Great Highway wall of RVs targeted by new proposal

Great Highway RV

For anyone with a big truck or camper, the Lower Great Highway might seem a wide-open paradise of plentiful parking and infrequent street sweeping. But residents near one stretch of this street hope that a new proposal before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday will keep these vehicles from turning their neighborhood into a storage yard and prevent them from providing a wall that blocks illicit activity from the view of the public and the police.

“It’s looking like a large-vehicle storage area,” said John Zwolinski, who lives in the outer Sunset District near the Lower Great Highway and Golden Gate Park. Zwolinski also heads up a neighborhood watch group.

Zwolinski believes that many of the trucks and RVs parked on Lower Great Highway belong to people from other parts of San Francisco who find his neighborhood a convenient place to park their vehicles for free. And since City street sweepers only come once every two weeks, once a truck is parked it may not move for days.

“It’s almost impossible to tell” for sure if someone is living in the RVs parked in the area, said Zwolinski. But regardless of whether the vehicles are occupied, he said, he’s seen problems crop up when long strings of them are parked together.

“Oversize vehicles are taking up all the parking along certain corridors in the neighborhood, they’re blocking police line of sight on these streets, they’re causing blind spots in intersections. It’s dangerous,” he said.

“Behind these large vehicles the police can’t see to the side of the road. We’re finding illegal dumping. Litter. Needles. People are feeling uncomfortable … because it’s concealed. It’s providing a screen.”

These residents have taken their concerns to Supervisor Carmen Chu, who has proposed legislation to let City parking officials restrict where vehicles larger than 22 feet long or 7 feet high can park between midnight and 6 a.m. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hear the proposal at its Tuesday, Sept. 25 meeting after the Land Use and Economic Development Committee sent it through unanimously Sept. 17.

This is all old hat to Ramona Mayon, who for years has lived with her husband, Greg, and their children in an RV on Lower Great Highway.

“We’ve been fighting City Hall since 1997,” she said on a recent Sunday morning at the table of her new RV as Greg and their son Merlin — a junior at the Richmond District’s Washington High School — watched a football game on television.

Mayon, whoidentifies as an American Scottish Traveller, says she’s never lived in a stationary home and doesn’t consider herself homeless. She says there’s a worldwide pattern of persecution of nomadic people, and chronicles her views about that persecution and living in an RV in San Francisco in her blog.

“We understand the other side’s problem,” Mayon said. But she said there aren’t any viable alternatives for mobile homes in San Francisco.

“There’s nowhere else for RVs to go.”

Chu, who represents District 4 at the board, said the issues surrounding big trucks and RVs parking on neighborhood streets affect many neighborhoods.

“This is not a unique Sunset District problem,” she said.

In fact, a 2011 report by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency states that 33 percent of the oversize vehicles parked in the city were found in District 10 and 29 percent in District 6. District 4 still had the third-most trucks and RVs in San Francisco: 16 percent of the oversize vehicles in the city, or 74 vehicles. District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen signed on as a cosponsor of Chu’s legislation in committee.

The Board of Supervisors can’t directly impose parking regulations, Chu explained. But her proposed legislation would allow the SFMTA to restrict the overnight parking of large vehicles in certain zones.

Among the first areas that could be affected by new parking rules:

  • Great Highway between Lincoln and Sloat
  • Lincoln Way between Great Highway and Stanyan
  • Fulton between Great Highway and Stanyan
  • 16th& 17th Streets between Harrison and Potrero
  • John Muir between Skyline and Lake Merced Blvd.
  • Lake Merced Blvd. between Winston and Brotherhood Way
  • 36th& 37th Avenues between Lincoln and Sloat
  • Kirkham, Lawton, Moraga, Noriega, Ortega, Pacheco, Quintara, Rivera, Santiago, Taraval, Ulloa, Vicente, and Wawona between 36th & 37thAvenues
  • Clarendon between Twin Peaks and Laguna Honda
  • Innes Ave. between Arelious Walker and Ingalls
  • Geneva Ave between Moscow St. and Brookdale

“The intention is not to ban it outright,” she said, noting that other spaces for large vehicles wouldn’t be included in the potential new rules.

“I think this is a tradeoff, that’s the reason why we didn’t ban it in the entire city,” she said.

Although some RVs parked on city streets may be simply stored and not lived in, some people who do live in their campers may worry that if they enter City residential homeless programs they may lose their vehicles because they won’t be able to move them to comply with parking rules. Chu said she has been talking with Bevan Dufty, who heads San Francisco’s homeless services, to let these people temporarily store their vehicles on Treasure Island.

Back in the outer Sunset District, some residents said at last week’s Land Use Committee hearing, the quality of life has taken a hit.

“When I walk by [a string of RVs parked together], I literally don’t feel safe. I feel like someone’s going to pop out,” said Lisa Olswing.

“About every two weeks I am hosing off human excrement from the side gate,” said Mary Ellen Collins, who lives near where RVs and campers often cluster on the Lower Great Highway.

“It’s not safe for me to live in my neighborhood anymore.”

The oversize-vehicle legislation is Item 20 on the Sept. 25 Board of Supervisors agenda (PDF). The board’s meeting is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. in Room 250 of San Francisco City Hall. The meeting will be televised on Comcast cable Channel 26 and will be webcast live on SFGovTV. Watch the Sept. 17 Land Use Committee meeting.


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  1. This legislation will not solve the problem. It will simply push the rvs and their associated problems farther into our neighborhood.

  2. And yet you do nothing about the people with stolen grocery carts living in the doorways of the Sunset and in the bushes of Golden Gate Park.
    It’s not going to get better by getting rid of the RV’s and the myth of drug dealing. If drugs are dealt out of vehicles cars, vans, pickups or RV’s let the undercovers solve that problem if it exists.

  3. I don’t know – this seems a little extreme. Where are these people supposed to park if all these locations are banned? It just puts them directly in front of people’s houses instead of along the park where there is at least some buffer from the houses. I wish there was a better way than to ban parking altogether.

  4. I agree, these RVs are a problem. The committee should be a dbag like my neighbor and call SFMTA out every 48 hours to “warn” them about the 72 hour park law since it seems changing the law on these campers isn’t top priority. If I deserve to be harassed every 48 hours for having the mi$fortune of renting without a garage in our cozy little ‘hood, these guys should too, since the street cleaning isn’t a factor…….

    • UPDATE: Awesome update :)

    • Kristin,
      By forcing the SFMTA to change the parking in the area it will bring the 72 hour parking rule down on all vehicles parked in the area. Ask others who live in highly regulated parking areas with stickers that are expensive about the trouble they have with the parking Nazis that swoop down and write citations at the speed of light. The Sunset will end up with that enforcement. Their are a lot of cars that don’t move except on street sweeping days that will be made to move ever 72 hours. People with garage parking are causing all this trouble.


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