News

East Palo Alto to consider Weeks Street RV parking ban extension

Staff seek to continue temporary prohibition through the end of May

Signs placed by the City of East Palo Alto warn RV dwellers that their vehicles must be moved by 8 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2017 due to public health concerns and anticipated flooding as a storm nears. Photo by Veronica Weber.

With city health hazards that have included more than 6,000 gallons of human waste dumped down a city storm drain, East Palo Alto city staff will ask the City Council to extend a temporary parking prohibition on a portion of Weeks Street fronting the Baylands, which has become a popular recreational vehicle habitation area.

The current ban on RV parking in the 1100 block of Weeks Street began as an emergency parking ordinance after the city learned that human waste was in the street and on the adjacent wetlands trails. It had overflowed from the storm drain from illegal dumping. The West Bay Sanitary District pumped the thousands of gallons of human sewage from the storm drain into the East Palo Alto Sanitary District's system on Nov. 15, and the street had to be disinfected prior to a winter storm.

On Nov. 14, the city and police instituted an emergency ordinance banning vehicles from the block of Weeks at Pulgas Avenue ahead of what weather forecasters said would be a significant rainstorm likely to cause flooding. Weeks Street is vulnerable to water ponding from winter storms.

Rains from that storm dropped up to 3 inches over the region and caused Weeks Street to flood. That could have spread the contamination to other residents and into the adjacent wetlands if it had not been cleaned up, the City Manager's Office said.

The current emergency ban is due to expire on Jan. 15. City officials remain concerned that the street could again be polluted if the RVs are allowed to return and there is more flooding during winter storms. Staff will ask the City Council on Tuesday to approve an extension until the end of May.

Illegal dumping and crowded parking conditions are having a negative impact throughout the city, according to a city manager's report. Lack of proper sanitary waste or sewage discharge by some RVs can lead to outbreaks of Hepatitis A. Violations of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, which specifies what discharges are allowed into the city's storm drain system, could result in fines and penalties for the city if it does not comply.

The emergency extension is only the first step in what could be a ban of oversized vehicles on city streets. East Palo Alto's residential neighborhoods, similar to those in neighboring cities, are clogged with vehicles, trucks and RVs. But East Palo Alto is also getting the brunt of the problem, city staff and residents have said. Neighboring cities have cracked down on their own RV-parking conundrums, which causes overspill into East Palo Alto.

Palo Alto has instituted neighborhood overnight parking bans in some areas and Menlo Park bans all overnight street parking.

On Dec. 7, staff conducted a survey of RV dwellers in the Ravenswood Business District. The city found 22 RVs on Tara Street, Bay Road and Pulgas Avenue. Of those, 36 percent were registered in East Palo Alto while 64 percent were registered in other cities.

At its Nov. 15 commission meeting, the Public Works and Transportation Commission directed staff to work with nonprofit organizations to explore options for RV parking, such as areas in church parking lots and creating sanitary stations. Staff was asked to return to the commission for a discussion on a potential overnight ban on oversized vehicle parking throughout the city. Tuesday's council decision, if it passes, would be an interim measure while staff and its governing bodies seek to find a more permanent solution.

The council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at the East Palo Alto Council Chambers, 2415 University Ave. The item is up for discussion and possible action at the end of the meeting. Read the full agenda here.

Related content:

Webcast: Wrestling with the problem of RVs

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Comments

14 people like this
Posted by Alice
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Another article with disparaging comments about RV dwellers representing a nuisance to neighborhoods and businesses because of leaking vehicle fluids and biological waste disposal. I'd like to know how they measured 6000 gallons of human waste? How about prioritizing the safety of the families and elderly who have nowhere left to go. Guess that's not a profitable problem.


51 people like this
Posted by to Alice
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 18, 2017 at 8:08 pm

RV dwellers, by definition, can move to another location, preferably an RV park that provides electrical hook-ups (so they don't need to spew exhaust into the environment when they want to heat the RV) and appropriate sanitation disposal receptacles. Illegally parking on city streets and discharging their waste into storm drains is simply not acceptable.


