Thu04172014

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New RV storage law irks residents

A recent change in the city's blight ordinance to ban the storage of certain recreational vehicles in side yards has some Los Altos residents so irked they plan to petition city hall.

Penny Johnke said she was shocked when police recently told her that her RV was violating the city's blight code. Johnke said she had to move the RV to a storage lot in Redwood City.

"When you pay $70,000 for an RV, I hardly consider it blight or a nuisance ... Only in Los Altos," she said. "I think the city did this very secretly. Most people don't even know the law has changed ... It's unfair to change it after all of these years."

The Los Altos City Council revamped the city's Property Blight and Nuisance Ordinance last December to crack down on habitual violators of the city code by providing a broader list and better definition of what the city can abate. The previous code prohibited on-street and front yard RV storage only.

The updated code addresses a resident's entire property. The storage of RVs, boats, horse trailers, campers and other vehicles in front- or side-yard areas for more than 72 hours is prohibited under the law's new standards. Vehicles in back yards must be kept in an accessory building or at least five feet from any property line.

Code Enforcement Officer Paul Ray said the city is currently revising the new law to allow the storage of vehicles 8-feet or under in side and back yards.

The average RV or van with a pop top is about 11 to 13 feet.

Johnke and other local RV owners say the city has gone too far.

"We've had our rights stepped upon," she said. The law change amounts to nothing more than an attempt to rid the city of RVs, she added.

Ray said police have not had to take action against any residents for illegal RV storage since the law went into effect.

"People have been good about complying with my request to store them elsewhere, so abatement has not been necessary," he said.

The city may enforce the blight ordinance through an abatement process, which means the city would remove the illegally stored RV if the owner refused to do so after due process, Ray said. The city would charge removal fees, storage and other costs associated with the abatement to the owner.

Johnke said about 50 other RV owners have joined her crusade to repeal Los Altos' law. They planned to bring their concerns to the Los Altos City Council at the regular meeting Tuesday.

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