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Extended camping illegal in parking lots in Manteca

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POSTED May 2, 2013 2:07 a.m.

Extended camping – more than one night – in the Wal-Mart parking lot doesn’t thrill some Manteca civic leaders.

And while it is actually illegal to do so, don’t expect any city action anytime soon.

That’s because leaders such as Mayor Willie Weatherford, Councilman Steve DeBrum, and City Manager Karen McLaughlin would prefer that Wal-Mart police their own property. McLaughlin did add, though if it because clear there was a health and safety issue regarding sanitation and debris that the city would act.

Even so, DeBrum voiced a concern that Manteca needs to eventually “take the bull by the horns” and address the problem of the homeless before it impacts quality of life in the city. At the same time, DeBrum noted the homeless have a right to exist.

“We have rules and regulations that should be followed,” DeBrum said.

While some contend the anti-camping provisions of the municipal code are murky at best when it comes to private property, McLaughlin noted that the property was developed for a specific use and it excludes camping.

“If they (Wal-Mart) want to change the use, they’d have to file for a permit to do so,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said back in the early 1990s the property was permitted to be developed for use as a parking lot and as such that is the only legal function allowed.

She added that prolonged camping in RVs that lack sanitary facilities or by individuals who are piling up items outside of their vehicles as was the case this past week is clearly a health and safety issue.

McLaughlin said that would justify the city acting on its own to move out such offenders. But again, McLaughlin emphasized it would work better if property owners such as Wal-Mart took care of such situations.

Weatherford and DeBrum indicated they had no issue with Wal-Mart allowing travelers or the homeless to stay overnight in RVs for one night.  Their concerns start when the parking lot is used for more than one night.

Wal-Mart allows overnight RV use at its stores where it doesn’t conflict with city laws.  The municipal code states, “it is unlawful and a public nuisance for any person to camp, occupy camp facilities, or use camp paraphernalia in the following areas: a) any public property or B) any private property.” The ordinance defines “camp facilities” to include vehicles.

The ordinance goes on to say residential property can be used for camping “so long as the owner consents and the overnight camping is limited to not more than one consecutive night.” There is no provision that directly addressed non-residential private property but McLaughlin noted only legal uses allowed by zoning can take place on private property. Camping is not legally allowed in a commercial zone without a use permit.

The mayor said addressing the homeless issue as a whole is something that Manteca isn’t capable of doing due to the resources required.

“It’s not just a Manteca issue,” Weatherford said noting it is a statewide concern.

The mayor said he was satisfied with the existing city rules.

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