42 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Alice, do you really think that they can't measure what they pull out of the drain? These dwellers need to be more responsible for their habits. When they aren't, it's a public health threat to everyone in the area, and even beyond. Thee dwellers can get assistance through the organizations set up to help them, which has been ongoing for over a month.


32 people like this
Posted by Resident of The Gardens
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2017 at 9:17 pm

@Alice-why don't you open up your driveway and allow a few RV Dwellers to camp out in front of your home for a few months? That might give you a better idea of what our city is dealing with. Or maybe you can open your checkbook and pay for the clean up next time. I'd rather have my property tax dollars go towards something more important than cleaning human feces and urine from the same storm drains that come by my home.
Please...PUT UP or SHUT UP!!


2 people like this
Posted by Francis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2017 at 8:08 am

West Bay Sanitary District please provide the full report.


14 people like this
Posted by Jose
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 9:31 am

Get these people off the street. There are about 40 churches in East Palo Alto, nearly 1 every other block in some neighborhoods. If the people of East Palo Alto cared as much as they claimed - well you get picture.


7 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2017 at 10:06 am

When there's not enough housing near the jobs, employees get creative. These RVs only exist because more apartment buildings don't.


5 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 11:47 am

@Elizabeth
Yes... lets build our way out of the problem. If we just build more then there won't be any more RV dwellers. Just common sense. Right ? C'mon over to EPA with me and I'll show you some reality. Downtown north folk have no idea what it's like in the real world and.


9 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2017 at 11:53 am

@common sense:

I used to live in EPA. On minimum wage, I could barely afford the rent then, and I have no idea how any low-income worker does it now. Oh, right, they can't, hence the RVs! If only there was some way for housing supply to meet demand so that the rent would go down. If we don't build more apartments for the techies, they'll just bid up all the old units. The only way to provide housing for everyone is to build it.


12 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Francis - West Bay Sanitary District owes you nothing.

Elizabeth - more housing isn't the solution to this problem.

What people are not saying is that some of these vehicle dwellers care little about taking care of their surroundings and behaving responsibly. If they did, they wouldn't have been dumping, polluting and partying constantly. Many of them are outsiders who are taking advantage of the city's lax regulations. Dangerous, illegal dumping, public intoxication, drug use, and endangering our community is unacceptable.


8 people like this
Posted by long view
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2017 at 3:30 pm

long view is a registered user.

There are mobile trucks that "pump" porta-potties,that can also pump RV waste. Let this street parking continue, but with appropriate waste removal. RV parks would be great, but I believe many local ones are priced for tourists who visit for a week, not for ongoing rentals. Creating some affordable RV parks would have advantages over street parking, but it will not happen over night. Rather than prohibit RV parking, could RV street parkers be required to register, and as a benefit get weekly waste pumping?


29 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Mark Dinan is a registered user.

Weeks Street is literally in my back yard, and this impacts my family and immediate community directly. We lived with huge piles of garbage at the end of Weeks Street at the Bay Trail entrance, and also had to dodge toilet paper and feces on the trail as well.

Letting RVs park in EPA without requiring proper solid waste disposal is grossly negligent. The RVs have continued to dump waste into storm drains instead of properly disposing of it, putting our community at risk for such fecal born illnesses as Hepatitis A, Cholera, Dysentery, and all sorts of other nasty ailments. San Diego has seen over 20 people die and hundreds hospitalized due to the recent Hep A outbreak. We do not want this happening here, yet are at risk of this happening unless the city takes firm and correct measures.

There are definitely ways to deal with this in a manner that benefits both RV dwellers and residents:

1. Implement a Santa Barbara style RV parking program. There are many churches in EPA with huge parking lots. Provide services there, screen the RV residents and get them off the street.
2. Require proper waste disposal. Give vouchers for local RV service sites and require proof of disposal or risk a fine.
3. Immediately implement a testing program for wastewater. Residents absolutely have the right to know whether or not it is a risk to walk down the street. If RVs are dumping into the storm drain, that puts everyone at risk, and is a violation of federal environmental laws too - the storm drains empty into the Bay and you can't dump untreated sewage into the Bay.
4. All RVs should be in working order - if a RV cannot drive, it cannot properly dispose of waste.


