City of Pacifica

Staff Report
No Vote Required
May 13, 2019 7:00 PM

Task Force on Homelessness and Recreational Vehicles in Pacifica


Department:City Manager's OfficeSponsors:

Meeting History

May 13, 2019 7:00 PM  City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft

City Manager Woodhouse stated Police Chief Steidle helped on this and they worked in collaboration with Anita Rees of the Pacifica Resource Center. He then gave the presentation.

Councilmember Bier thanked him for the report. She stated in No. 2, she didn’t see anything about houseless or vehicularly housed people listed in those sectors and she wondered if it can be added. She felt it was important to have that representation on the task force.

City Manager Woodhouse stated, if it wasn’t in there in other broad suggestions, he, Ms. Rees and Chief Steidle had talked about that as a sector. He might have summarized it under the homeless advocates, but it was potentially a different category. He stated that was one of the original sectors that would be represented.

Councilmember Bier stated that 8 of the 10 questions referenced the safe parking programs and she wondered why there wasn’t more of a focus for the underlying reasons for homelessness to lead to a series of strategies to address it.

City Manager Woodhouse stated that those were just sample questions and the task force will take up what resource questions it needs to answer. He stated those were the questions from the original goal setting memo by Council and at that point the focus was on the immediate problems of RVs on the street, and they were only suggestions and the task force will define their own research questions.

Councilmember Bier stated that it was important for her to get it on the record as she was uncomfortable at this not be a city led task force. She understands the reason for it and she trusts our community.

Councilmember Beckmeyer referred to Item 5 regarding community input during the task force’s work and issue of task force meetings not being public, adding that it will be important for the public to be updated on the task force’s work and create opportunities for the task force to hear public input. She was aware public meetings were listed, but in terms of keeping the community informed, she asked how that can be accomplished if it was not city based. She referred to all the previous reports where a staff member is assigned and takes responsibility to make sure the word gets out in a specific way. She wondered what strategies this group might utilize to keep the community informed on their progress.

City Manager Woodhouse stated that he would be recommending, in addition to some public meetings, that they consider additional public updates with either verbal or written informational updates. He stated that he would be providing updates to the Council during staff comments as he does for any other entity in which they are involved.

Councilmember Beckmeyer acknowledged that Council would want to be updated, but she was thinking of the public and how to engage them in knowing what is going on.

City Manager Woodhouse stated that his recommendation to the task force is that they hold public meetings and utilize other means but they will determine that for themselves.

Mayor Vaterlaus stated that they have about 30 cards from the public and she would ask Council if they limit them to two minutes as they have an additional 20 after that, and she acknowledged that Council has agreed to allowing comments to be two minutes instead of three. She asked that they be as brief as possible and suggested, if someone said what they wanted to say, that the speaker just say they agree with the previous speaker. She then opened up public comments.

Tim Carlberg, Pacifica, stated he is a new Pacifican who moved here to raise his 2-year-old son and expects to be here for at least 16 years. He understood this is a complex and severe issue, stating that he has worked in international development for over a decade and has compassion for the individuals who may be struggling. He wanted to voice full support for some task force as described by the City Manager. He stated that he wanted to be able to provide a safe and enjoyable opportunity for his son. He referred to how beautiful Esplanade is and enjoy spending time there but it was a stark comparison north of the post office. He stated that it was not just a homelessness issue but a destination for individuals. He noticed that there were a half dozen recreational mobile homes and they aren’t necessarily creating trouble but leave trash and makes a parent with a child have second thoughts about moving past some of the vehicles. He noticed no parking signs and he asked what it would take to get some of them in Manor.

Gloria Stofan, Pacifica, stated she is a homeowner since 1966 and a member of Faith in Action and Pacifica Housing for All. She stated that this item is not an easy one to address and make decisions on as it was a complicated and emotional issue at all levels. She was glad that a task force has been created to give the city a chance to study and hopefully come up with options where action can be taken. She commented on how the task force was going to be done and she agreed that it was important to work with the Pacifica Resource Center and have a homeless person in an RV or car who can sit on the task force. And she felt a city councilmember should also be there. She mentioned an option proposed by John Keener that City Council should consider leasing a city owned parking area to the Pacifica Resource Center for RVs and cars.

