Murrieta City Council considers action on non-permitted construction in residential neighborhoods

Murrieta City Council considered action against non-permitted recreational vehicles driveways and garages during a special workshop before the regular city council meeting, Aug. 1.

Illegal RV-related structures are a growing issue in the city of Murrieta, according to a presentation from Assistant City Manager Ivan Holler.

“There are a number of locations in the city where property owners have constructed a space for RV parking and separate driveway access without city review or permits,” Holler said, Aug. 1, before the regular city council meeting.

Municipal code currently allows RVs to be parked on residential properties, but not within the public right of way, Holler said. Homeowners need not apply for a permit when creating space for an RV by adding to an existing driveway. But encroachment permits are necessary when any new connection to the adjoining street is created. This includes locations where an RV owner drives over the curb to gain access to their property.

And that’s where the problem lies. Many homeowners throughout Murrieta have added driveways without applying for the proper permits. Unpermitted or code-incompliant garages – structures must conform to height, square-footage and setback regulations – are a problem, too.

In some cases, homeowners on corner lots have even co-opted pedestrian crossing ramps for use as secondary driveways. This violates both Americans With Disabilities Act requirements and city regulations requiring a driveway to be at least 5 feet from the end of a curve radius at an intersection.

Aside from being illegal, this encroachment could cause damage to the concrete over time and can be dangerous as well, Holler pointed out.

“Entering an intersection at an acute angle also means that a driver has poor visibility from one side or the other and may not be able to see vehicles or pedestrians approaching from that particular side,” Holler said.

There is currently a stay on enforcement while the council investigates its options.

Holler presented a few options to council for consideration.

He said one possibility would be to allow driveways that homeowners access by driving over the curb to stay, but force those homeowners to put down a cash deposit to the city in case the sidewalk is damaged. The precise amount for the deposit was not determined. The other option would be to require a new driveway opening to be constructed on the homeowner’s dime.

Holler also recommended forcing homeowners to remove driveways that use pedestrian ramps as access points.

Councilman Randon Lane questioned how the city could possibly enforce regulations that so many across the city have long since flouted. And he wondered whether the city even should do anything about the code violations.

“There are hundreds, I would daresay thousands, of probably illegal access on people’s property for their motor homes in the city of Murrieta,” Lane said. “I want to get away from us being big government, creating more rules for people on their property, as opposed to how we fix the problem.”

However, at least when it comes to homeowners who have utilized pedestrian ramps as driveway access points, the city’s hands are tied, as those violate federal law, Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Ingram pointed out.

Lane still took a laissez-faire approach to code enforcement.

“How do we get to allow this without creating any safety hazards?” he asked.

Mayor Rick Gibbs suggested the council hold another workshop at a later time to get more information from residents before coming to a decision.

“I don’t even know if there is a compromise solution,” Gibbs said. “It’s probably not a good idea to say we’re going to ignore it, nor is it a good idea to say we’re going to enforce it. Let’s come back in a workshop that is probably not on a council day, but at an hour where a much larger contingent of folks from the RV community could be here to register their opinions.”

A date for the next workshop on the subject has not yet been set.

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