Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Motor Home Citations Arouse Residents’ Ire

By Nao Braverman
Some Ojai residents treasure the leisurely vacations that their motor homes or trailers allow. To them the bulky vehicles spell out memorable road trips and time spent with family. Others in the community see them as a visual eyesore and a threat to property value.
The schism among neighbors was apparent as six indignant Ojai residents came to the podium at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to protest citations they received for parking motor homes on their own property. Several others came to tout the city’s code enforcement and encourage the citation of the “unsightly” objects in their neighbor’s yards. One resident offered to volunteer and aid the code enforcement officer in citing violators.
“I don’t agree with an ordinance that tells people what they can and can’t do with their property,” said Mary Hawn. “I think if they purchase their own home, they should be able to do what they want with it. There is little enough for young people with young people and their families to do here,” she said.
Longtime Ojai resident Beth Kaser said she would have to sell her house and move if she could not keep her motor home on her property. She could either park it on her street and move it every 72 hours which was not a safe option with such a large vehicle, she said. Other nearby storage facilities were full with long waiting lists. The closest available facility was in Oxnard and charged $200 a month. Other nearby residents echoed her concerns.
Many said they had purchased their property specifically because it had a special pad for trailers. Why then were they just now being asked to give them up, they asked.
Many complained that they had been unfairly cited while other Ojai homeowners remained out of compliance and undisturbed.
The Ojai planning and zoning code, however, does find such vehicles unsightly.
According the code, the front or street side setbacks (the distance a structure must be from the edge of a lot) “shall not be used for the storage of boats, garbage habitable trailers, junk, scrap, trash, utility trailers and similar equipment, items or vehicles.”
City manager Jere Kersnar explained that, as is customary in Ojai and many other cities, the building inspector only responds to specific complaints. Recently the inspector was called to a specific site in regards to one setback storage violation. In the interest of fairness, he cited several other homes in violation that he saw from that site, no more, no less.
As directed by the City Council, Kersnar agreed to itemize the issue of motor home storage for further discussion at a future meeting.
Bill Kendall, owner of the Condor Storage facility, had a solution. In less than two months he would have 95 to 110 available recreational vehicle storage lots with wash and dump stations at his facility on 324 Bryant Street, he told eager residents and council members.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

“I don’t agree with an ordinance that tells people what they can and can’t do with their property,”

This woman just noticed that there are laws?

Anonymous said...

Mary Hawn says that she "doesn't agree with an ordinance that tells people what they can and can't do with their property". Does this mean that if one of her neighbors opened a video arcade in his house, and another decided to open a bar, and another decided to turn his place into a 20 resident rooming house, and yet another turned his property into a auto garage complete with 24-hour tow service and repair, she wouldn't have a problem with any of that because she doesn't believe in ordinances that tell people what they can and can't do with their property?

Anonymous said...

Homeowners should be able to have the ability to do what they want in their own property. However, they should also be considerate of their neighbors with respect to what their neighbors might consider unsafe or unsightly. For example one of our neighbors stored his rv trailer for almost a year in front of his houose on the street. It was not only unsightly but also a safety issue. With the neighbor's big truck park on the opposite side of the street, a 2-way street became a one way street and drivers can't see children wallking, bikers, pedestrians, and animals being walked. We have some near misses with children being hit by cars.

Another neighbor started storing her garbage in a big pile behind their house next to their neighbor's driveway. Not only is the pile unsightly, it is unsanitary as it attracts rodents to come and stay around the big mess. Besides on windy days, garbage starts blowing around everywhere which is quite unfair to other houses with clean yards.

So do we let everyone decide to do whatever they want in their own property?

Anonymous said...

So do we let everyone decide to do whatever they want in their own property?

Part of living in a community is conforming to community standards. If you can't tolerate the standards and you can't change them, you need to move. Every community in America, and in fact the world, has standards. Housing associations have CC&Rs, meaning that even extremely rich people who paid gazillions for their property do not have the unfettered property rights that some of the Sagebrush Rebellion wannabes ascribe to private property owners.

