City Eyes Tightening RV Parking Ordinance

Too many people living in RVs, campers and cars, says mayor and city council.

Martinez officials may be close to adopting an ordinance that, like Concord's and Pleasant Hill's, restricts people parking RVs on the street and public and private parking lots. The move is an effort to address the growing number of people in town living in their vehicles.

"Right now I'm seeing that there are more people living in their cars and RVs and campers than on the ground," said Doug Stewart, the city's homeless outreach coordinator.

The vehicles aren't hard to find. Visitors to the Waterfront Park and marina parking lots can spot them quickly - at first glance they look like any other RV, but a closer look reveals the age, wear and tear and generally run down condition of the vehicles. Often the cars, campers and RVs park at night between trucks on Howe Road, or in residental areas.

Stewart, who makes daily contact with many Martinez homeless, said these are the only housing options many of these people have left, until they are forced to seek help for drug, alcohol and other problems that are often the root of their homelessness.

Police Chief Gary Peterson said "we need to be sensitive to the fact that people are having a tough time," though he emphasized that the police enforce the existing laws regarding sanitation, safety and current parking restrictions. He told the council at a recent meeting that he is investigating augmenting the city's current ordinance, which prohibits sleeping in vehicles overnight. He noted that it's often difficult, especially in a motor home, to tell if it is being occupied overnight. Concord's ordinance prohibits motor homes on public streets as well as private and public parking lots.

But two homeless men interviewed Thursday night by Martinez Patch said there is nowhere else for them to go.

"We're back in the 1930s," said Tom, who lives in his camper in the Amtrak parking lot."There's a lot of us out here. I don't mind it. I travel to three or four places. You comply with the regulations, you're ok. The house I was living in burned down, and this is all I have now. If they pass a stricter ordinance, it will never survive a court challenge."

"I've lived in this motor home since 2000," said Steve, whose RV is frequently seen in the Waterfront Park parking lot. He lives there with his wife and two rotweillers. "I do shrimping out here and my wife doesn't drive. If they say we can't park here, I don't know what I would do. Neither one of us has enough to live anywhere else. I just don't know what we would do."

"I'd like to help these guys," Stewart said, "but they come out here and get too comfortable, and they don't have to move. People get comfortable and they don't have to get services. I'd like to see them lose their comfortability."

That seems to be in the works. The city council and police chief say they are seeking a solution to the issue through tightening restrictions in the city's current ordinance to bring it more in line with Concord's RV ordinance, which restricts RV parking throughout the city. A recent court challenge to the ordinance was struck down by the Court of Appeal earlier this month.

"People living in RVs has always bothered me," said Mayor Rob Schroder. "It's unfortunate they don’t have homes, but it does impact the community. I’d like to see stepped up enforcement in the downtown and waterfront areas. It's a difficult issue. It has an impact visually, and on the quality of life. These vehicles are usually huge polluters too. There's one leaking fluids all over parking lot. It's not like these people are mom and dad who have lost their jobs. It's like a lifestyle, almost."

"These are not housing units," said Vice Mayor Janet Kennedy. "They're not set up to be housing units. When they’re on the street, they’re dangerous. There's the issue of illegal dumping of sewage. Are they safe? Where do they get their power? A lot of them plug in somewhere else. I certainly understand that people need to live somewhere safe, I just don’t know that this is it. I wouldn’t mind a stronger ordinance."

"It's a problem with many different levels, including waste disposal," said councilman Mark Ross. "Where is that sewage going, where is it being dumped? It's just not good public policy - it's a public safety issue to have RVs randomly parked around city and in the streets. Just not a desirable element of residential life for those areas that have RVs parked in them with strangers camping in their neighborhood. I'm sympathetic to the current economic times, but it's problem that has persisted in good times and bad, and it’s time to address it."

"Some of our 'homeless' citizens who live in cars and RVs do create sanitation issues as well as other concerns," said councilmen Mike Menesini. "We need to address those concerns while not criminalizing true homelessness.  It's not going to be easy. The easiest thing to do, of course, would be to just ban folks from sleeping in motor vehicles at night that are not hooked up to water and sewer.  A system, though, that presents alternatives and "warnings" would be my preference.  However, costs and "unintended consequences" also have to be taken into account."

