WEST COVINA — The City Council on Monday abruptly dropped plans to ban overnight parking of recreational vehicles on city streets.
Mayor Pro Tem Richard Lewis was the swing vote in the 3-2 decision to kill the proposed ordinance, which would have banned RVs and other oversized vehicles from street parking between 2 and 6 a.m. Last month, Lewis was part of a 3-2 majority in favor of such a ban, sparked by complaints from residents that RVs are traffic hazards and eyesores.
Lewis said he changed his mind because he prefers creating a bipartisan citizens committee to come up with less controversial solutions. He said he will approach City Manager Herman Fast about setting up such a committee, which was proposed by former West Covina Police Chief Allen Sill during testimony before the council Monday. Creation of the committee would require council approval.
Lewis maintained that he was not influenced in his vote by an opinion issued by Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp's office earlier this month that said California cities have no authority to prohibit RV parking on residential streets. City Atty. Colin Lennard had advised the council that the opinion was not binding.
Lewis joined Councilmen Bill Tarozzi and Brad McFadden in voting to drop the proposal. Councilwoman Nancy Manners, who originally proposed the ordinance, voted with Mayor Robert Bacon to keep the plan alive.
"The vote was based on the loudness of a vocal minority," Manners said. "It was purely a show of force of a militant, special-interest group. I'm very disappointed." Manners intends to conduct a privately funded mail survey in an effort to learn whether most residents would have favored a ban, although she has no plans to reintroduce the ordinance.
Relieved RV owners, meanwhile, said they would be happy to join a committee to help the city deal with parking of oversized vehicles.
"We want to make sure this type of thing does not raise its head again," said Fred Romens, spokesman for a group of 15 RV owners who organized as the West Covina Recreational Vehicle Owners Assn. to fight the proposed law. Romens said only a few of the city's 5,000 RV owners generate complaints by leaving their vehicles on the street instead of at a storage lot.
He said the majority of RV owners find that offensive too. "We don't want our neighbors having to put up with such abuse," he said.
But the proposed ban, he said, would have punished all RV owners. It would have required them to obtain permits for loading and unloading their vehicles and for temporary guest parking.
Enforcing the ordinance would have cost the city $71,500 a year, far more than it could have recouped through fines and permit fees, said Harry Thomas, city Public Works Division manager.