The only places on Earth where you can live and be entirely free of interference with how you live your life are places where nobody wants to live. If you live anywhere else, you will wind up being influenced and controlled by the local community to some extent. If you didn't already know that this is how it worked, then you've been living under a rock most of your life and you haven't been paying any attention to what's going on around you.

Libertarianism sounds great in theory, I guess, but it isn't any more workable than Socialism, because the bottom line is this: if you mess with anyone long enough, even the staunchest of Libertarians is going to want to take your liberty away from you and put you somewhere where you can't mess with his or her life and liberty, and put in the same position you would do the same thing to another person.

So much for Libertarianism; no matter how you slice it, it always gets back to the Law of the Jungle, and Might Makes Right. This is why we have governments; it means that we only have to suffer a few totalitarians, as opposed to billions of them. The main job of governments is to protect us from each other, and things are going to stay that way for a long, long, time -- if not forever -- regardless of how much people complain and whine about not being abe to do anything they want to do, wherever and whenever they want to do it.

Painted Hand Farm said...

During my search for housing in the Ojai Valley that eventually led to moving out of state, I was shocked at how many people were advertising 1bd 1ba rentals that turned out to be nothing more than a motor home parked on a pad on their property. Some even had the audacity to ask as much as a thousand dollars a month for nicer models and that was seven years ago! I think the desperate search for affordable housing combined with the high cost of living in the Valley requires that there be some type of ordinance on the books regarding motor homes to prevent unscrupulous people from increasing the population of the Valley even more than it already is with illegal dwellings such a garage and shed conversions into overpriced rentals.

Anonymous said...

I see nothing wrong with storing an RV on your property as long as no one is living in it. As for storing it on the street in front of your property that is wrong and I agree that some kind of ordinance should be enforced so they cannot be parked on the street. The only exception for having it parked on the street should be if you were to have family or friends visiting from out of town there should be a permit that you can apply for a temp parking permit so they can be allowed a place to park while they stay with you. Also the permit could be used to park in the driveway.

Anonymous said...

I think that the point the homeowners were trying to make wasn't that anyone could do anything that they wanted with their private property such as opening a business in a residential area. It seems as though they feel like their rights shouldn't be infringed upon when they are not doing anything unsafe, that causes undue hardship to others or poses a health risk. (having to look at someone's RV is not a hardship--having to pay for storage for an RV when you already own a home with RV parking is)).
What the ordinance is there for is for beautification purposes. That is, some people feel motorhomes and RV's are unsightly. This means that others are forced into one person's idea of what constitutes "unsightly". Is there any community where every single resident shares the exact same idea of what is beautiful? What if your neighbor thinks the color of your house is ugly or the types of flowers that you planted in your front yard are "unsightly"? Last time I checked, Ojai was not a masterplanned, cookie cutter community.Why stop at motorhomes? Why not just make Ojai entirely under one rule for what is beautiful and what is not? Doesn't this sound like a homeowners association (which these residents are not a member of)? Or worse yet, doesn't it sound like a monarchy in which a chosen few get to decide what everyone else can and can not do? If this is the case, I want to be the king and make the rules!
I don't think the residents wanting to store rv's on their property are asking anything unreasonable. They are asking specifically to store them (not live in them or rent them out) in specifically designed RV parking. While some may consider this an "eyesore" many communities find it an asset. One only needs to look at even our local paper where it is advertised as a plus in the sale of a new home. The residents are not trying to be rebels,or libbertarians. It sounds merely like they want to be able to enjoy outdoor recreation with their families.

Anonymous said...

If I bought a house with a view of the Topa Topas and lived there for 26 years and then someone moved in and started parking a huge bus in the driveway, cutting off my view, I'd call that a hardship.

If you ruin what I consider to be an important facet of my way of life and I talk to you about it and you tell me that if I don't like it I can move, then believe this: if I find a way to give you some legal grief I'm going to do it.

No compromise from you means no compromise from me.

Anonymous said...