Chris Kapsalis May 01, 2011 at 02:37 AM
I do not think it is right airing someone else's dirty laundry here, when they are not here to defend themselves. There are more sides to every story than one, and Many here know who you are referring to. What good does it do giving someone else's name in an example here? We have all made mistakes. But let's not use a person in towns name as an example to make a point.
Chris Kapsalis May 01, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Good idea. Also, I have seen groups of homeless come and go over the years here. Some died, some moved into homes, some jail, some still out there. So many cleaned up the area they were staying. Many did not. Generalizing homeless as dirty, people who trash the area is wrong. I saw so much garbage coming over fences of middle class homes all along Alhambra creek back in the 90's. I found medical waste. I see illegal dumping out on Franklin canyon road, all over. I see about a million times more trash coming from homed people than homeless people all over the city. Thrown from cars down Shell. Couches tossed in the creek. I could go on, but I do not get this "they are dirty and are unsanitary" argument as a reason to harass them. Look around this RV in this photo of this article. No trash.
Sally Morgan May 01, 2011 at 09:43 AM
Glad to see some problem solving going on on this issue. Yes, it is Deanna, about power and privilege! Our ordinances are made by self appointed ", self righteous , wealthy people who have too often used their elected offices to impose their standards on all of the citizens of Martinez..without their consent in some cases ...in other cases, they have blatantly overruled the citizens of Martinez for their own imposition of their " standards" and " values" on everyone...and not incidentally for their own gain ! This is not about " cleanliness" ...it is yet another " class warfare" issue against those least able to defend themselves. That some of those " homeless" or those living in RV's abuse their surroundings and have serious personal problems e.g. alcoholism, etc. may be the case...but not all... and to "tar" all with the same brush because experience with some, is wrong.and unjust. Those that do have these personal problems need help not condemnation ! While we can all wax eloquent on what " they" should do" and "turn their lives around" and make self righteous admonitions about what " they should do to help themselves" , the fact remains that some are victims of failed mental health systems, a declined economy, and lack of education, and/or job training ...the same problems our Society faces throughout this Country . How we deal with it in our Community will be more a referendum on us than them !
Douglas Stewart May 01, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Well Sally I am not self righteous nor am I wealthy I have spent the last six years 8hrs a night serving the homeless or giving rides to inmates stuck in Mtz . I don't work for the city and I pay for everything I do out of own pocket . If you wanted to help out in some way i have been asking the council to put together a advisory board on poverty issues in our city . But I do think that there has to be boundaries for everyone including homeless Those people that your calling self righteous are the same people that have offered the help to the homeless , those are the people that are going to the county asking for more services . On this issue of rv's my phone rings off the hook with people asking why havn't I helped them but the truth is I ask what they need nightly. Again it has nothing to do with wealthy vs poor I am dedicated to doing the best I can for the homeless with out enabling them and it is about cleanliness every one has a right to live in a clean space . If i don't educate these guys on being clean and Im not doing anything to help them be clean things like staph infections happen , fungus foot, tb, scabbies also happen I have seen it. Just two weeks ago I had to bring a public health nurse with me because some of the homeless were getting the same rash all over them I had to take them all to the er and get them help .I am dedicated to serving the homeless anytime you would like to ride along for a night let me know it's a real eye opener.
Sally Morgan May 02, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Oh, Deanna, where were you when we were fighting the cuts to mental health programs, fighting for affordable housing, fighting cuts to training programs,child care, ? While you may help a few, condemning them behind their back and complaining about their life style and " cleanliness" behind their back, you haven't a clue about the complex issues that this involves. Giving out a few blankets etc does not a saint make of you. I have spent the better part of 25 years on these issues helping families andchildren on the streets of Oakland and Oakland schools. ..so don't play the martyr with me !\ Where are you when I get heartbreaking phone calls 24 hours a day from families and individuals that have lost their home, lost everything due to death in the family, have no place to live ! Where are you when the only thing they have left is a pet...and they have to surrender that because their is no affordable and/or pet friendly housing in this County ? So go ahead and hand out your blankets, etc and keep complaining and condemning.... or you can face the true issues behind this dilemna and kick our " community leaders" in their self righteous rear ends" and get some creative, humane and practical solutions to these problems.
