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.