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May 21, 2019
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Possible change to parking rules

  • Abandoned trailer. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
February 15, 2019

The Rohnert Park City Council directed staff on Tues. to close a loophole in the city’s municipal code that allowed for unhitched trailers to remain on the street for more than three days. 

The problem isn’t that Rohnert Park lacks a law for abandoned trailers—it’s that it doesn’t have teeth. Currently the city operates under the California vehicle code which allows for a car or trailer to remain parked on public streets for no more 72 hours. Then it has to move. 

One tenth of a mile. 

That’s barely a city block. With an estimated 100 unattached trailers and boats scattered around town, to the council this minor loophole threatens to swell into a blight on the city’s landscape. 

“We’re talking about unattended trailers and I feel we should prohibit them,” Councilmember Pam Stafford said. “The people here aren’t the problem. It’s the people that are out there trying to jilt the system is what we’re dealing with.”

The solution then, as proposed by the council at the meeting, was to simply remove the one tenth of a mile allowance. They directed their staff to draft legislation to allow the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety to tow any trailer they found unstored and unattended within city limits after a 72-hour period. 

That means no more shuffling trailers or boats around the block to dodge enforcement. If the police find the same trailer again after a citation, then it’s subject to tow. For a public safety department burdened by over 800 citations a year, only a couple hundred of which manifest into tickets, the new direction comes as a welcome relief. 

“The problem that we’re running into is that we’re wasting valuable man hours because some people aren’t following the law. We keep giving them break after break after break,” Mayor Gina Belforte said. “800 citations are not a failure to enforce the law. Three a day is somebody doing their job.”

It also stands to improve emergency service. 

Unattended boats and trailers are much harder to move than compact cars and they can block fire trucks and ambulances from reaching a crisis. Moving a normal car isn’t much of a problem, but a 30-foot trailer? That’s another thing entirely. 

And Rohnert Park won’t be alone in drafting legislation to restrict unattended trailers. Right next door in Cotati the city banned them on public streets. They’ve got a six-hour limit now, after which any they find are subject to tow.

The direction to staff was actually a bit controversial for the council. Councilmembers Pam Stafford and Susan Adams expressed interest in outright banning all unattended trailers within the city, but Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan, owner by his own admission of four separate vehicles that would be affected by the change, suggested a compromise. 

“We have to enforce the laws we have,” Callinan said. “To tell me that you want to take someone’s vehicle away just for parking in front of their house is terrible. I can’t even fathom telling people that they park it there. 72 hours is not a bad rule. If we can’t enforce our own laws, then what good are we? “

The request now moves on to staff who will come back with a legislative proposal to accommodate the council’s request. Any citizen who wishes to provide input should contact the Rohnert Park City Hall.