Many members of Fullerton’s faith and nonprofit community showed up to speak at the March 2 Fullerton City Council meeting to urge a delay of enforcement of ordinances that would criminalize those living in RVs parked on City streets until a more humane and collaborative solution can be found.
After much public comment and discussion, Council moved to temporarily delay enforcement until at least April of a proposed ordinance that would restrict parking along a stretch of Valencia where many folks living in their RVs have been parking.
Council had previously passed a separate ordinance in November of last year that bans all citywide RV parking on public and private streets without a temporary permit. Enforcement of this ordinance has been delayed by legal arguments raised by lawyers with the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center who say the ordinance is unconstitutional.
In their comments on March 2, members of the public, including some living in their RVs, urged delay of both ordinances.
“I’m here to ask to postpone the RV ban while we find a suitable intermediate location for them to go. Together I truly believe we can develop real, common-sense solutions,” Diana Trout said. Trout is part of a tri-parish collaborative, which includes homeless advocates from Fullerton’s three Catholic churches.
Shely Youngbauer, who grew up in Fullerton and currently lives in her RV on Valencia, said, “We have nowhere to go. We didn’t choose this, and we’re trying desperately to abide by rules. But we keep getting harassed, told we’re going to be arrested. This is all we have until we can get some place to better ourselves. Please help.”
Father Dennis Kriz of St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Fullerton said, “On behalf of the interfaith community here in Fullerton, we ask you to continue to postpone enforcement of the RV ban. We stand with you, to work with you in any number of ways to make the situation there on Valencia better, and to find a place for these poor people to go.”
Enedina Clements, outreach coordinator of the St. Vincent De Paul program at St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church in Fullerton, said that the tri-parish collaborative has experience helping those living in RVs, and offered to work with the City for solutions.
“What we don’t want to see is these vehicles impounded. Impounding a vehicle used for shelter is de facto foreclosure,” Clements said. “We are on the right path in Fullerton. Let’s stay on it and find common-sense solutions to our homeless and affordability housing issues.”
Rabbi Nico Socolovsky of Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton urged Council to postpone enforcement “in order to allow us to work with the City in trying to create a viable short-term and long-term solution for these people.”
Fullerton resident Harry Langenbacher said, “I want you to work with our interfaith group that has been discussing this and has been working on homelessness for years. I believe we can help the City find a solution.”
Langenbacher asked Council to also reach out to our State representatives Sharon Quirk-Silva and Josh Newman to help come up with a place for those living in RVs to go.
“It is fundamentally immoral to simply expel people without giving them reasonable options,” Blandy Morales said. “We are willing to sit down with the City immediately to discuss solutions.”
Mary Lopez, who lives in an RV on Valencia, said, “I’m so angry that decisions are being made about me, and nobody has ever come to ask me what I need to help me get ahead and off the street, living in the motor home.”
Lopez said she has sought help, but “there’s none available. It’s very frustrating to be threatened with having your vehicle towed or impounded when the only thing you’re doing wrong is you don’t have a bank account or a lot of money.”
Father Dennis Kriz said, “These are people whose lives will be destroyed or put into turmoil over a change in a parking regulation. Think of what that would do to somebody, realizing they have to radically change their lives because somebody wants a 3-hour parking limit on where they live. We can do better.”
Jay Williams, director of local nonprofit OC United, said, “Please suspend the RV ban because we can collectively, with kindness, work together to find solutions.”
After listening to public comment, Councilmember Ahmad Zahra made a motion to delay any action until the second meeting in April. This motion was seconded by Councilmember Jesus Silva.
Councilmember Fred Jung, who supported Zahra’s motion, said that the solution requires “the kind of community support that these faith-based organizations that are here today are willing to do.”
Jung said that the concerns of the surrounding business owners on Valencia also need to be taken into consideration. “I encourage those in our community who are expressing such passion on this issue, equate that to action,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Nick Dunlap voted against the motion to delay enforcement citing the impact on local businesses of RVs and other vehicles parked along Valencia.“I’ve taken the time to go over there and I’ve seen the dozens and dozens of inoperable vehicles, trucks, RVs, and others parked on both sides of the street, creating not just an eyesore, but health and safety concerns,” he said.
Dunlap said he has spoken to business owners who have seen revenues decline and have had to hire additional security so their employees and customers feel safe in that area.
“Roads and streets are for driving, for parking. They’re not a place of residence,” Dunlap said.
He said that the City has contributed to shelter beds throughout the County and that “it’s important for us to see both sides” of the issue.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker, who also voted against delaying enforcement, said that the intent of the ordinances is to create “some order in an area where disorder has expanded and continues to expand.”
He said that the term “tough love” applies here.
“The longer we don’t take action to try to move people in the direction of their own good, we’re only creating more angst among people, and creating more fallout,” Whitaker said. “Whether it’s going to be tonight or it’s going to be delayed, it’s something that needs to be done, and it’s overdue in my opinion.”
Councilmember Zahra said, “We need to address the issue and provide regulations for our parking so the businesses can succeed and continue their operations. No doubt about that. But we can’t do this at the expense of people’s lives. We have to find a solution. And the solution isn’t just kicking people out.”
Ultimately, Council voted 3-2 (Dunlap and Whitaker “no”) to delay action on the ordinances to the second meeting in April.
Update: Following the meeting, Director of Public Works McWade told the Observer that, while parking enforcement has been limited during COVID-19, the City intends to resume enforcing its parking ordinances on April 5.
“We will, of course, continue to work with community partners and the RV residents after that point,” McWade said.
Categories: Local News