Who's sleeping on the Orange Avenue bridge over 805?

Not a problem on Adams Ave. overpass

Does this sign encourage over-nighters?
  • Does this sign encourage over-nighters?

On April 5, motorists traveling southbound on the 805 prior to exiting on El Cajon Boulevard were greeted by a Caltrans changeable message sign that reads “FEELING DROWSY? EXIT AND REST.”

The pink notices

The pink notices

Some drivers may have heeded the sign and found a spot a few hundred feet south where Orange Avenue transitions to Howard Avenue atop the 805 freeway — and slept in their vehicles. Later that day, the vehicle owners awoke to pink warning letters on their windshields with notes to move.

“I don’t think that the [“drowsy”] sign is what drove the [auto and] RV parkers to camp out on our bridge,” said Don Lewis, “obviously Caltrans posts things for the benefit and safety of the drivers. Although the city ordinance says you have 72 hours to park in one location and anything beyond that is a violation.”

RV being towed

RV being towed

Lewis and his neighbors aren’t bothered by the sleepy travelers and “retirees” that pullover and rest on their neighborhood bridge/overpass that connects North Park to the corridor; it’s the ones that overstay their visits and leave a mess that many are irate about.

On April 4, Lewis saw a hazmat truck on the bridge.

“I talked to the city crew and they gave me the details that they were there to clean up leaking fecal matter from one of the RVs. Then they came back later that afternoon to clean it up again; they said they had been there the previous week as well to do the same thing. How much is this cleanup costing taxpayers?”

Lewis is a software marketing manager who lives on 32nd Street, a block west of the bridge.

“The RVs parked along the Howard/Orange Avenue bridge need to go,” he suggested. “Other people have previously reported disturbances [with] broken glass and trash.”

On April 6, tow trucks were spotted on the bridge, one towing away an RV.

A City Heights resident that lives about a mile east from the bridge doesn’t fully agree with Lewis and his neighbors. “Who are you to decide where people can park?” she asked. “My son lives in a RV and he doesn’t make a mess. If he wants to park in a safe neighborhood, why doesn’t he have the right to do so?”

“Well it’s obvious that you don’t live in the area because if you did, you would notice that most of these motorhomes don’t move after 72 hours,” responded Lewis’s neighbor. “There is one RV that is white in color parked on the north curb line at the east end of the bridge — you know the one that’s leaking human waste onto the street that has been in the same spot for four months now.”

Elizabeth Pierce lives on the east side of the bridge and she’s noticed the increase of RVs and vehicles parked there since the vehicle-dwelling laws recently changed. “Mike, thank you for highlighting this very complicated issue,” she said. “Given the parking situation, I frequently have to park on the bridge and when so many RVs are there, it can be difficult. If I must park there late at night, I pick up my big dog at home then I park on the bridge — so I feel safer walking home. But, I have no understanding how disallowing people to live in a motorhome will improve anything; it only puts them on the streets, which is worse.”

On the social media apps, residents in the area have reported of the vehicle dwellers allegedly “gas siphoning, stealing, drug using/dealing and tapping into the bridge’s electrical outlets” — while others questioned where it is that the RV-ers can safely park. One neighbor said to Lewis: “You have no pity or sympathy, sir.”

“My next step is to find out who I can talk to in the city to update the parking rules for the bridge,” Lewis responded. “I don’t want to take away parking for cars, but I would love it if they could get the bridge to have signs that say no commercial vehicles, no oversized vehicles and no RV parking. A friend told me that they used to have a problem on the Adams Avenue bridge (which is a mile north from Lewis’s neighborhood bridge) and said that there’s no parking there.”

In February, the San Diego City Council unanimously voted to stand by their repeal of an almost 36-year-old law that kept residents from living in vehicles on streets within our city limits.

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