The city of Pacifica has signed a settlement agreement with plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed over the city’s oversized vehicle ordinance. The agreement allows the city to continue enforcement while helping some toward permanent housing, and it avoids spending more on legal fees that had already ballooned into six figures.

On March 15, the ACLU, the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs Sean Geary, Linda Miles, Jared Carr, Harry Bode and Stephen Sanders challenging the city’s ordinance and its vehicular habitation ordinance. They sought a court declaration that the city’s oversized vehicle ordinance, which states recreational vehicles may park only on certain streets where there is enough room and only for 72 hours, was unconstitutional.

The settlement agreement approved by the City Council on Monday says the Pacifica Resource Center will help develop a safe parking permit program for 13 parking spaces for RVs. It also authorizes a full-time community service officer position in the police department to act as a liaison for people living without houses in the city.

The City Council meeting ended after discussion of the settlement due to a Comcast outage.

The plaintiffs sought an injunction to block the city from enforcing the oversized vehicle ordinance. The judge did not issue a ruling but did express concerns about the city’s enforcement efforts and about the city’s original decision not to make a map of locations where oversized vehicles could park, said Leah Castella, the attorney who litigated Geary vs. City of Pacifica on behalf of the city.

Before the next hearing, on June 27, the city repealed the vehicular habitation ordinance because the judge called its constitutionality into question. The court issued a limited injunction that required the city to make available existing places where oversized vehicles can safely park, Castella said.

In the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs agree to dismiss their lawsuit, Castella said. The city will refund certain fines paid resulting from citations up to the date the settlement is signed, which is about $5,000, she said. 

The city will develop a safe parking permit program to be implemented by Pacifica Resource Center. The city would allow parking of oversized vehicles that meet certain safety standards and have operable restroom facilities and where the owners of the oversized vehicles agree to a strict code of conduct in 13 designated spaces in the public right of way for up to 29 days at a time when they are seeking PRC services toward housing, Castella said.

The city will work with PRC to establish a twice monthly mobile dumping station and trash collection that will be accessible to oversized vehicle owners who receive a voucher from PRC, Castella said.

The city will be able to resume enforcement of its oversized vehicle ordinance and will have the option of towing oversized vehicles not participating in the safe parking permit program that park on city streets for more than 72 hours or that have more than five unpaid parking citations, she said.

The city and the plaintiffs will agree on an amount of attorney’s fees due to plaintiffs. If those efforts are not successful the court will resolve how much, she said.

City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with the Pacifica Resource Center to develop the permit program.

A new position will be created, a temporary full-time community service officer position for the police department. The position would provide additional staff support needed to provide unhoused liaison services and enforce the oversized vehicle ordinance. American Rescue Plan Act funds will offset the cost of this position. The ARPA funds can be used to address homelessness and assist underhoused individuals to achieve stable, affordable housing. Castella said.

The community officer will be non-sworn, managed within the Police Department and serve a variety of functions related to unhoused liaison services and oversized vehicles, Castella said.

The settlement agreement states within 30 days the city shall provide an allowable parking list and a link to the allowable parking map to plaintiffs’ counsel. The city has 120 days to develop an on-street safe parking program. The program will be implemented no more than 90 days after council’s approval. The program will remain in place for a minimum of three years.

The city will also stripe at least 13 spaces with an average length of 30 feet which will be available by a permit issued by the Pacifica Resource Center. The locations are on the west side of Oceana Boulevard, west of the city of Pacifica Public Works Department building at 151 Milagra Drive, and three spaces on Lundy Way. In addition, there will be one space on Milagra Drive, across the road from Public Works, one space on the west side of Francisco Boulevard near the North Coast County Water District facility, two spaces on the west side of Bradford Way near the Sharp Park Golf Course, and two spaces on San Pedro in the dirt right of way in front of ACE Hardware. The locations are subject to change.

The city will host a mobile dumping station twice a month, at a site to be determined, for at least three years. Within 90 days of the effective date of the agreement, the city, working with PRC and Recology will provide dumpsters or drop-off service for garbage disposal for at least three years.

Councilmember Sue Vaterlaus thanked everyone involved with forming the settlement.

Mayor Pro Tem Mary Bier said, “This has been a long time coming. The best thing we can do is give it a chance.”

Anita Rees, director of PRC said she would expect most participants to be housed in the first year. There will be a staff member at PRC available to field concerns or issues from members of the public.

The issue of funding came up as board members for PRC, Chris Hunter and Marge Davis, said PRC should not be on the hook for funding.

“Funding should come from the city,” said Davis.

City Manager Kevin Woodhouse said he will be working with PRC and others to work on the issue of funding long term.

One of the plaintiffs, Sean Geary, said he supports all local businesses in Pacifica and the settlement.

Jane Northrop has covered Pacifica for the Pacifica Tribune since 1996. She has won first place John Swett Awards from the California Teachers Association for her coverage of education.

(1) comment

Christine Boles

Thank you Jane for the excellent reporting. I just found this on the city’s outdated “Fact Sheet”. We have no shelters and we’ve built no affordable housing for at least the last 16 years, that is the underlying issue.

“Under controlling case law, cities cannot enact ordinances that criminalize homelessness unless they have sufficient shelter beds to accommodate the unhoused population. Pacifica does not have any shelter beds, therefore any attempt to ban oversized vehicle parking or to criminalize homelessness has been challenged as an ordinance that criminalizes homelessness.”

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