Vacationers and the homeless have long been spending their nights inside campers or recreational vehicles parked along Mission Bay’s shores. In doing so these civic freeloaders have been ignoring the well-placed signs that warn of “No Overnight Sleeping-Camping” in the parking lots overlooking Ski Beach, Vacation Isle’s North Cove, and Crown Point Shores Park. Neighboring homeowners complain, but the campers keep arriving. Since May 1, police have ticketed or warned 219 of the illegal campers.
Besides their being outnumbered by the campers, the beach-area cops say issuing illegal-camping citations is a bother. The tickets can’t be left on the vehicle windshield – violators must be roused from sleep and handed the ticket face-to-face. One police officer who issues five such citations on a busy night, says she always lets the lawbreakers go back to sleep after handing them the ticket.
Bail for the misdemeanor violation is just twenty-five dollars, equal to the nightly fee for some of the 600 spots at Campland, the private recreational vehicle park on the north shores of Mission Bay. (Campland’s twenty-five dollar sites do have camper hookups, but overnighters wishing prime, bay-front spaces must pay thirty or thirty-five dollars for a Campland spot.)
City Councilman Mike Gotch figures the best way to discourage the illegal overnighters is to increase the penalties, and in 1980 he asked a panel of municipal court judges who set bail amounts to triple the camping violation fine to seventy-five dollars. The judges’ panel declined to increase the fine, telling Gotch that because the campers posed little threat to persons or property, twenty-five dollars seemed adequate. But Gotch will try again this fall to have the bail amount raised, this time to ninety-five dollars. (Any fine over one hundred dollars requires an in-person court appearance by the violator, which both police and judges want to avoid.) Gotch hopes that letters from police commanders and a city council endorsement of the fine increase will persuade the judges to agree.