Stepping up in the name of public safety

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

in compliance.

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 Or if that placard's out of date, it's a violation and we can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

permits.

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

is, roughly?

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

daily vehicle?

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

looking summertime.

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

job done.

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.

BIO

Name: Costa Mesa Police Lt. Karl Schuler

Age: 48

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

University

Hobbies: Building hot rods and scuba diving

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