski said.
The Police Department has stepped up enforcement in response to neighborhood concerns, according to Sgt. Kevin Mannix, but officers can only do so much.
When a complaint is received, Mannix said, officers respond and attempt to contact the owner of the vehicle by knocking on the door. However, if there is no response, police cannot issue a citation for illegal camping.
“We don’t know if anyone is sleeping there,” he said. “We are at the mercy of them opening the door.”
Instead, officers can issue a warning that the vehicle needs to be moved within 72 hours — and officers do comeback in three days to see that the vehicle is moved, Mannix said.
Though an official number of complaints was not immediately available, Mannix said they have dedicated one officer to monitor illegal camping.
However, Zwolinski said the problem stems from the 72-hour warning. He said when vehicles receive the warning, they wait until an hour before their time is up and just move down the road.
Attempts by The San Francisco Examiner to contact vehicle campers were unsuccessful, as many did not open their doors. RVs and campers, though, were seen on several blocks of the Outer Sunset neighborhood.
Zwolinski said he and other residents are willing to explore options to keep the vehicles out of their neighborhood, including voucher programs to stay at an RV camp in The City.
Supervisor Carmen Chu, whose district includes the Outer Sunset, said she is looking at alternative ways to require permits for RVs and oversize vehicles.