14TH STREET — Benjamin Schenck learned about a local ordinance regulating parking for oversized vehicles the hard way.
The owner of a recreational vehicle that was purchased on eBay three months ago for $1,200 recently discovered his home and mode of transportation was towed with a $300 fine to retrieve it.
As the RV battle continues in Venice where residents have called for overnight restrictions on the large vehicles, complaining about the loss of parking spaces and unsavory actions by occupants that include urinating in public, such problems don’t seem as prevalent in Santa Monica thanks to a series of laws regulating campers, including the one which Schenck violated.
More than 1,500 stakeholders, including residents, businesses and property owners, recently turned out for a Venice Neighborhood Council election last weekend concerning the VNC board’s position on the issue, symbolically reaffirming its support for Overnight Parking Districts, which keep campers off public streets during late evening and early morning hours.
In Santa Monica, regulations are considered far more restrictive than in Venice, stating that oversized vehicles — defined as no more than 8 feet in width, 7.5 feet in height or 20 feet in length — are prohibited in residential areas between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. and in commercial zones during hours of darkness.
The dimensions for oversized vehicles in commercial zones are similar to that in residential except the height restriction is 8 feet.
“We pretty much have got our oversized vehicle issues under control because we do provide consistent enforcement and the residents in Santa Monica tend to call us when there is a problem and we deal with it promptly,” Lt. Kathy Keane, who oversees traffic operations, said.
Camping in vehicles for more than 30 minutes is also prohibited from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. in residential areas. Oversized vehicles are also banned from the beach lot.
While police say that no area in the city has a chronic RV problem, the neighborhood surrounding Woodlawn Cemetery was at one point a draw.
“We started educating the public about that area,” Margarita Verduzco, who works in parking enforcement, said. “People thought that because it’s in a commercial area that they’re able to park RVs or oversized vehicles.”
The regulations in Santa Monica and nearby beach cities is one of the reasons why L.A. Councilman Bill Rosendahl believes RVs are drawn to Venice where laws are more lax and has the same scenic benefits as its neighbors.
“Santa Monica made it very clear years ago that you cannot park a camper or car in a residential neighborhood,” he said. “They obviously come to park in my area where they don’t have those restrictions.”
The RV issue has caused some friction between residents in Venice where some have argued that the campers have a right to the streets.
The residents recently collected more than 100 signatures calling a neighborhood council election on Feb. 21, voting on two different measures — Initiative A, which rescinds the VNC board’s support of the districts, and Initiative B, which reaffirms the position.
The first measure failed while the second one passed.
The outcome of the election is symbolic and has no statutory bearing on city laws.
Several OPDs, which can be created if two-thirds of residents on a specific street sign a petition, currently exist east of Lincoln Boulevard but not west, which requires joint approval by the California Coastal Commission.
More than three dozen petitions have already been submitted by residents west of Lincoln Boulevard and approved by City Hall but have yet to be by the commission.
A hearing is scheduled for June.
Mike Newhouse, the president of the VNC, said he believes the problem persists in Venice because any existing RV laws are more difficult to enforce. Vehicles are not allowed to be parked in one spot for more than 72 hours, he said.
“The police department is spread very thin over dealing with crime and more high profile and imminently dangerous crime,” he said.
Some residents in Santa Monica don’t seem particularly bothered by the presence of RVs in the area.
Armando Flores, who lives in the Pico Neighborhood, said that he has seen a Ford Econoline parked in his neighborhood for some time, pointing to a vehicle that had several Ron Paul stickers displayed on every window.
“I’ve seen that RV for a long time,” he said. “This isn’t about that RV in particular but because of the construction at the trailer park, some of them go into the streets and take up parking,”
Schenck, a Santa Monica College student, admitted that he needs to pay more attention to the parking signs to avoid another steep ticket.
“It feels like a step up from homelessness,” he said. “It’s a pain in the butt.”
Ashley Archibald contributed to this report