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SLO parking forum gets heated 

A public outreach effort by the city of San Luis Obispo over a possibly expanding parking ordinance seemed to go nowhere fast.

For the past few weeks, the city has posted a survey on its website, asking residents what—if anything—they thought should be done about oversized vehicles and trailers parked on city streets. By oversized vehicles, we’re talking those generally longer than 20 feet, such as passenger vans, all the way to semi trucks.

On Sept. 12, the city’s public works department held a workshop seeking input on whether to make regulating such street parking part of a parking ordinance the city is required to draft by the end of the year, following a civil lawsuit over a crackdown on overnight camping in vehicles.

From the onset, the city’s traffic operations manager, Jake Hudson, told the roughly 30 people in attendance that the forum wasn’t specifically addressing the contentious issue of sleeping in vehicles, but was a separate component of what could become the redrafted ordinance.

According to Hudson, large vehicles and trailers parked streetside contribute to around five percent of all traffic collisions citywide, and approximately 500 police dispatch calls a year.

But that didn’t stop both sides of the audience—a slim majority of whom were labeled “homeless advocates”—from decrying the conversation as “putting the cart before the horse,” as the overnight camping issue has yet to be resolved.

“Some people may not want oversized vehicles parked on city streets, but their opinions are being skewed by the homeless issue,” said resident Carolyn Smith. “So you’re not going to get a helpful picture.”

“I don’t want to vote for any of these,” said resident Tom Ogren.

Other members of the audience noted that city staffers omitted the fact that of the roughly 60 other cities and counties polled in researching a possible ordinance, about 30 of those cities didn’t regulate oversized vehicles at all.

The workshop quickly broke into a shouting match, and some city staffers and council members were visibly agitated.

Currently, the city allows for a vehicle to remain parked in one location for up to 72 hours before it must be moved at least 500 feet.

City staffers are still encouraging residents to fill out the online survey before they make their recommendation to the City Council on Sept. 25. The council will discuss the proposed ordinance at its Oct. 2 meeting.

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