11 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Pumping RV waste on residential streets is not likely to be the best idea. Who would want that on their street? Why does EPA have to clean up the messes of majority outsiders? Most of the RVers are from out of town.

The church idea, initially, sounds good, but there are viable reasons that church parking lots have not become RV parks, chief among them, liability.


5 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2017 at 5:01 pm

@Hmmm:

Actually, most of the homeless in Santa Clara county (and probably across the creek too) are long-time locals who were priced out of the rental market. For example, a third of the students at Ravenswood live in RVs, couch surf, or are otherwise considered homeless.

@Mark Dinan

Agreed! Until our neighbors in the RVs have better options, they should be accommodated for the safety and health of the whole community. This homelessness is everyone's problem.


22 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Elizabeth, the fact is that the majority of these RV dwellers are NOT East Palo Alto residents. Please stop pretending that you're the expert about issues in our town; you're not. Stop conflating these troublesome RV dwellers, who poisoned the street with their continual filthy and dangerous dumping, with the Ravenswood District school children, as they are in the minority of vehicle dwellers.


3 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2017 at 5:47 pm

@Hmm:

Wherever they're from, they'd probably dump less if proper waste disposal was more available. Like how cities put trash cans on the sidewalk to reduce littering.

Of course, accomodating the RVs would require the city to admit that its housing policy has failed some people.


8 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Our housing policy failed people? Please. That's not the city's fault. Go whine to Gov. Brown about Costa Hawkins, or participant in the upcoming Costa Hawkins activities.

Not having a garbage can handy never caused me to litter. Do you litter just because there's no garbage can? And why would a city have any other sort of waste disposal on a city street? Why would they have trash cans on residential streets? I sure don't see them abounding in Shallow Alto. Maybe you can be in charge of bringing them into our city and ensuring they get emptied- on your dime. We aren't the dumping ground for the Peninsula, so quit acting like we should be. You're doing NOTHING to solve this problem.


20 people like this
Posted by Just Sayin’
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 19, 2017 at 8:27 pm

If you live in a RV, you can live anywhere! Live within your means, away from East Palo Alto.


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Just Sayin' says: "If you live in a RV, you can live anywhere!"

Exactly! No reason not to winter in one of the many affordable RV locations near Yuma, AZ, for example. Why here, in one of the most expensive locales in the country?


Elizabeth writes: "For example, a third of the students at Ravenswood live in RVs, couch surf, or are otherwise considered homeless."

Do you have an original reference for that "third" number? I would like to know more about it and how it breaks down by type. How many students actually live in RVs, for example? Source(s)?



2 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Anon:

Last March, this very website wrote that "a third of Ravenswood students face homelessness" ( Web Link ). It says that some students live in RVs but doesn't specify how many.

Just sayin:

While it may be cheap to park an RV in AZ, the job market there is kinda thin. Silicon Valley is where the jobs are, and at least East Palo Alto is on the more convenient side of the bridge. That's actually a problem in this country: the affordable housing isn't where the plentiful jobs are, and vice-versa.

Hmm:

You're over the age of "I bought my house twenty years ago," aren't you? Enjoy your Prop 13 tax break while everyone younger than you suffers from its unintended consequences, like housing supply not keeping up with demand for the last forty years. I'd find it much easier to believe "we can't build our way out of this problem" if our neighborhoods didn't look mostly frozen in 1978.


2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2017 at 5:00 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The long term solution to all low income problems is to leave the SFBA and Silicon Valley and let the rich take on the jobs that need to be done for themselves.
60 years ago, Palo Alto was clearly a WASP only town and practiced RED-LINING. If you were not a rich WASP type, you were shunted off to the COOLEY LANDING area of the SAN MATEO COUNTY town of East Palo Alto. I was one of those red-line victims. I grew up as a little boy, playing on the dikes and watching airplanes taking off from PAO Airport.
Much later, both my Dad and I worked in the auto wrecking yards that populated the same areas that are being complained about. There were junk cars all over TARA road AND the area. WHEN WERE YOUR COMPLAINTS THEN???
WHEN WERE YOUR COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE ROMIC PLANT???

