As a result of residents' complaints in Costa Mesa, the City Council
and city officials have reevaluated the city's recreational vehicle law
that limits the motor homes to 72 hours on residential streets. Many of
the complaints pertain to public safety and not being able to see around
the large vehicles.
The new law being proposed will require RV owners to place placards in
their windshields to show officials how long they're allowed to park on
the street. On Thursday, Assistant City Editor James Meier sat down with
Costa Mesa Police Lt. Karl Schuler, who is proposing the new law.
Q: Tell me a little about the new RV law you're proposing.
A: Basically, the RV ordinance that we're looking at that was asked to
be re-researched at the last City Council meeting. They asked us to look
at some ways to make it better so it pleases more people. So what we're
doing now, basically, is putting together a permit program that would
mandate that people come to the Police Department to get permits to place
in the windshields so that they can be easily identified by us as being
If they don't have the actual placard in the window, it's an automatic
violation. Or if that placard's out of date, it's a violation and we can
enforce it at that time.
Q: What other solutions were studied?
A: Well, originally, in my first proposal, we had looked at several
different cities and what they were doing. For example, Pasadena doesn't
allow parking at all at night -- all vehicles. We thought that was a
little too much. Some restricted it from 2 to 6 a.m. We tried to find one
that was workable.
At the last council meeting, the big concern from the RV owners was
that it wasn't fair -- that the 24-hour rule didn't allow enough time to
load, unload, clean and pack their vehicles. So, we said, "Let's give
them a little more time." I told City Council then that 72 hours seemed
fair. Because I don't own an RV, I don't know what it takes.
If we're stretching it a little bit for them, and it makes it a little
easier for them, that's great. We're still going to reduce the number of
RVs in the street by doing this because it's going to be there just for
that one reason. And we're also proposing a visitor permit -- it's a
one-week permit that would be a different color than the actual 72-hour
Q: When you look at the placards, you still have to check out the
dates on them?
A: Right. When they pick up the placard at the front desk, it's going
to be a bright orange color with the numbers written real big so an
enforcement person doesn't have to get out of the car. They can drive by,
look up at the windshield, see the placards -- the time and date. Makes
it real easy so they don't have to get out and look at all of them.
Q: What do you think the percentage of violators of the current law
A: It's really hard to pinpoint because what happens is we get phone
calls all the time from people complaining about the RVs. We go out and
mark them. The RV owners know we marked them. They move them. It may be a
quarter of a mile. It may just be a few feet, but I've said it in City
Council meetings and I'll stick to it. People do cover up their odometers
so we can't see the mileage, and we can't do anything about it. It's
tough. If they're off the mark, we can't do anything about it.
So then after we mark it again, three days later, the same citizen
will call and complain again. Still there and hasn't moved, but in
essence it has moved, but not very much. We mark it again. It's just
ongoing and has been since I've been here for 26 years.
So, as far as giving a percentage, it's real tough. Just the other
day, we had a deal where a citizen called and said someone just pulled up
on Whittier, parked their RV, lady pulled in behind him in a compact car,
he got in and they left. So someone's actually using that street to store
their RV. And they'll come out and move it every three days to the other
side of the street.
And, importantly, we had an accident the other day and it was the
direct result of an RV being parked on the street blocking view.
Q: You mentioned the weekly visitor's pass. What if a family's
relatives visit for about nine days?
A: Well, again this is just a proposal, so the City Council can adjust
it. One thing that's important to know, though, is that if you have an RV
and you're coming from out of town, our city ordinances do not allow for
you to sleep in the RV -- whether it's on private property or the street.
They can have no hookups to it. You cannot have an electrical cord going
to the RV from the house or a garden hose to fill up the water. You can
do it getting ready for a trip, but not for actually living in it. They
can park it there and the ordinance says it has to be parked in front of
the residence where they're staying. They can play cards in it, but they
cannot sleep in it.
So, they can stay there for seven days, and then they can go to an RV
park or Huntington Beach at the state park to park on the beach for a few
days. We proposed a week because we felt it was fair.
Q: What would you propose someone do if they use their RV as their
A: That's interesting because with the last proposal we gave -- if it
was passed -- Bill Folsom would not be in violation because he parks it
on a commercial street. The way the ordinance was written allows you to
park on a commercial street provided that it's not for more than 72
hours. Our current law is 72 hours. So he would have been fine.
Depending on what the council does with the new ordinance -- if they
say residential only, he can still park on the street so long as he's in
compliance with the 72-hour rule. If he's driving it to work, it
shouldn't be a problem. If the council decides to go citywide, that
raises a different issue. Then, he can't park on the street at all.
In the ordinance, we're actually writing down the possibility of a
limited number of placards per year. If a guy comes down every week and
gets one, that's not going to help anything with the objectives the
council's looking at. Basically, it's designed for the out-of-towners and
for a person packing for a trip or coming back. When they get their
placard, they can also at the same time get a return placard -- if they
know when they're returning. We're going to keep a log in the computer of
who's getting them and for how long. To me, it sounds pretty reasonable
Q: What are the current fines and will those change?
A: $21. It's been proposed to be raised by City Council.
Q: Would warnings be issued, at least at first?
A: Yeah, at least at first. And the signs will be put up at the major
arteries that enter the city. We already have signs that indicate you
can't have commercial vehicles on residential streets. So it should just
be an additional sign.
Q: On a different subject, where is Costa Mesa on the red-light camera
project since you're also heading that?
A: Right now, we're in the process of writing a contract with Nestor
Corp. We're working with an attorney to get that going. We went out to
Irvine the day before yesterday to look at their program to just get some
more information. The city engineers went out there with me to watch them
and discuss many issues that we were wondering about.
From what I understand is, once you sign a contract, it takes three to
four months to get one put in. So, if we sign a contract in the next
month or two, we're looking at about six months from now, so we're
I'd like to get them in as soon as possible because there's a real
need for them in certain places. We're going to determine the locations
based on the accident rate. We currently have our top 10 accident
locations in the city. That could change between now and six months from
now. It has stayed pretty consistent, though.
Q: I understand you still jump on the traffic patrol motorcycle every
once in a while. Did you ever get sick of it?
A: Never. No, I love to ride, and I love to go out there and make a
visual presence. Our whole approach on traffic enforcement has been, over
the last year since I came back in here, is to be really aggressive and
visible. As a result, this year we had a 20% reduction in traffic
collisions over the year before.
So, I think that has a direct relationship with the troops working
really hard out there being visible. I can't be any happier with our
officers. They're very diligent and very professional, and they get the
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I just know the City Council listened to a lot of people at that
last meeting and was very fair. They allowed people to speak up and are
trying address as many issues as they can and accommodate as many people
as they can.
You have to understand that when this thing's all said and done, not
everybody is going to be happy. There's going to be some person, or some
group of people, that aren't going to be happy. Right now, there's a
group of people who aren't happy, and that's the citizens who think RVs
are a visual hazard and blight and are tired of people parking in front
of their residences. Again, no one group is going to be happy when this
is all said and done.
Name: Costa Mesa Police Lt. Karl Schuler
Years with Costa Mesa Police Department: 26
Family: Wife of five years Donna, children Kyle and Kelly
Education: Bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Chapman
Hobbies: Building hot rods and scuba diving