CITYWIDE — Visitors crossing the border into Santa Monica may have noticed new signs popping up with red flags calling attention to their lettering.
They inform travelers and residents alike that oversized vehicles above 7 to 8 feet tall are not welcome to roost on city streets without the appropriate permits.
The signs, which were approved for posting by the City Council in April, have raised long-standing issues with Santa Monica’s Los Angeles neighbors about forcing large vehicles, particularly recreational vehicles, that come to Santa Monica onto outlying neighborhoods.
However, the rules surrounding oversized vehicles have been on the books for decades, dating back to the 1970s and ‘80s, said traffic engineer Sam Morrissey.
They’re nothing new, but at the same time few visitors were aware of the restrictions because of a lack of notice.
“It’s difficult to enforce something when you don’t put up signs about the regulation,” Morrissey said.
In the last two years, the police department reported an influx of large vehicles and RVs, which initiated the process that resulted in the signs.
“There were more and more of these vehicles parking,” Morrissey said. “We wanted to do something clear and explicit.”
First, the rules needed to be simplified.
Three different ordinances in the municipal code governed where and when tall vehicles could park, Morrissey said.
Two of them, which handled commercial and residential properties respectively, were similar but differed on exact times that oversized vehicles could park on the street as well as the dimensions that constituted a “tall vehicle.”
In April, the City Council took action to fold those into a single code, simplifying the regulations. At the same time, they approved the purchase of the new signs, which were placed at every point that a vehicle could enter the city.
Also included were restrictions on any vehicle over 5 feet tall parking at intersections or at the entrance to alleyways, which blocked the view of oncoming traffic for other drivers.
“It lets us restrict parking at locations where there are people who park large trucks adjacent to an alley exit and do obstruct visibility,” Morrissey said.
Large vehicles and RVs can still park overnight in Santa Monica if they have the appropriate permits, which can be acquired at the Department of Public Works, or find off-street facilities to stash their ride.
It all sounds a bit sketchy to Bill Koontz.
Koontz, the second vice chair of the Mar Vista Community Council, has seen RVs encroach on his community before, sometimes with deleterious effects on crime and the neighborhood.
Santa Monica’s new ordinance sounded like the same old fight over who would take responsibility for those living in their campers.
“I personally believe that the new ordinance and signage has nothing to do with safety at intersections and in alleyways, and specifically targets RV parking,” Koontz wrote in an e-mail.
In the Venice and Mar Vista areas, those in RVs tend to use them as permanent housing, Koontz said, which can lead to higher crime, excessive garbage and illegal dumping.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl set up a program called “Roadmap to Housing” specifically to target RV dwellers with a desire to get off the streets.
In doing so, he created a climate where RVs were kept out of neighborhoods by offering something enticing, Koontz wrote.
“Where is Santa Monica’s carrot? I can only see the stick from here in Mar Vista,” he wrote. “What is Santa Monica doing about their RV parking dilemma besides pushing them onto their neighbors?”
Although Los Angeles does have an ordinance banning oversized vehicles, each street has to opt into the restriction using a petition process, said Tony Arranaga, a member of Rosendahl’s staff.