Sally Morgan May 02, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Doug, My comments were not directed at you but at the self righteous " plastic patties" and self indulgent and spoiled council members who have relied on family privilege and power, and who sit in judgment over those least able to defend themselves. I would like to see each of them have to spend a day and a night living in the conditions that many of our homeless or " working poor" have to live in. Where were they when we were fighting against cuts to mental health programs, cuts to social programs, training programs, child care, help for the elderly and disabled ? Probably on the other side of those votes I have spent 25 years working with people on the streets, working in Oakland , and Oakland schools, so am well aware of the issues that you face in dealing with the situation in our city of Martinez. I also assist with helping those you work with in Martinez and through out the County getting financial assistance through counseling, affordable housing ,etc and providing services for their animals. I commend you on your work. We are both working toward the same goals, I believe. I am physically limited in what work I can now do, but still continue to work, coordinate and provide assistance to these and other needy people and their pets through my non profit that I started. I look forward to perhaps meeting you some day and sharing ideas and solutions to these complex problems.
Douglas Stewart May 02, 2011 at 06:15 AM
Sally That would be great like i said earlier I would love to see a advisory Committee to the council on Poverty issues including Homelessness,mentel health ,etc .I believe five minds are better than one everyone has ideas on how deal with homeless issues .I think if we could take a piece of everyones idea we might get some positive results.
Sally Morgan May 02, 2011 at 08:39 PM
Complaining about their " filthiness" and lack of initiative IS COMDEMNING THEM ! You don't know me or what I do nor do you know what I understand and have seen, lady, so stop complaining and help get to the CAUSES and conditions that contribute to this problem. As far as running for office in Martinez, until the corrupt " old boys and old girls" network that fixes all the elections is finally defeated, no one is going to get anything done because of the vested interests of some of the Council members.Why don't you run and see how far you get ?
Sally Morgan May 02, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Doug I admire your optimisim. You assume that the City Council cares ! ? With the vested interests of SOME and their political leanings, I doubt that they would do anything...especially if it steps on the toes of their vested interests. As far as an advisory Committee , the City Council has a long history of ignoring the will of the people. There are lots of ideas that have and are working in communities across this Country...tapping into those successful programs seems like a good place to start. Do you have networking with any other communities or groups/volunteers that are working on these same issues? ?
K.B. May 04, 2011 at 07:21 AM
Put in a dump station, That problem solved, They can only park so long, That problem already solved, They get free food at loaves & fishes, It looks like some people want to have them around. We should watch for an increase in crime
Sally Morgan May 04, 2011 at 07:33 AM
An increase in crime is not always a " given" nor can it be blamed on the homeless. In our neighborhood, the crime rate was directly related to gang activities and drug sales..
Eva Marie Woywod May 09, 2011 at 01:08 PM
I would suggest that the community come together over this problem - have a honest and frank discussion, and most definitely invite the people you are discussing to attend - their voice should be heard. Also invite all the agencies ...your human services department...community action...HUD...etc. - Have them explain what the process is like, what hurdles are in place and time frame it takes from once an application is submitted to actually getting placed. Realize too that today's world is nothing like what most of us grew up in. Minimum wage jobs places households below the poverty line - in the 80's that was not the case...top that off with the increase in everyday living costs it's easy to see why so many are unable to keep up. Then realize something like an eviction or bad credit rating in today's society places a hurdle we didn't have growing up...those negative marks on credit tend to sum up our character to others...employers, and landlords without them ever really knowing the story behind them....was it a bad divorce and domestic violence that led to it? perhaps no medical insurance and medical bills piled on...or even a case of identity left..was any thing like that or something else? We don't ask those questions, we no longer treat people with care...we label, file, and dispose of the ones that don't fit what some predetermined policy tells us. Sorry for butting in...just thought I would share.
Douglas Stewart May 19, 2011 at 09:53 AM