Palo Alto was too busy practicing red-lining to worry about the poor and minority people shoved into that area of San Mateo County. The problem was dealt with and Palo Alto did not care about the problems in another county.

One thing History shows us is that History often repeats itself. That is the case with the same problem Palo Alto faces today. You WANT your services but do not want to PAY for them! So the same problem you had 60 years ago repeats itself today.

Now, I am an older person and a college graduate. I left Silicon Valley because I knew I could not afford to buy a house in Mountain View 40 years ago. I DID buy a house for $79k in Wisconsin, next to Lake Wissota, a tri-level EXPENSIVE house that I could afford on my Cray Research salary.
If you want your wage slaves to afford a house close by, Palo Alto residents will have to pay a MINIMUM WAGE OF $22.50 PER HOUR. That is MY calculation based on real US statistics. Or expect MORE people living in RVs and in their cars.

Hawaii has had a similar problem for housing NATIVES and the working poor. Their solution was to convert some of the MANY shipping containers into proper villages. Their shipping container houses cost $7500 each. These are houses that meet all city codes for housing; electricity, plumbing, waste removal, just like those RV dwellers you NOW find at the same place where Johnny Able ( Able Auto Wrecking ) stowed his junk cars before processing. As an aside, the PAPD had Ellison Towing and a few others keep Palo Alto streets clean by towing the cars to these same wrecking yards which had to wait the 30-45 days to break them up. Your streets were safe and cleaned because all the POOR and MINORITY problems were shoved to the next county. Let THEM deal with the problem!
Now, I can fly, SCUBA dive and surf ( I have 2 surfboards ) when I was a little boy and teenager who could only wish for the abilities.
Now our family is no longer poor. We OWN our Mountain View house ( worth $1.2 Million now ) and 500 acres of land in Wisconsin. Dad was an HVAC boss at Stanford. Mom retired as Assistant Administrator of the SJUSD that specialized in handling ALL student affairs properly. That is how I knew AND TOLD REPEATEDLY how the PAUSD MUST deal with their problems in Student/Community relations. Instead of following my advice, the PAUSD failed AGAIN AND AGAIN AT ALL LEVELS!
East Palo Alto has plenty of surrounding land in the Weeks Street area. How about SOLVING your 60 year old problem by either creating an RV park with full hoook-ups or get a bunch of shipping containers from the Port of Oakland and build affordable housing for your existing wage slaves and be able to erase the memory of treating your " Final Solution " 60 years ago.
That would be the right and MORAL thing to do for the Palo Alto SERVANTS you want/need to remain near high-priced Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

P.S. The truth can be painful to face. People ( especially RICH people ) hope that they can just bury the past behaviors and responsibilities for that behavior. That is a COWARDS way out. You can blame other people ( even the President ) but the failures are YOURS that must be dealt with. Or you are no better than the people you complain about.
I have told much of what I have said publicly to the editors of the PAO PRIVATELY. They have been aware of Palo Alto s shameful past.

In this holiday season, It might be time to face the same reality faced in other cities on the West Coast: people and businesses are leaving $15/ hour minimum wage areas, including many (un) Civil Servants. If you make the rules, you suffer the consequences. There is no free lunch. This ALWAYS IS a solution; You want something, YOU PAY FOR IT! You do something in the past, IT MUST BE TAKEN CAR OF! The PAUSD is finding this out the hard way. Don't let the City of Palo Alto find this out the hard way too! As the "WHO" SAY: EMINENCE FRONT; That song refers to Palo Alto and other high buck places..


Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2017 at 5:47 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

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5 people like this
Posted by Just Sayin'
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2017 at 5:53 pm

@the_punisher...did you say 500 acres? Is there anyway we can send a few of these RV Dwellers to live on your property free of charge? Us East Palo Alto residents would really appreciate you for it! Perhaps you can build the RV park you mentioned and charge them a lesser rate than they would pay here. Who know, maybe that way, they too can enjoy recreational activities like surfing, diving and flying, you know, the ones you enjoy.


2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Elizabeth - start hounding YOUR city to increase housing, since your posts are no longer making sense. Now that the parking restrictions have been extended, your words mean even less than they did yesterday.