Would you feel any different if you knew that those residents being issued notices of non-compliance lived there for many years prior to the residents that issued the complaints causing the letters of non-compliance? If this is a contest over who has lived here longer than many of the residents that received notices would win hands down. Most of the people that were served have lived in their homes for several years with their rv's in their rv parking for that long as well. Many of the people that have a problem with it have moved here recently from out of area and are trying to impose their views of what is sightly on life-long Ojai residents.

Anonymous said...

How would you feel about it if it were simply an issue that pitted non-RV owners against RV owners? Then, it wouldn't matter who had lived here longer; it would simply be a case of majority rules. If this issue were to be put to a vote, who do you think will have the numbers?

At any rate, this issue is not about whether or not it's right for you to park an RV on your property; it's about some RV owners' attitudes toward their neighbors. In most cases, a less pugnacious attitude on the part of certain RV owners might have prevented a call to the authorities. As I said, no compromise on your part means no compromise on my part, and the law is on my side, not yours.

This is what happens to people who have no respect for their neighbors; they get no respect in return.

Anonymous said...

Since I actually have read the code in its entirety, I feel that if it really were an issue of those people in violation versus not (not merely RV owners-but all violators of this code) then I really truly believe that more than half of the residents in the city limits of Ojai are in violation of this code in one form or another. Anyone who has an RV, boat, trailer of any type etcetera parked anywhere on their property (even if it is behind a fence but can be seen from a public street) is in violation of this code. This is actually saying no trailer storage period since fences may only be 6 feet tall per fire marshall. Anyone who stores trash cans any where that can be seen from a public street is in violation. Anyone who has a driveway that is wider than their garage door at any portion is in violation of this code. I know several people, and in fact entire housing tracts where every driveway is wider (check out the neighborhood up by Topa Topa elementary towards Pleasant).
Some people choose to say that the driveway was there when they bought the house. The driveway was designed that way. People who store their RV's on their property may feel the same way. They have been storing RV's, trailers etcetera on their property for longer than this code has been in existence (Februrary 2004 if you are curious). So, if they should have to move their rv etcetera, why not force people to dig up their driveway? This isn't apples and oranges. This is a single code that needs to be looked at in its entirety for its viability. Simply put, this code is not viable as it stands.
What could change this code and make it better? Well, the drive way issue either needs to be that no further driveways can be wider than the garage door or the driveway issue should be removed entirely. As for the trash can issue, most people would be willing to agree to that. That leaves us with RV's. What about a compromise? No RV's parked on grass or dirt? How about only RV/trailer storage that is on an improved RV storage space on the property (such as a concrete pad or driveway?) The tag line from the code supporters has been "no compromise from you means no compromise from me". How is someone telling me to move my RV or else a compromise? To me that is really a direct order. A true compromise is to take both viewpoints into account and meet somewhere in the middle.
As far as the "pugnacious attitude of some RV owners" I am sure that it exists somewhere. I have personally not encountered it. I have never ever been asked to do something different with my RV or told by a neighbor or anyone else that it was blocking their view etcetera until the day that the city placed the order of non-compliance on my door. For me, to be told in that manner by the city and not my unseen, unknown neighbor that is apparently offended is very pugnacious.I think engaging me in some conversation first might have been a less combative attitude. In fact, my immediate response was to ask my neighbors if it offended them. No one felt offended and in fact, most offered to sign a petition of some sorts to allow a variation of the code for our particular instance.
My main reason for being upset is that this code was only enforced on a select few. Not even the most blatant offenders were necessarily given a notice of non-compliance. Several people that store an RV on the street were not even served. Others who have an RV sitting on grass in their front yard were not served. Only people in one particular neighborhood were served. No one with driveway violations was served. If the code is the code and the rules that everyone must follow, then everyone must follow them. It is unfair to make a few people follow the rules of this code when others are allowed to continue as though the code doesn't address their particular violation at all. In fact, driving past the homes of some of those in support of the code reveals to me that their driveway is much wider than their garage door. If I truly were combative, I would go complain to the city about that.
As far as the obstructed view issue. View obstructions occur in any neighborhood. In fact, many of my neighbors have trees and plants that have grown so tall aver the last few years that it largely obstructs the views. Any time someone builds a second story to their house, it largely obstructs the views. If it bothered me so much, you can bet that I would speak with my neighbors first before trying to force my viewpoint on them no matter what a code states. But then again, I am a non-combative person.

