Chinatown motorhome

Nick Lucio and Sunny Patterson have lived in their motorhome in Salinas' Chinatown for five years.

Residents of motor homes and other vehicles that have been parked long term in Salinas’ Chinatown breathe a sigh of relief after the city decided not to force them out. Wednesday evening the Salinas City Manager Ray Corpus said the city would not follow through with plans to removed motor homes parked in violation of the vehicle code.

On Jan. 31, the city placed orange adhesive notices on windows saying owners had to go someplace else by Thursday, Feb. 11.

Wednesday morning a few of the nearly dozen parked vehicles in the three-block area that were slated for towing were inoperable. Owners of other vehicles lack driver’s licenses to legally operate the motor homes.

Less than 24 hours before the previously scheduled towing of long-term vehicles in Chinatown took place, residents were under the impression tow trucks were on their way yet seemed calm—albeit misinformed—as they prepared.

“They were actually pretty nice,” said Sunny Patterson, who has lived in Chinatown for 20 years, the last five years of which have been inside his motor home. “But it’d be nicer if they just left us alone.”

Patterson didn’t fear that he’d be towed or face the steep financial costs of removal and impounding. He moved his motor home more than 180-feet from its prior location in Chinatown the day before. Yet, Patterson along with other living in their vehicles were mistakenly under the impression that they’d be okay if they move their vehicles to different areas before the city reversed course.

“No, the law is not 180 feet, they have to leave the area,” said Salinas City Attorney Chris Callihan before the decision to leave the motor homes be had been made. “This isn’t just a Chinatown issue, it’s a citywide issue. You just can’t park your fifth wheel [trailer-attached motor home] or RV on city streets and live in it.”

Berkeley based-attorney Anthony Prince who represents the newly formed Salinas Homeless Union disagreed. Prince represents six homeless residents looking to block the city from doing sweeps, seizures and confiscations of property of the homeless, which is allowed by an emergency ordinance passed in November and amended Tuesday night.

The city of Salinas and the six plaintiffs came to an agreement on Jan. 8 that the city would not conduct any sweeps or removal of property until the case is heard in federal court on March 3. Prince believed the city will violate that stipulation with the removal of motor homes.

In the end, the city acquiesced, and will allow motor home residents to stay in Chinatown until their scheduled day in federal court on Mar. 3. 

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