Geary v. City of Pacifica
On March 15, 2021, on behalf of five Pacifica residents who reside in RVs, Disability Rights Advocates, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County filed a class action lawsuit against the city to strike down a law that bans RV parking within city limits.
The lawsuit argues that the citywide RV parking ban is a blatant attempt by Pacifica to banish those who rely on RVs for housing and mobility, and therefore violates the U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
All five plaintiffs have deep roots in Pacifica and need to remain in the city for personal or professional reasons. Some are employed within the city, while others have family in the area or depend on access to the city for health care and local services.
The ban was established by a Pacifica ordinance prohibiting “oversized vehicle” parking that was passed in late 2019. Pacifica began aggressively enforcing this ordinance in September 2020 after the city council abandoned efforts to provide any parking areas for RV residents.
The ordinance made it illegal to park an RV at any time in streets throughout the city, including giving the city the discretion to prohibit RV parking based on aesthetics. Although the city claimed there were streets where RV residents could park without getting ticketed, haphazard signage and contradictory information made it impossible for people know where RV parking might be allowed. Instead of providing any clear rule, the city has given out tickets based on housed residents’ complaints, even when an RV is parked on a street that has no other justification for prohibiting RV parking.
Those who violate the ordinance are subject to escalating fines. After the third citation within 12 months, a ticket becomes a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months of imprisonment. If five tickets are left unpaid, the RV can be towed and impounded.
The ban’s impact has been particularly severe on people with disabilities, who already disproportionately experience homelessness. The ban has undermined their ability to maintain their health and employment.
Nearly one in ten Pacifica households earn less than $25,000 per year, while Pacifica’s median home value has risen to over $1.1 million and the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment has soared to over $2,500. Commercial RV Parks are not a viable option. The cost of parking in an RV park is $100 a night, equaling approximately $3,000 per month. According to the most recent data, Pacifica only built three units of affordable housing between 2007 and 2014, even though analysis by the city called for 108 units to be built.
Immediate solutions include allowing RV parking on clearly designated streets that can accommodate their size or creating an alternative “safe parking” program that connects RV residents with services and has proper accommodations for people with disabilities.
The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.