Carolyn Jaramillo, Pacifica, stated she is a homeowner and a member of Pacifica Housing for All. She was glad that the task force was being set up and agrees and applauds Councilmember Bier’s comment about requesting a person living in an RV be on the task force as it made sense that those affected by a policy or program be included in the study and the design of the program. She would like to see some of the questions put forth for consideration by the Task Force be reframed, such as how many violations of health and safety by people living in their RVs have merited some type of police action. She also asked to what extent would a ban on living in the RVs benefit the people in those vehicles; to what extent would a failure to implement a safe parking program hinder the city from achieving its goal of becoming a compassionate city; what structured learning opportunities would rotational shelters provide the community and what lessons would our children learn from such programs and from a ban.

Jeannine Menger, Pacifica, stated that she met with Robby Bancroft and Mary Bier one day and they directed her to Anita Rees at the PRC and she spent about an hour and a half with her, took notes about all the programs coming up, and the PRC was a beacon for this kind of an issue. She also described specific things about the RV homeless issues that exist now as well as coming very soon. Rather than just suggest passing the ordinance proposed in February, she specifically suggested addressing HEAP safe parking which would not use taxpayers’ money, LifeMoves will be working one-on-one with those in the fields living in RVs and are homeless and showing compassion. She felt they need to pass the ordinance and let taxpayers and homeowners have Esplanade and the city back.

Robin Brun, Pacifica, stated that she has lived in Pacifica for five years and thought this situation has lessened our quality of life. She stated that residents pay a premium to live here and, while realizing this is a multi-faceted problem and people with a connection have been displaced, this has been a destination city. She did some research on this on line and read some of the results for homeless people who mention Pacifica as a destination. She felt this needs to be settled now because it is a problem.

Anita Rees, Pacifica, thanked Council and staff for prioritizing addressing homelessness in Pacifica as it was a significant change from the past to recognize that it is an issue and something the community needs to address, adding that homelessness is not just a Pacifica issue. She stated that the state and county were looking for creative solutions to this complex issue and making the task force relevant and timely and they will have the opportunity to develop creative strategies to protect the safety and health of all Pacificans, including those in RVs, vans and cars. She stated that, when funding becomes available, they will be able to propose solutions because of the work of the task force. She stated that the PRC are looking forward to this work in general. She stated that LiveMoves has submitted a proposal to the County to provide outreach to homeless households living in vehicles, one area includes Pacifica, and should funding become available they will have an outreach worker specifically working with those in the RVs and cars, etc., to connect them to services and help them become housed. They will have staff available Monday through Friday, 3-8 pm and eight hours over the weekend when most people will be in their vehicles. She stated that they will be able to find out what they need and that information shared with the task force so people will understand the complex issues with which people are dealing. She was looking forward to what comes next.

Matthew Millard, Pacifica, stated that he is a vehicular housed person in Pacifica. He stated that he was born and raised in Pacifica and lost his home in the housing crisis in 2008. He moved to an apartment and was forced out in 2017 when his rent was doubled. He stated that he had a motorhome for recreational purposes and was his only option at the time. He stated that it was not fun to live in an RV and he takes anxiety medication because he lives in fear and anxiety. He tries to live in a way that he does not bother anyone else. He works with the PRC who have been helpful in supporting him and helping him to move forward but it takes time. He was in support of the task force and he was in agreement with what Ms. Rees says can happen with the task force.

Glen Lipp, Pacifica, thanked Council in addressing this as he felt a task force was a wise idea. He stated that they are not just homeless because these vehicles are their homes, and a vast majority who are living here either work or on a pension and can’t afford a house. He stated that he works full time and would love to live in a house. He stated that he spends over $1000 eating and reminds everyone that they are paying taxes, just not property taxes. He thought the trash issue was being made bigger than it is. He stated that he talked to visitors mentioned by a previous speaker and he promised them that they did not leave any trash. He thought the number of people who live in Pacifica full time was less than the number being thrown around. He stated that this is a coastal town and during the summer that population is going to grow. He stated this was a national problem as people cannot afford to live in a house or an apartment and it isn’t the same world it was even ten years ago. He stated that it was 50-50, people who choose to and people who have to.

