On a recent weekday, Antonio Perkins rushed out of his motor home to find police officers with a notice: He had 72 hours to move his RV from Treat Avenue and 17th Street.
Police say they have zero tolerance of long-term parking violations and act on complaints, but the recent increase in RV ticketing offers yet another indication of the tightening parking situation in the northeast Mission. As reported earlier, it’s one the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency plans to combat by adding hundreds of meters.
Most immediately, it means that Perkins and the dozen or so RV owners in the area will have to move on, police said. Other favored RV parking places in the neighborhood include Franklin Square along 17th Street, Division at 13th Street and the blocks around Best Buy on Harrison Street, according to Officer Stephen Keith.
Perkins was one of many RV owners who had parked for long periods in the area behind Best Buy. Then, more than a month ago, “no parking” signs went up there, as well as along streets near the SPCA on 16th Street between Alabama and Florida streets.
RV owners responded to the new restrictions by moving to Treat, according to Officer Alex Medina, who regularly handles the issue.
They’re just shuffling us around,” Perkins said.
The owners don’t have to move far, but they do have to move fairly often. Section 37A of the San Francisco Traffic Code makes it illegal to park in the same spot for more than 72 hours. After receiving an official warning, the owner has another 72 hours to move the vehicle at least one-tenth of a mile away (about a block’s distance). After that, police can call in the tow truck.
Police say the complaints often have nothing to do with businesses wanting the parking space.
“Sometimes it’s a noise issue, because the generator’s going all hours of the night,” said Keith, “or a suspicion of prostitution, or a drug sale.” Other times, “we’ll get a rash of break-ins, and folks look for what is different about the neighborhood.
“Two people will be fighting in the street. Officers show up, and it’s people attached to the RV. They’re there because of their RVs.”
Because large vehicles are so visually obstructive, they make walking at night more dangerous, said Medina.
Hannah Salmons, who lives in her motor home with her boyfriend Zachary O’Dir, also got a visit from police. They parked in the area two days earlier, after a friend told them the Mission District offered prime RV parking.
Salmons said when people see excrement and other refuse in the street, they tend to blame the RVs and their owners. But, “most motor homes have bathrooms,” she said, “and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve caught some guy pissing on my tailgate.”
To avoid what they call “excessive profiling,” Salmons and her boyfriend have altered their behavior.
“We stopped dying Zach’s hair,” she said. Her own is bright pink, but she wears it up these days to draw less attention.
Officers are supposed to post paper warnings to re-park, but because violators often throw them away, officers don’t need to retain a copy of the original warning in order to have the vehicle towed, Keith said. Often an officer will issue a warning at the start of his 72-hour shift, then simply check back before the time is up.
Salmons and O’Dir received a verbal warning to move their motor home on Dec. 12, but 12 hours later, different police officers knocked on their door to give them the same warning. Then a new pair of officers showed up on Dec. 14 — 48 hours after the initial warning.
O’Dir said the officer asked him when he would leave.
What intrigues Keith most about the RV-dwelling population is that they stay at all.
“It seems to me that the group is well aware of what the ordinances are. They are a community. They’ll move each other’s vehicles. They help each other out. For all the hassling they go through, it must be worth it.”