Coastal Commission intercedes on Santa Cruz RV night parking ban

SANTA CRUZ — The city of Santa Cruz’s plan to ban large-vehicle overnight street parking is in need of state review, a coastal public watchdog panel ruled Thursday.

Shortly before a permit appeal hearing on the city Oversized Vehicle Ordinance this week, California Coastal Commission officials reversed an earlier recommendation not to intervene. Initially, commission staff flagged environmental justice concerns with the law, but ultimately wrote that they felt that “the public access impact in question is negligible” in their report ahead of Thursday’s hearing.

The ordinance language includes a citywide ban on large-vehicle street and parking-lot parking from midnight to 5 a.m. daily, except with a limited visitor permit or during certain emergencies. Members of the local Santa Cruz Cares group filed the appeal, asking the Coastal Commission to step in and assert jurisdictional authority as the ordinance applies to coastal access.

In May, the group of citizens appealed the new city law, which has languished, unenforced, since its Nov. 9 approval, throughout numerous similar city-level appeal hearings. In a description of its concerns listed on the Santa Cruz Cares website, the group accuses the city of working toward “directly creating more unsheltered homelessness.”

The city, according to a July 8 letter to the commission from Planning & Community Development Director Lee Butler and Deputy City Attorney Cassie Bronson, is aiming to reduce long-term oversized-vehicle entrenchment.

“One of the Council’s goals in passing the OV (oversized vehicle) Amendments is to break the cycle of entrenchment and encourage OV dwellers to, at minimum, spend the night at a Safe Parking location, where they will be able to access restrooms and trash facilities, reducing the amount that OV dwellers urinate/defecate/litter on City streets, sidewalks, and nearby areas, such as ESHA (Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas),” the city letter stated.

Significant loss of public access

In a late agenda addendum, commission staff wrote that it had “received significant new information” in the prior week, the cause of their reversal. Namely, staff wrote in a follow-up report, impacts on coastal access were greatly increased by a less-discussed provision of the law that would disallow all oversized vehicle parking — 24 hours a day and 365 days a year — within 100 feet of any crosswalk, intersection, stop sign, official electric flashing device or approach to any traffic signal.

“The city estimates that this restriction would entirely eliminate about 54% of oversized vehicle parking areas in the coastal zone 24-7, and this number may actually be higher,” Central Coast District Director Dan Carl said late into the commission’s meeting Thursday.

Chairperson Donne Brownsey said she supported Coastal Commission oversight as “the absolute correct recommendation, here.”

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