New RV rules irk homeless advocates

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerLast resort: An RV sits parked near the Great Highway. Homeless advocates say motor homes are often the only option for people who are struggling financially.

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerLast resort: An RV sits parked near the Great Highway. Homeless advocates say motor homes are often the only option for people who are struggling financially.

With San Francisco on the verge of passing a law to crack down on recreational vehicles parking on city streets, homeless advocates are decrying the measure as a wrong-headed attack on people who live in their vehicles.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to pass the law next week, after which the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency would put up signs prohibiting parking of large vehicles such as campers between midnight and 6 a.m. in certain areas where the practice is considered a problem.

Supervisor Carmen Chu, who authored the legislation, said existing laws — such as The City’s ban on parking for 72 consecutive hours — are not working.

“There are a large number of people who are storing vehicles on our city streets without much consequence,” said Chu, noting that commercial vehicles also are a problem.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee, which consists of Supervisors Malia Cohen, Eric Mar and Scott Wiener, voted 3-0 Monday to send the legislation to the full board with a recommendation to approve it.

Homeowner Mary Ellen Collins, who lives on La Playa Street, strongly supported the legislation and said problems such as thefts and assaults associated with people living in their campers overnight are only increasing.

“About every two weeks, I am hosing off human excrement from the side gate of my house,” Collins said. “It is not safe for me to live in my neighborhood anymore. Allow us to get some quality of life back into our neighborhood.”
But homeless advocates oppose the law.

“It is not uncommon for people in San Francisco to use their very last resources after losing their job to invest in a large vehicle or camper and move into it,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

The City also is exploring efforts to encourage people living in vehicles to transition to housing, Chu said. One of the roadblocks there, she said, is that many such people do not want to give up their vehicles, so The City is considering where they could be stored while their occupants receive city services and housing.

A 2011 SFMTA survey found 461 oversized vehicles parked on the street, with the highest numbers in District 4, which includes the Sunset; District 6, which includes the Tenderloin; and District 10, which includes the Bayview.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

Clarification: This article was updated on Sept. 19, 2012. This version of the article clarifies that the new restrictions on RV parking would only be for certain areas of The City.

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