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Parking program targets RVs

L.A. City Council launches a pilot effort to restrict parking of oversized vehicles in San Pedro, Brentwood.

February 13, 2008|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

Former construction worker John Dutchover found his own tiny piece of Brentwood last year, staking out a space on San Vicente Boulevard for the recreational vehicle that -- with a bed, refrigerator and microwave -- also serves as his home.

The Gulf War veteran said he picked the spot largely because it was close to the leafy Veterans Affairs campus, where he receives medical treatment.

But Dutchover, 38, will probably relocate in a few weeks, once parking enforcement officers kick off a new program requiring RVs in the southern part of Brentwood to obtain permits before parking overnight.

Although the rules are aimed at eliminating blight, Dutchover predicted that they also would rid the neighborhood of people who lack homes of their own.

"I guess I kind of feel targeted," said Dutchover, standing outside his 1983 Country Camper. "I'm trying to live in America the best I can, the way I can afford it, and this is not making it easier for me."

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to create two RV restriction districts, one in Brentwood and another in south San Pedro, as part of a 30-day pilot program to crack down on street parking by oversized vehicles. If the pilot is successful, the program will be expanded to other neighborhoods where residents are requesting tighter parking restrictions, transportation officials say.

Under the program, overnight RV permits will cost $10 per night, with large vehicles allowed to stay in one spot for three consecutive nights. But permits won't be given to the owners of RVs who also are living in them, said Alan Willis, principal transportation engineer for the city's Department of Transportation.

"They would have to live in a fixed dwelling, not a parked vehicle, to qualify for a permit," Willis said.

RVs and campers are being used as homes on stretches of Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, Riverside Drive near Griffith Park and Fountain Avenue in Hollywood. The vehicles have been an issue as far away as Santa Barbara, where city officials identified 12 parking lots that could be used as havens for people who live out of their vehicles.

In Los Angeles, one advocate for the homeless warned that the parking districts will, either by design or by accident, punish people who are one step away from living on the streets. UCLA law professor Gary Blasi, who studied homeless issues in downtown Los Angeles, also questioned whether the parking districts violate anti-discrimination laws.

If the overnight permit "is limited only to people who aren't homeless, that seems like an arbitrary discrimination to me," he said.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who represents San Pedro, said she created the parking district there after receiving complaints from local homeowners -- not about the homeless, but about neighboring suburbanites who refused to put their RVs in their driveways.

Hahn argued that the program in her district should be expanded citywide to keep huge vehicles from blocking intersections and obscuring the views of motorists. "It's a blight and a nuisance and a hazard to park those oversized vehicles in neighborhoods," she said.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Brentwood, said he had no interest in criminalizing homelessness. Even after the rules go into effect in south Brentwood, other places on the Westside still will allow overnight parking for oversized vehicles, he said.

"There's a lot of open [street] in the district that won't have the signs saying, 'You can't park there,' " he said.

Rosendahl created the overnight district in response to a request from the South Brentwood Homeowner's Assn., which had voiced concerns about safety, a lack of parking and sanitation. But he has heard similar complaints in Venice, where he worked to create overnight parking restrictions for all cars, not just RVs and campers.

Still, parking districts cannot be placed in some areas near the ocean without first securing approval from the California Coastal Commission, Rosendahl said.

In Brentwood, the new parking district covers streets that border the Brentwood Country Club and residential neighborhoods north of Wilshire Boulevard, between Centinela Avenue and the Veterans Affairs property.

An hour before the council's vote, three other RVs and an oversized bus were parked on San Vicente, a few blocks from the neighborhood's upscale boutiques, restaurants and real estate offices. Less than 100 feet from Dutchover's RV was a Dodge van with someone sleeping inside. Because that vehicle is comparatively small, its owner would not be required to obtain a permit.

When told of the permit program, Dutchover initially voiced enthusiasm, saying he would gladly pay a certain fee to keep police officers from instructing him to move. Dutchover, who described himself as a disabled vet, said he was disappointed that he did not qualify for such an overnight permit.

"It would be fair to the city and to the residents if I paid something," he said. "Then they wouldn't feel like I'm trying to get away with something."

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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