County could ban overnight parking on C Street

David Briggs
Problems on Point Reyes Station's C Street began when the Point Reyes National Seashore opened up a public trail through the restored Giacomini Wetlands, according to a resident who helped spearhead a move to ban overnight parking.  
12/27/2018

While the movement to tighten parking regulations in downtown Bolinas stole the limelight this fall, the county was moving more quickly to crack down on C Street in Point Reyes Station. 

Litter, drug use, vandalism, health violations, human waste and general disturbance of the peace are upsetting some residents, who have petitioned the county since 2016 to enact a parking ban. 

But for others, the call for parking regulations speaks of intolerance of the homeless who are living in their cars or on the street without the resources of urban areas. 

In January, the county zoning administrator will consider an application filed by the Department of Public Works for a coastal development permit to institute a parking ban on C Street. The rule would apply to all vehicles between Third and Sixth Streets from the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Should the administrator sign off on the permit, the matter will go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

The Point Reyes Station Village Association, which has been instrumental in organizing residents’ complaints, sent a letter to Supervisor Dennis Rodoni in 2016, asking that the parking ordinance be considered 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 who spearheaded the effort, drafted the letter with Peggy Day, a retired nurse who lives at Walnut Place. 

Supervisor Rodoni recused himself from the effort, since he owns a share in a family property on C Street, and directed the issue to the Department of Public Works, which pared down the proposal to a smaller area of downtown. 

Mr. Quinn, who has lived in town for almost 50 years, said people began hanging out and living in their vehicles in the area when the National Park Service opened up the trailhead to the Giacomini Wetlands at the corner of C and Third Streets—across the street from his home—after buying the dairy ranch there in 2000.  

He said he is sympathetic toward those who have lost their homes; his concerns center around the mentally ill whom he describes as a “public safety threat.”

Mr. Quinn added that in recent months, attendees at village association meetings—though their numbers vary—have shown unanimous support for regulation. 

Yet for others, concern for the homeless is paramount. 

Elizabeth Whitney, a longtime West Marin resident who has at times lived in her car in order to remain in the area, called the proposed parking ban “a town-wide issue of how Point Reyes wants to express itself around homeless issues.” 

She emphasized that the trouble on C Street is likely isolated to a few individuals who come and go, and that the complaints are likely isolated to just a few homeowners. 

Ms. Whitney expressed frustration that the parking proposal has not been more widely publicized. “Meanwhile, it certainly strikes me as a much larger issue than a phony parking issue,” she wrote to Supervisor Rodoni’s staff in late November. “It is pure and simple discrimination against individuals whose only shelter is a car and need a safe place to sleep. Surely people realize that these people, many of whom are members of the community, will simply keep moving around until they find another place that is safe...one that might trigger a new set of neighbors to complain. And on and on.” 

She continued, “Homelessness is a huge California issue, one that makes national and international news regularly. This petty behavior in Point Reyes Station could easily blow up into a story beyond these parts.”

Last summer, after attending an event at the Dance Palace, Ms. Whitney was falling asleep in her car in the parking lot of the Dance Palace Community Center, which is located on C Street, when a sheriff’s deputy ordered her to leave. 

Bonnie Guttman, the center’s executive director, told the Light at that time that the Dance Palace does not allow overnight camping.

According to Burton Eubank, an Inverness resident who worked for the Dance Palace at the time, the community center has faced many conflicts with people living in their cars, prompting two restraining orders this year. 

Though he quit his position as technical director of the Dance Palace in July after a conflict with Ms. Guttman, Mr. Eubank said of those living in campers and vans, “these people are not from here, no one knows them, and we just aren’t equipped here in Point Reyes to deal with their needs.”

Lieutenant Jim Hickey, who took over as West Marin’s Sheriff's station commander a year ago, said he understands that complaints about C Street have been longstanding. “C Street gets most of the people that stay overnight and with just three of us on duty at once most days, the right to move people along does help us,” he said.

A 2017 enabling ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors that allows for parking regulations tailored street-by-street or by neighborhood opened up the possibility for parking regulations to address these disputes. 

In Bolinas, 52 percent of voters in November favored a regulation that would ban the overnight parking of oversized vehicles on downtown streets. Based on direction from the Bolinas Community Public Utility District, the county is currently drafting a timeframe for implementing that measure, which was just advisory. 

 

The Deputy Zoning Administrator will hear the coastal development permit application for the new regulations on C Street at a public hearing at the Civic Center on Friday, Jan. 11.