City officials look to limit ‘truck life’
St. Petersburg’s popularity has risen along with the cost of living, and many people have discovered a way to take advantage of the local amenities without paying the associated bills.
Dozens of modified trucks and buses are now spread along neighborhood streets and downtown waterfront parks. A night at the Vinoy costs more than $400; Parking on the adjacent right-of-way is free.
City Council members are responding to residents’ concerns and updating outdated ordinances. The Public Service and Infrastructure Commission approved updating the code language to limit what is known as “van life” at its Sept. 14 meeting.
“The reality is it’s a problem,” Councilwoman Lysette Hanovich said. “It’s not just one vehicle – it’s a lot of vehicles. Everyone knows that parking is terrible downtown and in certain areas… We haven’t even hit peak season yet.
According to February Yahoo Finance According to the report, the number of truck drivers in the United States rose from 1.9 million in 2020 to 3.1 million in 2022. The average cost of a home is about $350,000, and local rents rose by about 30% during the same period.
A new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter worth $52,000. However, anyone can find a used truck or bus for $10,000, and do-it-yourself conversions start around $4,000.
The publication states that nearly 80% of truck drivers personally modify their vehicles. She also points out that Florida is among the five states with the largest pickup truck populations.
However, St. Petersburg law does not distinguish between passenger trucks and other registered motor vehicles. “They park their cars and stay there; “They’re not moving,” Hanovich said.
“They did it in the North Shore pool area. People are trying to use the facilities — whether it’s the parks or the pools — and they can’t even use them because they say, ‘Well, we’re not moving.’ That’s it, it’s done.”
Council members voted to remove the “permanent living” requirement from the city code. Officials will now classify campers as household equipment, which includes recreational vehicles, boats, campers and utility trailers.
They must not exceed 24 feet in length, and can only park on designated rights-of-way for less than four hours between 8am and 4pm Monday through Thursday. The law allows household equipment to be placed in legally recognized parking areas with an approved surface from 4 pm on Thursday until 8 am on Monday.
The main change is that modified vehicles are considered as local equipment. This includes adding outdoor air conditioning units, solar panels, generators, and deployable tents or awnings.
Assistant City Attorney Heather Judge said the police, transportation and parks and recreation departments cooperated on the proposed changes. It also highlighted an image of a pickup truck that complies with local laws, except for the wall air conditioning unit protruding from the back.
Councilman Richie Floyd said he understands why deploying the generator is important. However, he said a person can plug in an air conditioner “because the air conditioner in their car is broken.”
“It’s a small adjustment,” he added. “I don’t see this changing it and making it fall into a whole new category. The same goes for solar panels as well.”
Floyd explained that people often modify the vehicles they drive for daily operation. Owners may use a modified truck for occasional travel, but they still rely on it as their primary source of transportation, he said.
“I want to make sure we don’t pick up too many things that can cause problems for people and how they get around right now,” Floyd said.
Hanovich said she understands that feeling, but noted that city officials should label all vehicles causing the problem. She said it’s difficult to analyze specific equipment and uses and doesn’t think Judd intended to cast too wide a net.
The commission voted to advance the proposed code changes. However, the relevant discussion on restrictions on household equipment in residences will continue.
City officials are also exploring a potential issue with commercial equipment parked on the right-of-way around the Skyway Marina District. Evan Morey, director of transportation and parking, said this was an isolated issue.
Local church officials have complained about small businesses and businesses parking along area roads, he said. Although the issue is relatively minor, any changes to the law would require a Senate Act 170 impact assessment.
Recently enacted legislation allows business owners to sue local governments that issue “arbitrary or unreasonable” ordinances that hurt profits. Local leaders must prove otherwise.
While officials believe the commercial parking problem is less widespread than other issues, Hanwitz said city officials can practice completing new impact assessments.