2 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Hmm:

I've told Palo Alto's mayor to his face that we need allow more housing to be built. (It's not a matter of want -- everyone wants to build here -- but a matter of permits and zoning preventing it) Is that enough hounding for you? Look up Palo Alto Forward if you'd like to hound too. We could always use more supporters at public hearings in city hall.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 20, 2017 at 10:53 pm

Ooooh you told the mayor to his face! How effective. Good luck with that.


2 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 21, 2017 at 7:34 am

Hmmm:

You got a better idea?


Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2017 at 6:15 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

@ Just Sayin: Sure, but they would still have to work on a farm AND be able to handle -40 temperatures in their RVs. Waste ill have to go into standard outhouses that were set up on the individual farms.
Work on a farm was MY requirement as a lad when California had recessions, we got shipped back when Dad lost his job as an A&P at UAL; he was low on the Union Seniority list.
YOU DON'T WORK, YOU DON'T EAT was the motto on the Farm; that still applies today. There are few sit down jobs and the nearest town is ~30 miles away. We do not have the Internet there and you need a tower to get any TV because there is no cable there. 1 radio station. Plenty of peace and quiet.
If this is what you can live with ( and do without ), then maybe this is an option.

Now everyone can understand why these part of rural America DO NOT want government meddling like the EPA has done. these people want most to be left alone! They want a CHANGE in the way government behaves. That is why they ALL voted for our President. Our silent majority took the time to vote and they voted. Our country is BIG and the SFBA and Silicon Valley are LITTLE. Instead of flying across the US, try DRIVING across it, like I have many times. Even making a decent living in most places requires hard work, not sit-down jobs. THAT is what most East and West Coast don't understand.
The Upper Mid-West is populated by peasant stock who took a risk in getting to the New World to own their own farms instead of some rich person in the Old World. You are respected when you do the hard work or support the CLANNISH Farm Communities. The local Mennonite Community finally accepted our family after over 60 years later. They accepted the fact that I worked at Cray Research ( a sit-down job ) and my sister is hired by the County to provide Medical Services across the County. We do " Good Works " for the local Mennonite people. Yes, many are church going people. That certain comment about " Guns and Bibles " also got the vote out. That is also wht the " Hildebeast " lost.
I am posting all this to try to explain that " Silicon Valley, the sFBA, and both Coast people ARE STILL A MINORITY when they are looked at when seeing the total land mass of the United States. I can be considered a " Bridge Between Two Cultures " because I have lived in East Palo Alto { That Tesla aircraft hit the same power lines I played under and it crashed in the back-yard of our house ), Santa Clara and Mountain View. I also spent time at hard labor on my Grandpa's Dairy Farm ( I shoveled more manure than a politician ) and chores needed for survival.

And I have not talked about the AMARIND part of my heritage my g-grandmother was Full blooded at a time when Indians were discriminated on everything, far worse than most minorities today. That I will save for another time and place.

Thank you, Palo Alto On Line Staff for allowing my factual responses and answers to some of the problems I describe and possible solutions to those problems. I am thankful you allow me to explain the " other view " of some of today's problems. I have been employed as seeing Solutions to problems at many places, not just Cray Research. I have had the Demings Failure Analysis through Statistical Analysis coursework. I am trained as a Test Engineer. When a Semiconductor yield falls beyond 95%, I have to troubleshoot WHY there is that failure rate. I can apply that training to real life problems as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident of the Gardens
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2017 at 9:25 pm

@the_punisher Kinda sounds like you love to hear yourself talk!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Elizabeth, a resident of Downtown North, on Dec 20, 2017 at 10:12 pm, wrote:

"I've told Palo Alto's mayor to his face that we need allow more housing to be built. (It's not a matter of want -- everyone wants to build here -- but a matter of permits and zoning preventing it) Is that enough hounding for you? Look up Palo Alto Forward if you'd like to hound too. We could always use more supporters at public hearings in city hall."

Elizabeth, I can't support "more housing" of any type unless you can propose housing that won't increase the number of cars on the road. There is plenty of room for more housing, but, there is no room for more cars.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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