Lawyers retained by RV and boat enthusiasts in Antioch, Calif., have sent a letter to city officials, warning that any effort to restrict the parking of recreational vehicles on private property will not stand in court.
“An exercise of the police power such as that attempted by these ordinances must be necessary to the health, safety, morals or general welfare of the community,” wrote property rights attorneys Dan Kelleher and Colleen O’Brien. “In this case, the ‘need’ for these ordinances appears to be based on not much more than the purely subjective aesthetic perceptions of a few non-RV-owning persons.”
The Contra Costa Times, reported that the issue is whether homeowners should be allowed to park their boats and motorhomes in their driveways and side yards or be required to put them in storage. The city council decided in June to put that decision before voters on the February primary ballot, saying the matter had become too divisive for city leaders to sort out on their own.
Some city leaders have said parking large recreational vehicles in driveways can create eyesores and safety hazards. City leaders reached Monday had yet to review the letter but were familiar with the arguments made by boat and RV owners in Antioch.
“I think there’s a lot of huff and no substance to the lawyer’s contention,” Mayor Donald Freitas said. “I’ve read the information on both sides of the issue. If the voters of Antioch support a clean city ordinance, I believe it will be upheld by the courts.”
Antioch City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland has expressed similar sentiments. Last week, she told the Times that “aesthetics alone are sufficient basis for the city’s exercise of its police power to protect public health, welfare and safety.”
Other California cities have enforced similar ordinances, she said.
The attorneys for the recently formed Recreational Vehicle and Property Rights Alliance — created to oppose the Antioch measure — wrote, “the issue at hand involves RV owners’ constitutionally protected liberty interest in the use and enjoyment of their homes, yards, campers, trailers and vessels.”
If passed by a public vote, the parking ordinance would likely prove “too broad and vague to be upheld if challenged in a court of law,” the attorneys wrote, saying the city does not have the power to restrict the parking of legal vehicles on private property for reasons unrelated to health and safety.