Ricardo Guerra, Pacifica, stated he was present about the harassment. He referred to the Penal Code book, stating he was getting confused because he has been homeless in Pacifica for five years. He stated that he doesn’t get bad treatment from the locals but get help from them. He stated that the Resource Center deserves all the help they can get so that they can help the homeless. He understood that there are those who do not want to help themselves, but those who want to help themselves are the ones they need to grab. He stated that when he came to Pacifica he had nothing. He stated that, if it wasn’t for the Resource Center he would be cold, hungry, lost. He was confused as the book says he can park anywhere in California for an extended period of time, but he gets pulled over seven times in two days and is told he has to move. He stated that he takes medication to go to sleep at night to deal with anxiety and frustration going on around them. He stated that people are throwing eggs, flattening tires, etc., because of those badmouthing the homeless on NextDoor and on social media. He concluded that they have to work together to get something done.

Maryann Cainoch, Pacifica, stated that she is a 30-year homeowner in the Manor area. She stated that every week there are more and more RVs and vans staying. She stated that, when she called the police department, they told her she would have to go around to every van and camper, write down the license plate and call them with that and after 72 hours call them again with the numbers. She stated that there should be a better way than having to do that. She stated that the situation is getting worse every week and she wonders what will happen between this committee, which she thought was a good idea, and when something is done after the 4-5 months. She felt they needed to do something now where they won’t have campers there every week. She felt the solution wasn’t homeowners calling with the license plate numbers which she thought was dangerous to do that. She felt there was a better way.

Alessandra, Pacifica, stated that she lives in Pacifica and is an Uber driver. She works hard and is a student to improve her English. She would like to have a place that is safe for everyone, including people in homes and RVs. She stated that she lives with her husband and they take their trash to dump at a facility in Half Moon Bay. She would like to feel safe when living in her RV.

Ellen Hage, Pacifica, stated she is a homeowner in Pacifica since 1974 and is a member of Pacifica Housing for All and Faith in Action and she supports a community based task force on homelessness and RVs in Pacifica. She stated that the Pacifica Resource Center has been working on this and she felt, with the support of the city and community, we can find solutions. She shared words from Jimmie who is living in his RV. He stated that he is living on Social Security and cannot afford rents in Pacifica and he is afraid he will be put out anytime. He didn’t want any trouble and he worries that he doesn’t have an address and can’t prove he is a resident. He didn’t want to end up with a criminal record, and he requested that he be considered for the task force. She thanked them for taking needed action to find solutions for people in our town who are struggling.

Kerri Livingston, Pacifica, stated that she is a homeless person in Pacifica. She has a truck and trailer. She stated that her mother passed away the previous year and she was supposed to live in her home. She took her two dogs and became responsible for them and rescued another dog. She was evicted from that home because her brother was going after the full trust. She tried to find residence and could not find anything for herself and three dogs and she purchased the trailer and truck which was the only way she could maintain the dogs. She didn’t like being homeless. She has part time employment and was looking for full time employment. She thought the task force was a great idea. She stated that she used to do non-profit work and she was at the Resource Center and they can get in contact with her there.

Tygarjas Bigstyck, Pacifica, stated that he was in support of the task force. He stated that he was concerned that only two of the meetings might be public. He hoped all the meetings would be public. With only two, that limits his chance of being able to attend them to give his ideas. One of his ideas was reaching out to the owner of the quarry and asking for a slab of concrete to be placed to provide a safe parking area which would make the area more attractive to vote for the developer to put housing in if that safe parking was coupled with an affordable housing plan. Another idea was the possibility of an RV permit and the other equation was that some people park their RVs outside their houses because he didn’t want to pay $400 a month when he owns a house and puts his RV outside of his house and he thought, if there was a permit process. He mentioned several options that might be available for RV owners.

Kurt Davis, Pacifica, stated that he has lived in Pacifica for one year and he loves it. He found it to be very friendly, welcoming and warming and he would love to be on the task force to help solve some of the problems, adding that he has a lot of ideas. He has also done a lot of non-profit work and was hopeful that they could solve it as a community.