sally I have Partnerships with almost every other group in Contra Costa working to serve the homeless.I also have alot of mental health connections including the VA , kaiserMH ,Jon Muir MH and CAMH .I also have connections with the school district and AOD I also work with clean and sober living houses I also advise our Board of Supervisors Right now in this county I am the only full time outreach and I am the only other person getting shelter beds besides the county team which is only part time due to cuts. I also sit with Mh and law enforcement once a month and round table clients mostly for MH plans .
Douglas Stewart May 19, 2011 at 09:57 AM
Eva I think its great you came in .I have offered services to almost every homeless person in MTZ some can not get services because of past issues .i wish every day that when I go to work I have nothing to do but it seems like I get busier .
Sally Morgan May 19, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Exactly... There but for the Grace of .... we all could end up. I have seen many people stable hardworking people fall on hard times or have tragedies in their lives and they end up homeless or worse. I just wish some of the self rigteous could experience some of these issues for just a week...and their tune would change.! Doug and others are doing a admirable task . Those people who are " lucky enough" to have at least a motor home etc. should be able to live in this City and have home. Years ago my family sold and lived in a mobile home shortly. Back then, there was a stigma attached to that , e.g. " trailer trash"...unfortunately about 40 years later..there is still that stigma because of uncaring and ignorance ! Those individuals that are not " lucky enough" to have even a roof over their head should not be stigmatized. There are many options that joint efforts can exercise...if there is the will to do so... The City always seems to have money for their " pet projects"...they can find some solutions to this one ! In the meantime, I will continue to do what I can do for the people and pets that need our help.
debra August 31, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Sally you are right on. This is a serious issue with so many sides and stories. It needs a serious answer. I think we need some where for these people outside with very little, to go they for the most part would like to be somewhere that they are not hounded by police. and park workers. we have so much wasted space like the old welfare building. bathrooms kitchenetts lil offices. security couldnt cost more the the waste already being spent here in martinez, a huge parking lot for those who dont want to be part of this group or that, bushes for people who like to be outside. they may be poor and have hardship but remember the fact that these are people and so many regular folks are one, two checks away from living on the streets.where are they going to go. and honestly, they cant afford the fines so what a waste of time and money, to constantly patrol all areas to make sure the unfurtunates dont have a beer open.lets give them somewhere to go. not the shelter. who has ever visited that place? go take a look would you want your brother dad sister cousin anyone you love to be there?... we need a solid long term solution not a bunch of whose right whose wrong. thanks again sally,
debra August 31, 2011 at 08:47 PM
the water is poluted, the air is poluted. the pond is full of staph. are the motor homes going to be worse then the patroleum based asphalt they park on?
debra August 31, 2011 at 08:52 PM
doug lets remember back to when the institutions closed, more and more cut backs for the mentally ill and emotionally disturbed individual. they are now todays homeless many dont have the capacity to maintain a "real" home you do alot we know. but remember the mentally ill when your at that meeting. thanks
debra September 02, 2011 at 07:37 PM
OMG toot tooot doug
debra September 02, 2011 at 07:46 PM
wednsday evening I went to deliver a sleeping bag to don a person outside and a blanket to a new homeless person who i had met the day before. jolly guy just released from jail for a traffic violation here but was picked up down south some where. NO WAY HOME....just thrown out.. anyway that evening I go with a friend to deliver these two items and this little hispanic jolly guy who had jokes and was clean and seemingly normal had been beat beyond recognition..BY young men who live in homes with momy and daddy because they did not recognize him. thought he was from a rival GANG REALLY????? so this guy who was put out on the streets by our system is beaten and so many of you are so self evolved you could care less. the problem is not if someone desides to live outside or has no choice the problem is the mean self centered persons out for them selves, these people are cronic victims. LEAVE EM ALONE
debra September 02, 2011 at 07:52 PM
exactly, ask a stranger what you can do. be a good nice person what happend to america being american? how many of our grandparent went through the depression. hold compassion and love in your heart and soon you will see how easily it spreads with one kind act.
debra September 02, 2011 at 07:54 PM
you sure ride both sides of the fence very well. you are very self rightouse
debra September 02, 2011 at 07:58 PM
sorry chris but i have seen some police on several accassions just not being right, bullying degrading keeping them from eating freshly delivered hot food. but some are good and kind, some arnt. just like every other group no two people are the same .
Douglas Stewart September 03, 2011 at 03:48 AM
