C Street ban moves forward

01/16/2019

The county is pressing ahead with new overnight parking regulations on C Street in Point Reyes Station, answering a call from homeowners near the Giacomini Wetlands trailhead to address unlawful activity. 

The county’s deputy zoning administrator approved a coastal development permit last week, submitted by the Department of Public Works at the request of the Point Reyes Station Village Association for a new parking ban on C Street between Third and Sixth Streets from the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Assuming no one appeals the coastal permit before Jan. 22, the county will set a date for the resolution to come before the Board of Supervisors, the ultimate decision-makers.

In its submission for the permit, the public works department painted a picture of the broader implications of overnight parkers in the coastal zone, where the California Coastal Commission prioritizes tourism. 

“Visitors and residents alike are impacted by individuals who do not adhere to common traffic regulations, such as parking limits. Coastal access is impacted from the reduced parking availability caused by vehicles parked for more than 72 consecutive hours, and immobilized or abandoned vehicles,” the department wrote in its application. “In addition to coastal access, the community has raised concerns related to environmental impacts (litter, vandalism, pollution) as C Street is directly adjacent to open space.”

The Point Reyes Station Village Association first proposed in 2016 that the county consider a parking ordinance for most streets in town, including the entire lengths of B and C Streets and Second through Sixth Streets. Tom Quinn, a C Street homeowner, spearheaded the effort with Peggy Day, a retired nurse and grandmother of seven who lives at Walnut Place.  

Mr. Quinn, a resident for almost 50 years, said people began hanging out and living in their vehicles in the area when the National Park Service created the trail to the wetlands at the corner of C and Third Streets—across the street from his home—after buying the dairy ranch there in 2000.  

For Ms. Day, the main concern is for the children drawn to that corner of town by Papermill Creek Children’s Corner and for programs at the Dance Palace.  

“This would allow the sheriff’s department some enforcement power, as crime is happening out there,” Ms. Day said at the deputy zoning administrator hearing last Thursday. “Criminals come here to deal drugs, and engage the children with drugs,” she said, explaining that she had witnessed at least one instance of the latter firsthand. 

A group of Point Reyes Station residents, along with the executive director of the Dance Palace, Bonnie Guttman, and Burton Eubank, a member of the Inverness Volunteer, attended the hearing in support of the permit. They cited incidents of theft, litter, drug use, vandalism, health violations, human waste and general disturbance of the peace, attributing these issue to people living in their cars, including both members of the community and transients. 

Yet for others who have spoken out in recent weeks against the proposal, the ban smacks of discrimination. Elizabeth Whitney, a longtime resident who has lived in her car at times, characterized it as intolerant toward the homeless. 

“The incidents that have occurred are real and traumatic, but part of a bigger picture that we are all looking at in communities,” she said. “An overnight parking ban is not the answer. I really hope that our community gets to have more input, and put together a solution that is more favorable to everybody.”

Ms. Whitney is not alone. Judy Spelman, a member of West Marin Standing Together, wrote in a letter to the Light this week, “I feel disheartened to see people here trying to push sleepers out of their neighborhood. Instead, how about having a community meeting to discuss a more humane, generous and practical response. I understand that it’s hard to solve local manifestations of systemic problems, but out-of-sight-out-of-mind seems below our dignity. All life is a miracle and should be valued and respected.”

West Marin Standing Together is considering creating a task force dedicated to addressing poverty and homelessness, Ms. Whitney said. She also expressed concerns about the process undertaken by residents, suggesting they look to Bolinas, where residents recently took a town-wide advisory vote concerning possible overnight parking regulations on their downtown streets. 

According to Ken Levin, a member of the village association’s leadership, the group has discussed the C Street issues at several meetings during the past two years. “We voted on a ban at two or three meetings during this past year,” he wrote in an email. “It passed without opposition each time.” 

Mr. Levin also invited more residents to attend meetings. “Issues concerning our town are what we discuss, and it is my belief that having a local voice in matters that concern us citizens directly is the basis of democracy,” he said.