A 40-year-old woman has died inside one of the recreational vehicles parked at the Strawflower Village in Half Moon Bay. The Nov. 16 death has renewed concerns about an influx of mobile homes in the central shopping plaza and for those who call the RVs home.
The woman’s name was Roxanne Richards, of South San Francisco. Her cause of death has not been released, but the Sheriff’s Office reported there was “no foul play.” Her fiance reportedly has since left the city, according to Deputy City Manager Matthew Chidester.
Chidester said City Hall received several calls since Richards’ death regarding RVs parked at Strawflower Village.
“A lot of people have turned to RVs or motor homes as a place to find shelter and our community is no different,” Chidester said. “… Some of the RVs (at Strawflower Village) have been there for several months and some of their actions were concerning from a health and safety standpoint, and the community was looking for a resolution.”
Strawflower Village is private property, owned by a San Mateo-based limited liability corporation. The city doesn’t have any authority over who parks at the property, but Chidester said the owners requested assistance with the RVs and their residents.
The city asked the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and LifeMoves, a nonprofit servicing homeless people, to touch base with those in the RVs and remind them of relevant property laws and sanitation rules.
“That was followed up by the landlord who went out and tagged all vehicles, and let them know if they didn’t move they would have to bring out the tow company,” Chidester said. “That was enough to get people’s attention.”
Chidester said that since then the RVs that were parked in the plaza have moved to other areas of the city or have left.
“People went on their own. The unfortunate piece of this was a woman who passed away over the weekend,” he said.
“There’s nothing against the law (about) being around town,” Chidester said. “But we do have limitations on how long any vehicle can be parked on the street. The goal is for them to follow those ordinances and use the sanitation facilities available to them, and hopefully be good neighbors.”
San Mateo County is also contracting with Pacifica Resource Center for a pilot outreach program to aid people living in RVs on the Coastside to provide a mobile waste system.
City officials say they will continue to explore options with an eye toward assisting people in RVs and to partnering with social service agencies or county services.
“This is a hard issue. These are folks who might otherwise be living on streets,” Chidester said.
In July, San Mateo County reported in its biennial homeless count more than 490 people living in RVs, more than a 120 percent increase in two years. Additionally, the county recently conducted an RV Survey and found, of the RV households that participated, 54 percent were living in a motor home because of the high cost of rent and 57 percent said they are actively looking for housing.
“The RV issue is impacting the city and the Coastside, we’re consistently getting calls for people parked over the 72-hour rule and we will put warnings on the vehicle if they are violating it,” Sheriff’s Capt. Saul Lopez said. “We do try and work with the RV owners to get them moving.”
Parking enforcement at Strawflower Village will be stricter, with manager Anthony Musich keeping an eye on vehicles parked overnight, according to Chidester. On the majority of streets in the city, parking is available for up to 72 hours, after which the vehicle must move to a new location.
“If people are not creating this expanded space most people don’t care,” Chidester said. “We don’t have the same kind of problems other cities do, where there’s a dozen RVs lined along a street.”