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Sevastopol neighborhood group sues to stop safe parking program for homeless in motorhomes

A Sevastopol neighborhood group has sued the city to end a controversial safe parking scheme planned for the city’s north end for local homeless people living out of their RVs.

On January 21, Friends of Northwestern Sevastopol filed a petition in Sonoma County Superior Court seeking to force the Sevastopol City Council to reverse its decision approving the year-long pilot program on private land. at 845 Gravenstein Highway North.

“Friends recognizes the importance of safe shelter for homeless people. … Friends object to the entire burden of these encampments being concentrated on one neighborhood,” the petition reads.

The legal filing describes the group as representing the interests of “local landlords and tenants, parents of schoolchildren, business owners and operators, and landowners”. It was incorporated as a nonprofit on Jan. 5, according to filings by the California companies.

Sevastopol City Prosecutor and Director Lawrence McLaughlin said the city has hired outside attorneys and will “vigorously oppose” any attempt to block or close the parking lot.

Petition of Friends of Northwest Sevastopol.pdf

The hourly program that would provide support services and space for 22 vehicles is expected to be fully operational by February 15. A delay of more than a week could jeopardize the $368,000 federal stimulus grant package that will fund most of the pilot program, according to Sonoma Applied Village Services, the nonprofit selected to run the site.

“Any delay risks killing the project,” said SAVS president Adrienne Lauby.

SAVS, which is named in the petition with the city, plans to lease the land at a former AmeriGas propane store in the nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul Sonoma County.

Saint Vincent is also named in the petition. Jack Tibbetts, the nonprofit’s executive director and former Santa Rosa city councilman, said the charity had “every intention of moving forward” with the lease.

The secure parking scheme, approved by city council in November, came largely in response to health and safety concerns from neighbors and business owners about a long-running encampment with more than a dozen campsites -buses on Morris Street. The hope is to move as many people as possible from the unauthorized camp, where police have warned campers, to the new ‘RV village’.

The city is also considering an ordinance that would effectively ban RV parking on city streets during the day, alarming some homeless advocates. Council was scheduled to vote on the ordinance on Tuesday, but the item was moved to its next meeting on Feb. 15, city officials said.

Tony Francois, a San Francisco lawyer representing Friends of Northwestern Sevastopol, told The Press Democrat the group considers the secure parking scheme illegal due to a local ordinance prohibiting people from living in campsites. -cars.

Additionally, he said the city council failed to follow the proper permitting process, conduct an environmental review, and give residents enough notice to comment on the scheme.

“The way they proceeded deprived many of the project’s neighbors from exercising their right to comment on the project before it was approved,” Francois said.

City Council approved the RV Village in about a month to meet a deadline that would ensure SAVS received federal funding. Despite the quick turnaround, council members at the time said they aimed to do everything possible to hear residents’ concerns.

McLaughlin, the city attorney, said the program was exempt from the normal permitting process and environmental review because it is a homeless shelter.

But Francis argues that under state law, such a project is only exempt if it is on city-owned property or if the city itself leases the property.

McLaughlin disputes this interpretation. And regarding the local ordinance prohibiting living in vehicles, he said a secure parking program is exempt.

“All of the factual and legal allegations in the lawsuit are incorrect,” McLaughlin said.

Francois said the neighborhood group wants the city to reconsider the secure parking program through the normal permitting process and potentially create smaller RV villages throughout the city so vehicles aren’t concentrated on a single site.

The group plans to ask the court for a stay to immediately suspend the project while hearings are underway. But as of Thursday, Francis had yet to get confirmation that the petition had been officially received due to a lack of court personnel, he said, meaning it’s unclear when a first hearing could be held. be fixed.

You can reach editor Ethan Varian at [email protected] or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.