Jim Corns, Pacifica, stated that he is on Social Security and has been living here a year. He tries to be a good neighbor, keeps his RV clean and it scares him when he hears about people didn’t like them for no reason. He has not caused any trouble, no criminal record and wants to help with the solution and he would like to be on the task force.

Mayor Vaterlaus closed public comments.

City Attorney Kenyon reminded Council that this was a presentation and there was no action by Council.

Mayor Vaterlaus concluded that they were not going to discuss this.

City Attorney Kenyon stated that they can discuss it but there was no action for the Council to take and they can make comments but no recommendations to the City Manager or discussion with regard to changes to the task force or recommendations by the City Manager.

Mayor pro Tem Martin asked if there are no recommendations even if she were to comment on her thoughts about the task force. She stated that, in her world, she would like to see it, and she asked if that was a recommendation.

City Attorney Kenyon stated that Council has delegated the authority to create the task force to the City Manager and he has done that. He is just providing Council with an informational item with regard to what he has done.

Mayor pro Tem Martin understood and would provide her information about the task force. She felt 4-5 months was a bit short, she felt like $5000 seed money was a little low, she thought it was great that a consultant will run the meetings, but she thought the task force has a tall order with getting themselves together and getting order around the meetings, even with a facilitator, as $5000 goes quickly with a facilitator. She mentioned a comment on marketing, and she wondered how they will market it with all their resources. The city was just one stakeholder as it was a multifaceted issue. She stated that, when speaking to people living in their RVs nobody is choosing this as a lifestyle but are here and gone. She stated that she lived on Esplanade for a few years and there were always RVs there, and acknowledged that there are more now, but this was California. She stated that she grew up and vacationed in New Jersey where you cannot step foot on the beach without paying in the summer. She loved visiting California because you didn’t have to pay to park or walk onto the beach and she thought that was California. She stated that somebody who didn’t grow up here and thinks it is amazing to pull your car up and walk onto the beach and not have to pay. She stated in the past they were just passing through and now they are living there. She stated that, when talking to these people, some of the things she thinks about fill her with anxiety. She stated that many women on a daily basis live with this fear of because they are women, they are the weaker species. She mentioned that she is strong, but is worried when in a dark alley late at night and when she parks her car at night even in her driveway she is watching her back. She mentioned their day to day life and felt it was a terrible way to live and no one would choose that. She asked the community to put themselves in their shoes. If you offered them a driveway, they would take it. She stated that she has a neighbor who couldn’t find someone to rent the house and pay what they owed on the house and they were renting it out to a construction company and people who live there are those who come here to work but can’t afford to live here and everyday there are more than five vehicles coming and going and five different men coming and going into the house next to her home. She stated that this is the environment in which we all have to adapt. She stated that this was a new environment and they have to change. She stated that they all spend their money in Pacifica. She also talks to youths who move to Pacifica, live in their vehicles and go to SF State. She stated that some are actively choosing this and she asked that they remember the times in which we live. She stated that she teaches her children compassion and she looks at the guys who live next door to her that are different every day. She is bringing up what is going on today because she has the floor and she was listening to some of them who voted for her. She stated that she empathizes with everyone and, if they are putting this task force together we must remember that this is the community running and Pacifica will be the beneficiary of this so everyone has to be involved.

Councilmember O’Neill was glad the city was putting this together. He thought, as they are all going through the gauntlet called the presidential campaign, they found out that people can’t handle a $400 emergency or $400 less in the bank. He stated that he was laid off and he knows what it is like to lose a paycheck, but fortunately he didn’t lose his house as they had resources, but he felt they needed to look at this and try to be compassionate. He asked everyone in Pacifica to have the better angels of their nature for 4-5 months while they look to see what options they can and cannot do as the city doesn’t have a lot of money or resources and they are dependent on outside resources to do this. He hoped the task force will be able to identify some sources that can help with that. He quoted Waldo Emerson, “if one life breathes easier because you existed, you’re a success” and stated he would like to see Pacifica be a success in this area but we have to do it together and look out for each other. He stated, if they need to make decisions, he is ready to make the necessary decisions.

