Marin County’s planning division has extended a two-year-old ban on overnight parking for oversized vehicles in downtown Bolinas. In advance of a hearing with the deputy zoning administrator last week, several downtown residents wrote in to express their support for continuing Measure X, which barred oversized vehicles like R.V.s from parking overnight along Wharf Road, Brighton Avenue and Park Avenue. Most people said parking remains difficult but that the rules have improved the situation and should become permanent.

“Although parking in Bolinas continues to be an issue, Measure X does provide some relief from the huge vehicles that park overnight and sometimes many nights on our streets,” Karen Dibblee wrote.

Jeffrey Krenzel, who lives on Crescente Avenue, said the restrictions made parking in Bolinas easier for both full-time residents and beachgoers. Previously, it was impossible to drive to the post office, library or supermarket on weekends because there was nowhere to park, he said.

“The people who sleep in their vehicles on the Bolinas streets have converted a public amenity—access to the beach—to their private and exclusive use, thus excluding the public at large,” Mr. Krenzel wrote.

Bolinas voters passed Measure X with 52 percent support in 2018, and the planning division approved the rules the following year. The regulations barred any vehicles other than cars, motorcycles and pickups from parking on one side of the affected streets between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and established 20-minute parking zones in front of the Bolinas Market and the post office. Built into the county-issued coastal permit was a requirement that the Department of Public Works report back on whether the restrictions improved parking turnover, thereby increasing public access to the beach.

Last year, the pandemic brought larger-than-usual crowds of visitors to Bolinas, and the county’s report found little impact from the rules: The streets were still jam-packed on weekends, R.V.s continued to park on the unrestricted side of the streets, and there was no improvement to turnover. In response, the county expanded the oversized vehicle prohibition to include both sides of the streets.

The coastal permit expired this month, but the planning division renewed it last Thursday, extending the measure by two years. The renewed permit will require the Department of Public Works to submit another report within a year, with more specific criteria than last year’s report.

Staff will need to report back on parking turnover, which they expect to reflect the more typical traffic patterns that Bolinas has seen this year. They will also document the remaining numbers of uninhabited or abandoned vehicles and the nearby areas where displaced oversized vehicles may have relocated.

The county’s Health and Human Services department, which is set to hire a new social worker for Bolinas, will provide outreach to those living in their vehicles and report back to the planning division.

Marin County has seen rising numbers of people living in vans, R.V.s and cars. Earlier this year, a survey counted 23 people living in their vehicles in Bolinas, the largest number of any town in West Marin. Many of these people have deep ties to the community, where housing is scarce, and the parking restrictions limit where they can spend the night.

In August, the Bolinas Community Public Utility District, which helped spur and draft the rules for Measure X, wrote a letter in support of the extension to Supervisor Dennis Rodoni. Although he acknowledged the difficulty enforcing the rules, BCPUD board president Jack Siedman said the measure has effectively deterred long-term parking violators and he pointed to the popularity of the 20-minute parking zones with residents.

“Measure X sends a message that there are some parking controls in downtown Bolinas,” Mr. Siedman wrote. “Allowing it to expire would send exactly the wrong message and would be a step backward for our community.” 

Last year, the BCPUD board voiced support for pursuing residential parking permits for downtown and the Big Mesa, a change that would need approval from the county and coastal commission.