Anonymous said...

"in support of the code reveals to me that their driveway is much wider than their garage door. If I truly were combative, I would go complain to the city about that." Maybe you don't want to be combative but others will. What street are we talking about? Perhaps if we push the law for what it states now it will force all to come to a compromise. I agree about adding a cement pad for the RVs

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that some people may be combative. I would like to refrain from revealing the actual street of those that supported the code at the council meeting that are in driveway violation for fear that if they are retaliated against in anyway (even a complaint made against them), I would feel horrible since my intention is truly not to make anyone else's life more difficult even by way of a complaint. I have been on the receiving end of this and it is no fun. I am merely trying to prove a point that this code is really not a viable code as it is written. It needs to be reviewed on many levels. To tell the truth, I feel that the driveway aspect of it is ridiculous. If the city is trying to prevent ultra wide driveways, then why not limit it to new construction only. Such as any more driveways built at this time would have to be in these specifications. I feel that their driveway hurts me no more than my owning a motorhome/rv hurts them. I just feel like people have forgotten what is taught in kindergarten classrooms across the country: When you point a finger at someone else, you have four pointing at you. No one is perfect. We are all trying our best. Some people feel an RV is ugly, some people feel a wide driveway is ugly. I think each person has a right to their own perception of what is sightly or unsightly. However, when we use codes to force our opinion of what is sightly or not on others, we open up our own own indiscretions (no matter how small they may be) to the scrutiny of others. The code is not viable. It makes no distinction between those that are trying to compromise and be respectful of neighbors and keep a properly maintained RV spot on their property and those who do not. Maybe that is the compromise. If a resident wants to store it on their property they have to do so properly. To allow anyone to store anything in any manner is truly not a compromise to those who do not want trailer storage in Ojai. To force all citizens, no matter what lengths they have gone to in order to store it properly and in a sightly manner is not a compromise to those that want to be able to store their rv's at home for whatever reason. Maybe both sides need to be able to compromise and meet in the middle on this issue. I feel that an improved RV parking space/pad of some sort may be a compromise.
It makes me sad to think that there are people on either side that have dug in their heels to the point that their view is what's right no matter what and they are unwilling to listen to the other side. Let's try and work to a fair solution instead of finger pointing, name calling and ultimatums. Please, do not read this comment and write back that the code is the code and the rule is the rule. No one is perfect. I think the point of this issue is that you can be in violation of many "rules" and may not be aware of it. Most of us do not go around reading code books for fun. The people who seem to do so are those that want to point fingers at everyone else for breaking the rules and that is not the right mentality for anyone who claims they want to coexist peacefully with their neighbors.
This rule is not realistic and it is not fair to MANY Ojai residents, not just those with RV's. To the person who wrote the last comment, I appreciate your level of discourse on this subject and your ideas. A compromise needs to be called for by both sides, not merely a few people. Besides, who is really able to say, my view is the only valid view and no one else's matters or my view is the law is the law and therefore it is in the right. I for one am not that arrogant.

Anonymous said...

Why doe this ordinane exist in the first place? Why do so many cities have similar ordinances?

Anonymous said...