Councilmember Beckmeyer thought the task force should have as its goal that conversation and dialogue needs to happen so that people understand the perspective of the other person. She stated that she hears a lot of RV dwellers express a concern that, “we are not doing anything; why don’t they like us?”. She doesn’t think it is clear to some that the Pacifica community doesn’t have an ordinance that invites parking large oversize vehicles on the city streets, that is just happening. She stated that they don’t like it is because it was not part of the landscape they expect or what has been here when they bought their house or what they invested in. She felt this was a tough issue and she was pleased to hear so many people willing to put forward an application to be part of the task force as it will take a lot of thoughtful deliberation and discussion to be able to understand the point of view of everyone. She stated that the packet for this meeting was way bigger than the Planning Commission’s packet could possibly ever have been. She stated that in going through her notes, she ran into something she wrote down on the Council goal setting meeting on March 9 which was something they generally agreed to when they had the facilitator and setting the tone and frame of what they were going to talk about, etc. She was struck by the fact they need to make tough decisions and implement the best decision for the greatest number in town. She felt that bears on this issue as there are some who routinely express their opinions and are passionate about their positions but there are a lot of people who don’t come out and they need to think about them and factor in the entire community when they look at this issue.

Councilmember Bier stated that their city has spent a lot of time fighting with each other and being negative and nasty and they have an opportunity to come together. She saw people speaking from their heart and talking about ways for them to come together. She felt that was a beautiful thing. She stated that there are people who are trying to stay in their homes and rents are going up and they are being gouged, adding that her rent has gone up an incredible amount. She stated that she has gone to the Pacifica Resource Center and is receiving services and be part of the food program and doing financial coaching. She stated that there are services to help them stay housed, and there are a lot of people in the community that can qualify for services such as approximately 40%. She urged everyone to not be afraid to ask for help and seek the services available. She stated that they can help a lot of people and, by coming together as a community, they can create solutions to help those who want to be helped and look at strategies to tighten up ordinances to take care of the rest. She believes that can happen.

Mayor Vaterlaus thought there were many reasons why people live in RVs and she believes they do it because they want to and there are multiple reasons why they don’t live where they used to live. She stated that the people living in RVs are not all the same. She stated that they have heard of drug addicts, needles, dumping of garbage and others who are clean and dump where they are supposed to. She stated that there are health and safety issues with RVs and the police have found them dumping their sewage in the storm drains. She stated that, if we are worried about our environment, we cannot have them dumping in the storm drains. She stated that the increase in numbers bothers her. She stated that when she drove home for the previous week’s meeting, she counted 38 RVs just on Palmetto. She thought there were more than 100 RVs parked on the streets and it was increasing. She stated that the videos that encourage people to come to Pacifica were a problem and it will continue to increase. She thought 4-5 months was a long time for the task force because by then they may have 200 or 300 people living in RVs in Pacifica. She stated that there was a lot of parking in dangerous situations. She referred to the curve on Oceana where people have to go around the corner and can’t see cars, stating that people have complained about bicycles and the RVs as they can’t drive past the RVs and we were trying to get people to bike but they won’t bike because they are afraid of people in the RVs because they can’t see who is there. She felt they have many issues around the subject that she hopes they can solve. She thought 4-5 months was way too much time. She asked if the police were ticketing the RVs as this time including the 72-hour limit.

Police Chief Steidle stated that he didn’t have numbers but there have been a few issued for 72 hours. He checked before this meeting, and compared to the number of complaints they get, which they weren’t able to track when asked at a January meeting, they instituted a method to track that, and since January they have had 290 complaints and the number ticketed were a small fraction. He stated that those complaints usually result in getting a 72-hour notice and do move to stay in compliance with the law. He didn’t have exact numbers but he was seeing very few citations being issued.

Mayor Vaterlaus stated that she has talked to people living in RVs and she stated that she has compassion even though it doesn’t sound like she does. She is happy that they are housed in their RVs and not in tents because she wouldn’t want to live in a tent as an RV is more acceptable. She stated that she hears more complaints about the RVs every day and she spends a lot of time talking to people about the situation. She stated that a lot of them wouldn’t come here to talk about it because they feel like they would be berated if they came, and she felt that was also an issue.