Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, June 5 @ 4:56 p.m. / Local Government

Crescent City Councilors Tap Brakes On Proposed RVs-on-Private-Property Ordinance

Crescent City councilors tapped the brakes on proposed regulations governing RV occupancy on private property. | Photo: Ildar Sagdejev, via Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License


City Council Weighs-in On RV Living Regulations


Though it took nearly five years for staff to draft an ordinance, Crescent City councilors were reluctant to spin their wheels on regulations governing RV use and occupancy on private property.

They acknowledged the work contracted planner Ethan Lawton spent to draft the initial ordinance, but balked at the idea of charging fees. Councilors also questioned the practicality of some of the recommended setbacks and wondered how the city would even enforce the regulations without a code enforcement officer.

Apart from asking City Manager Eric Wier to find out whether the Crescent City Municipal Code currently allows someone to temporarily occupy an RV, councilors on Monday chose to table the issue.

“I’m at a loss of what to do,” Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore said. “I don’t even know how to provide direction on something like this.”

According to Lawton, the proposed ordinance governing RV use on private property stems from a direction councilors gave in March 2019. After the Planning Commission discussed it, the proposed ordinance went back to the Council in 2020.

Councilors chose to wait until the city’s ordinance focusing on accessory dwelling units was adopted. At that point, Lawton said, the RV-on-private-property ordinance needed revision, which sparked a new round of Planning Commission discussions.

The City Council had approached RV parks on private property from a concern about cleaning up Crescent City, Inscore said. They put a pin in that discussion because of the COVID pandemic as well as local wildfires.

“We had a bunch of things [going on] where people came over here and they were staying in some of these places,” he said. “It just felt like that was the wrong time to try to put the hammer down and do all of this.”

Lawton presented recommendations for parking and storing RVs on private property as well as their short-term and long-term occupancy on private property. Under the proposed ordinance, no more than one RV could be stored on private residential property.

The property would also have to be developed and the RV needed to be operational and registered with the DMV.

Under the proposed ordinance, the RV would have needed to coincide with required front yard setbacks, which is about 20 feet, Lawton said. Crescent City Fire and Rescue recommended a 5 foot clearance on all sides of the RV. Planning commissioners recommended the vehicle be parked on a hard surface such as gravel or concrete — anything that’s not dirt, Lawton said.

The planning commission draft would have allowed RVs to be housed under permanent structures or fitted covers, but decided against temporary covers such as tarps. Commissioners also decided not to allow the screening of the vehicle since it could potentially encourage debris buildup, Lawton said.

As for occupancy, the Planning Commission had initially decided that a 90 days would be considered short-term residency, but shortened that to a maximum of 14 days, Lawton said.

A property owner would need to obtain an administrative conditional use permit — they wouldn’t have to go before the Planning Commission — and would have to pay a fee of $300. For 14 days, that would be about $21.42 per night, Lawton said.

The proposed ordinance defined long-term occupancy as a stay of 12 months. A property owner would have to get a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission and would have to submit a site plan. This would cost about $1,100, or $4 per night if the stay is longer than nine months, Lawton said.

The fees also include the need to complete a California Environmental Quality Act review, according to the staff report.

“These are some recommended fees for consideration,” Lawton said. “These could be changed. The fees could be reduced. These are just for discussion and recommendations to the Council.”

Wier noted that the proposed ordinance doesn’t set the fees, which would be in the city’s overall fee schedule.

Lawton said he didn’t know of other California jurisdictions with ordinances governing RV occupancy on private property. Crescent City would be the first, or one of the few, to adopt such an ordinance, he said.

“Most planning jurisdictions have recommended not to pursue this because it’s a slippery slope,” he said. “It’s too much to manage, too much to enforce.”

Crescent City Police Chief Richard Griffin brought up the city’s oversize vehicle ordinance. Adopted in June 2019, the ordinance allows people to park oversize vehicles on city streets with a permit for seven consecutive nights. Only one permit is issued within a 30-day period. The ordinance defines oversize vehicles as one that is either greater than 22 feet in length or is more than 7 feet tall and 7 feet wide.

Griffin said the intent of that ordinance was to try to curtail the number of “transient trailers” along the city’s waterfront. That ordinance is enforced through citizen complaints, he said, adding that the city lacks a code enforcement officer.

Griffin, who lives outside city limits and hopes to own “another RV trailer here pretty soon,” said he disagreed with the proposed fee. He suggested gutting the proposed RV ordinance, removing the recommended fees and require that any covering, including a tarp, be in good condition.

“You do want to cover it and maybe people can’t afford a fitted one for it, they’re not cheap,” he said. “If you get a good tarp that’s in good standing, I don’t see an issue with that.”

Griffin also recommended requiring residents to keep the RV storage area free of rubbish.

Del Norte County District 1 Supervisor Darrin Short agreed that $1,100 for the long-term occupancy of an RV seemed “crazy high.” Short, who spoke during public comment also pointed out that if someone is building a home and is living in their RV during construction, they already have to pay “outlandish permit fees.”

Short said Del Norte County required that if someone is going to live in their RV while they’re building a home, there has to be construction going on. He suggested the Council consider something similar.

But Short also said he understood why councilors were hemming and hawing on the proposed ordinance, noting that it was a slippery slope.

“It’s a tough one to sit there and know you’ve essentially wasted staff time, possibly,” he said. “But this is a great place to identify that there’s no perfect legislation and this might be a good place to pull back and say, ‘This is something we’re just not going to do.’”


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