I do not know for certain why Ojai chose to enact this particular code. However, I do know that many very affluent communities are choosing NOT to enact such codes upon their citizens. Take for instance the very affluent community of Palm Springs. In order to attract a younger families as residents, many new housing tracts are building in rv parking into each and every house in the newer tracts. Isn't this the type of resident that Ojai is trying to attract as well? Young, middle class families with children to fill our declining public schools?
For a code of this type to be viable, there has to be another reasonable option for homeowners. Unfortunately, there are not any RV storage lots in Ojai. Lake Casitas has an extremely long waiting list. The closest RV storage lot that has space is on the other side of Oxnard and can charge up to 200$ per month! For those of us with young families, this is often times not a realistic option. If Ojai had a city owned lot that had reasonable rates, this code would be a lot more viable. The truth of the matter is, we don't. The proposed private lot on Braynt street may or may not happen. Besides, who is to say that they will charge reasonable rates? They are proposing approximately 100 spots. If this code is enforced throughout Ojai, initial estimates put the number of people that would need storage near 2000. Where in Ojai is there even space to house 2000 boats, trailers and RV's?? For those people that don't want their views disrupted, how many meadows, grasslands, etcetera would need to be paved over to house such a number?? I am sure that this code is very well intentioned. I can only imagine that it stems from some beautification type idea from someone who felt that it is nto attractive to look at RV's on someone's private property. However, there is no other option in Ojai at this time.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that I live on the outskirts of the city as we have a boat, Horse trailer and a travel trailer on our lot. we would be breaking the law three times in Ojai. I see neighbors with way ugly vehicles parked on the streets with expired registration that should be towed. Hey while we at it how about all the illegals who stand on the corners in the morning looking for work talk about unsightly Leave the homeowner alone Ojai.

Anonymous said...

Could someone please tell me where to locate the ordinance online?

Lenny Roberts said...

Ojai Municipal Codes may be found here:
http://ordlink.com/codes/ojai/index.htm

Anonymous said...

We, as our neighbors next door who we have always had good relations with, have lived for over 10 years in a rural cul de sac setting with a circular black top pavement providing car access to the driveways of each of eight homes. All homes have lake frontage. Ours is the only home that did have a nice non-lake side view. Not any more. Recently, these neighbors came in with their just purchased motor home which is some 45'long and it's width barely fits on their concrete drive way. Our neighborhood association is very unorganized with few rules. We have one key weapon that we could use. Because their motor home takes up practically all of the width and most of the length of their concrete driveway, and there is no place on the common property to park the big bus they cannot drive their SUV out of their garage to the circular black top to go 8 to 9 miles for required shopping WITHOUT USING OUR DRIVWAY. Interestingly, they have never even asked us if it's OK for them to use our driveway? My question is: Do we have to let them use our driveway? Should we establish a limit on how long they can use our driveway? They really do not have an alternative?

We were planning on selling next year, but with this greyhound bus next door, it could be detrimental in finding a buyer.

Anonymous said...

So now you can't park an RV on your own property, and all those who don't own one think its such a great idea,,great neighbors, real warm fuzzy bunch.

All this talk about Gov't protecting them from what the RV boogy man. So they bring up someone with piled up trash, a auto garage, how about staying on the subject?

What a crock, just one more right being taken away. I thought Ojai might be my next residence, but I do own a RV, and since the City Council has made it easy for citizens to become RV Nazi's.

Forget Ojai, nice rural area with a me, me, Beverly Hills mentality. As far as the laws comment, the issue is when you make new laws that effect those who own RV's, then your being singled out by the short sited bunch, who just don't like RV's. Get a Life folks!

Anonymous said...

R.V. owners need to wake up! I have a boat but I don't storage my boat in my front yard like a dumb-ass. I put my boat in a boat and R.V. storage yard. But my neighbor went out and got a 25' R.V. Jody "didn't think" were she would park it. So Jody (parked it in the street)for years. but Oxnard passed a new ordinance No parking in the street, So Jody parked the MOSTER in the driveway with a ugly gary cover. So if you know how it feels to have a (BAD NEIGHBOR) please feel free to call Jody at (805)469-5100 and tell Jody to move her R.V. to one of the storage yards across the street, were they just finished Two storage yards last year. If every one calls her she'll move. PLEASE CALL HER NOW. Calling all good neighbors help!

Anonymous said...

PLEASE HELP ME! CALL JODY AND TELL HER TO BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR AND MOVE HER R.V TO THE STORAGE YARDS ACROSS THE STREET. CALL JODY @ (805) 469-5100

Anonymous said...

Anything ending in Kaser should be ignored. Period.