Debra I may be self rightouse but I am out there almost every night putting people in shelter or services call me what you want I 'm doing the work . your more than welcome to out with me any time just let me know. It is not called riding both sides of the fence it called doing the right thing
Douglas Stewart September 03, 2011 at 03:51 AM
Mpd does a great job of dealing with our community if they were in other cities in downtown drinking they would have problems .
MIKE ALFORD September 04, 2011 at 03:55 AM
You know Something --- Im really Glad to see people like Debra -- Bringing this up -- This guy she was talking about -- You Better ALL start paying close attintion to this ! what she said about this guy getting beat up ! -- the punks that jumped this guy Need to be in jail ! --- There is three Little gamgs opertating around Martinez -- I have brought this up at City Hall Meetings Four different times In the last Two years ! only to be Ignored & deneyed By The City Counsel --- Its Happining Right In Front Of Your Eyes Every Day -- But see if you beleive Citty Hall & The Police -- is no reports of it --- Now that a citizen has just told us about this kid getting beat up --- And just because THEY -- Thought he belonged to another Gang ?? I Wonder Do You Think It Will Be In The Local Paper ? How About On A Police Log ? --- Now Way In Hell !! --- See None Of This Is Happining ! -- No Not In Martinez !! ----- The Only way For People To Hear The Truth Is To Do Excatly What Debra Just Did ! Start Exchangeing Comments And Start ASKING Questions ! -- And Buy And Start Listening To The Police Scanner -- See I hear Stuff every Night -- That doesnt Get Reported ! When You hear this with your Own Ears --- Well --- Than you will be better informed ---
MIKE ALFORD September 05, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Sally has just made an interesting statement -- the city always has money (Tax Money - Your Money ) for their PET projects Dont you think that some of our social problems should or might be just a little more important -- Mabey more Humanine --- How About coman sense ? But than agane -- how can we talk About Coman Sense We are dealing With people That have ran our Marina Right into the ground ! --- AND you are going to lesten to more B.S. at the city counsel meeting About --- Our Grand Marina --- Wake Up !! What In The Hell Is It Going To Take For You People To See Hear & Smell The Corruption And Missuse public Funds ? Oh Yea -- There Was A Statment last week earler on this thread --- You All Should get off PATCH --- And go down town And be pro active -- Yea thats it --- Cover your eyes -- plug your ears --- And for Gods Sake DONT Ask Questions --- Never Ask Questions ! ------- Because You Might Well Get Answers !!
Douglas Stewart September 05, 2011 at 11:32 PM
About the guy Debra brings up he did get beat up on Weds. yes I got called and went out to see him he was so intoxicated I needed MPD to help me get him out of a bush that he was passed out in . But he did not call police nor did anyone else at that was there . My point is they have to call in order to get Police services . I took him to the hospital and then to detox So we can't bash the PD if they don't know.On top of that the PD let him goto detox with me instead of jail or a citation .They did ask him when they arrived what happened to his face and he said nothing they can't do there job if people don't speak up
MIKE ALFORD September 06, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Hey Doug -- I know you - I respect you -- If you ran for pubic office -- I would vote for you ! --- I want to get Something Straight -- You Must have Mis- understood Me--- I Was Not Bashing The Martinez Police ! -- What I Said -- The Point That I Was Making -- Well You just Made For Me ! --- When The police Are Called to A problem --- My point is and you just said that debra was Right ! -- That This Guy Was Beat Up -Right ! --- Well Doug That is a Crime Doug --And Their must -- I mean the police Had To At least Right an incident Report ? Well If No one Wants to persue this What about the rest of the citizens of Martinez ? assault is a crime ! -- And I think I Made my point - That whoever did this is still walking around the streets of Martinez -And when you hear oh no - one Wanted to persue this Well what about the rest of us out here -We have to always be looking over our shoulder wondering is its safe to walk around the streets of Martinez ? Somebody Is Going To Have To Start Cracking Down on on this kind of behavior ! and the fact this guy went to the county hospital Somebody Has To pay for this ? ( Thats Right You the Taxpayer) And Like I Said Was it on the Police Log ? There Is definatly A report on this - And Like I Said Folks - See If It Comes Up On the Police Log or if its in the paper ! No Way In Hell ! our City Counsel Always denys there is any Crime Or Violence -See Doug you Saw - and reported this - and varafied what Debra Said - That is a fact !
Douglas Stewart September 07, 2011 at 01:59 AM
Mike i agree assault is a crime and we have start cracking down My point was simply if the victims don't call or no one reports it the pd can't do anything thats all . your right some one has to pay and its tax payers . your right mike but there again people have to report things . I do agree with you though we have to get the city council to make some changes that is fact. and thanks for the kind words mike


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