Palo Police Chief Dennis Burns at it again but gets it wrong

Open letter to Palo Alto Police Chief Dennis Burns, city council members and beyond.

Thursday morning September 13  I got a warning on the windshield of the RV I live in telling me I was in violation of Municipal Code Section 10.44.020(a) and that I would receive a ticket for $46.00 for parking there. This is a code restricting where over-sized vehicles may park in Palo Alto.

I carefully read the law and then Friday morning September 14 I went down to the City of Palo Alto Department of Planning & Community Environment and talked with a Staff Specialist, a Rina Shah in the Planning Division. I showed her the area in question (where I am parked) and she told me it was zoned CS, i.e. commercial.

I am parked clearly in a CS (commercial zone). Code 10.44.020(a) says you may not park an over-sized vehicle in a “Residential zone” (zoned either RE, R1, R2, RMD, RM-15, RM-30, and RM-40) or a “Public facility zone” (zoned as PF) nor a CS zone that is across the street from one of the above mentioned exclusion zones.

I have attached the relevant Palo Alto zoning map in pdf format. I am parked at the corner of Lambert and Ash (south side of Lambert) close to the stop sign. The corner of Lambert and Ash is 3300 Ash where I am. The corner of Chestnut and Ash is 3350 Ash. Please look at the attached zoning map and you will see I am not in violation of code 10.44.020(a).

Municipal code 10.44.020(a) does not apply to the north half of that block of Ash that is between Lambert and Chestnut. Code 10.44.020(a) does apply to the south half of the block of Ash that is between Lambert and Chestnut because that location is across the street from a PF zone. My vehicle (the RV) is located totally in a CS zone and is not across the street from any of the exclusion zones previously mentioned above in Code 10.44.020(a).

The officer put a warning on my vehicle located at the intersection of Ash and Lambert and another large vehicle (a school bus) located near the corner of Ash and Chestnut.

Please advise your officer of his/her mistake or if my reading of the law and reading of the zoning map is wrong then please advise me and I’ll move. In the past when I stayed too long in one place you guys (community services, usually Officer Stacy Henderson who has now changed departments) would give me a 3-day tow warning notice and I’d obey the law and move.

Regards,

P.S.  About me. I’m an out of work engineer, forced into early retirement (Social Security) living
on a small fixed income who has lived in Palo Alto over 30 years but lost my job and place to live and moved into an RV after living in my car a few weeks. Hoping the economy will improve soon.

Here is a copy of code 10.44.020(a). I’ve also attached a pdf file containing the relevant PA zoning map.

10.44.015     Definitions.

(a)     For the purposes of this chapter, the following words shall have the meaning ascribed to them in this section:

(1)     “Oversized vehicle” means any vehicle exceeding seven feet in height or exceeding twenty feet in overall length or exceeding seven feet in width (including any load or accessory thereon other than antennas), provided that this definition shall not apply to vehicles which exceed these dimensions solely because of modifications required to accommodate a disability and the vehicle is lawfully displaying a disabled placard or license;

(2)     “Camper shell” means a structure designed to cover and/or protect the bed area of a pickup truck but removed therefrom;

(3)     “Trailer” means a vehicle designed or utilized for being drawn by a motor vehicle.

(4)     “Residential zone” means all lands located within the following zoning districts: RE, Rl, R2, RMD, RM-15, RM-30, and RM-40; where one side of a street is located within one of these residential districts, then the portion of the opposite side of the street directly across from the residential district shall also be included in the definition of a residential zone;

(5)     “Public facility zone” means all lands located within a PF zone; where one side of a street is located within a public facility zone, then the portion of the opposite side of the street directly across from the public facility zone shall also be included in the restrictions pertaining to a public facility zone.

(Ord. 4558 § 5 (part), 1999)

10.44.020     Standing or parking, two a.m. to six a.m.

(a)     No person shall, between the hours of two a.m. and six a.m. of any day, unless authorized by a hardship permit issued pursuant to Section 10.44.021 or a construction or maintenance permit issued pursuant to Section 10.40.045, park upon streets or alleys located within a residential zone or public facility zone any of the following vehicles:

(1)     Oversized vehicles;

(2)     Trailers;

(3)     Camper shells;

(4)     Tow trucks as defined by California Vehicle Code Section 615;

(5)     Special construction equipment as defined by California Vehicle Code Section 565.

(b)     Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, no signs or markings are necessary to give effect to the restrictions and prohibitions contained in this section.

Click for Palo Alto zoning

One Reply to “Palo Police Chief Dennis Burns at it again but gets it wrong”

  1. Hi Fred,

    Congratulations, you have written an excellent piece–that puts/places appropriate pressure on the PAPD to do their homework–before apparently falsely accusing you of parking your large RV in a residential zone.

    Not only does your letter take a stand for you– against an apparently poorly trained officer–but protects others — similarly situated vehicle dwellers–against false accusations in the future.

    Aram

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