County will research parking impacts on C Street

08/17/2017

A small group of Point Reyes Station residents, citing litter and other impacts from people living in their cars, have successfully appealed to the county to consider new overnight parking restrictions along C Street. 

Spokespeople for the Department of Public Works said they are researching and gathering public input on the proposal, which the department narrowed down from residents’ request to ban overnight parking on almost all streets in town.

Not everyone thinks there is a problem, however, and the county said there would need to be broad public support for the new rules. 

“Right now, it’s basically [neighboring residents] and a few organizations voicing their concern,” Julian Kaelon, a spokesman for the department, said. “We want to look at it first and figure out if it is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed similarly to San Rafael.” 

The county heard similar complaints about overnight and oversized parking on Woodland Avenue in San Rafael earlier this year. In January, supervisors passed an ordinance that allows them to apply new parking restrictions on county roads after assessing individual roads on a case-by-case basis.

If an overnight parking ban was approved on C Street, the quiet road that flanks the Giacomini Wetlands would be the first county road in West Marin to become subject to the new ordinance. 

The Point Reyes Station Village Association has been instrumental in organizing the neighborhood’s complaints. At an association meeting last week, Tom Quinn, a C Street homeowner who spearheaded the effort, said the problem began when the wetlands, then a dairy ranch, was sold to the National Park Service in 2000. 

Mr. Quinn, who lives at the corner of C and Third Streets, directly across from a trailhead leading into the wetlands, said visitors from out of state bring barking dogs, leave behind human waste and exhibit “pitiful behavior towards neighbors.” He added that the problem has been “complicated by new tourism in the last 10 years.” (He also has been personally victimized by car dwellers; two years ago, his truck was vandalized and earlier this year, his black Lab was stolen out of his yard.)

But it’s not only visitors that bring disturbances, Mr. Quinn said. Twice a year, cattle trucks on their way to ranches in the seashore park on C Street overnight, and noise from their engines is a nuisance.

Mr. Quinn and a couple of other C Street residents spoke in support of the new parking ordinance when supervisors adopted it in January. Shortly after, Mr. Quinn contacted Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who suggested he contact local churches to ask if their parking lots could be used for overnight parking.

“I talked to the priest in Olema and he made a good case that it was going to be complicated,” Mr. Quinn said. “Partly it was litter, bad behavior and children exposed to transients. And it could possibly be costly with insurance. The minute you hear that, it’s over.”

Vincent Pizzuto, the vicar at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Inverness, said he’s initiated a conversation between the homeless and his church’s parishioners about concerns and ways to help. He said he considered opening rooms in the church’s retreat house, but that previous rectors warned him about past issues with homeless, such as confrontations with retreat house guests.

Last spring, the village association sent a letter, drafted by Mr. Quinn and Point Reyes Station resident Peggy Day, to Mr. Rodoni 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. Ms. Day, a retired nurse, said she’s seen drug deals and domestic disputes near her residence on Sixth Street.

Mr. Rodoni recused himself from the discussion, since he owns part of a property off of C Street, and directed the issue to the Department of Public Works.

When Mr. Quinn and other members of the village association had a conference call with Bob Goralka, the transportation manager for the department, to discuss the letter, Mr. Goralka suggested focusing on C Street. 

But Elizabeth Whitney, a longtime Point Reyes Station resident, argued that the street doesn’t have a big problem. “That backstreet?” said Ms. Whitney, who has been living in her car for the last two years since losing a rental in town. “The sheriffs are right there. If somebody had any bad intention, they’re not going to park there. There are two kinds of people who pass through here: temporary, on-the-road people who come through during the summer and then there’s the ones who are here. Of all the people I know about, I don’t think any of them are any kind of danger to anybody.”

After attending an event at the Dance Palace last month, Ms. Whitney was falling asleep in her car in the parking lot of the community center, which abuts C Street, when a sheriff’s deputy ordered her to leave. Bonnie Guttman, the center’s executive director, said the Dance Palace does not allow overnight camping.

“We are not a social service agency or homeless shelter; we are a community center. Folks cannot be on site after hours,” she said. 

But Ms. Whitney viewed the incident as part of a larger issue. “There’s so much fear in people’s heads about homeless,” she said. “If the Dance Palace had a different way of looking at things… They knew it was me, and they know me. They could say, ‘That’s good, she’s safe here.’”