At the request of business and homeowners of a dead-end block adjacent to the Mission St. CVS, the Santa Cruz City Council voted Sept. 22 to reconfigure the parking arrangement on the 100 block of Olive Street — forcing individuals who park their large recreational vehicles (RVs) in the area to leave. 

“These times are very difficult, and we have to balance impacts on everyone in our community,” said Mayor Justin Cummings at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting. “I think that with this situation, we really need to take the neighborhood concerns and business concerns into account, and try to find other places where these folks can sleep.”

The city’s Parking Services office will paint some areas of the curb around the block red, add new, single space parking marks, and demarcate a dedicated loading zone for UC Santa Cruz’s bike shuttle.

The change will effectively bar oversized RVs from parking on the residential and commercial block, though some small RVs will still be able to fit inside the new single car spaces. There is no definite date by which these changes will be implemented, but city officials say changes of this kind are typically executed within 4-6 weeks of a city council decision. 

Among those forced to leave the block is houseless activist and City Council candidate Alicia Kuhl who spoke to the City Council on Sept. 22. 

Mayor Cummings, as well as council members Donna Meyers, Katherine Beiers, Renee Golder, Martine Watkins, and Cynthia Matthews voted to approve the proposed changes. Council member Sandy Brown cast the only dissenting vote.

“We say a lot about making data-driven, evidence-based decisions,” Brown said. “I do not see any evidence — and if somebody has it, please share it — that restricting large vehicles but continuing to allow small vehicles is going to somehow change the dynamic there. I just don’t see this as a solution to the perceived problem.”

Illustration by Ryan Tran.

The decision came at the end of a monthslong exchange between city officials, home and business owners on Olive Street, and RV residents in the area. In Aug. 2019, about 20 community members petitioned the city’s Parking Services office to restripe the block, in an attempt to resolve ongoing public nuisance issues. Residents reported an accumulation of trash around the block’s sidewalks, loud noises, and aggressive verbal encounters with individuals under the influence.

“Our neighborhood has been adversely affected by the current unmanaged, unserviced RVs and vans parking on Olive Street,” said Dana Wherity, an Olive Street resident who submitted the appeal discussed at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting. “This short, half block street is not an appropriate area for this homeless encampment.”  

On Aug. 17 of this year, Alicia Kuhl submitted an opposing appeal to the Santa Cruz Transportation and Public Works Commission (TPWC), a City Council advisory body that meets monthly to discuss infrastructural issues. The TPWC voted 5-2 to uphold Kuhl’s appeal on the grounds that the change would leave RV residents scrambling to find a new place to park. 

Kuhl, who has parked her RV on Olive Street for about two years, argued at the TPWC hearing and Sept. 22 City Council meeting that it was speculation on the part of the block’s home and business owners that RV residents were responsible for the trash pileup and public nuisances.

“There are a lot of police phone calls because in general there are a lot of police phone calls targeting people experiencing homelessness,” Kuhl said at the Sept. 22 meeting. “People are going to have to move to nearby streets. This is not a productive way of addressing this issue.”

Kuhl could not be reached for additional comment at time of press.