After being evicted from Bernal Heights Boulevard last week, displaced RV residents are now parking on another San Francisco street — and facing similar challenges.

Forced to move from the quiet Bernal Heights neighborhood they had parked at for years, the small, tight-knit RV community found a street that borders a grassy and generally empty park in the less affluent Bayview neighborhood. We are not publishing the exact location in an attempt to protect the privacy of the residents.

Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, nearly a week since relocating, they got hit with parking tickets. “I had a feeling this wouldn’t last,” said RV community member Armando Bravo Martinez. City workers placed notices on several RV windshields along the street, citing 72-hour parking violations. According to Martinez, the city worker said nearby neighbors called to complain about the new RVs near their homes.

As San Francisco’s cost of living soars and affordable housing remains scarce, what used to be a fragile but stable lifestyle for this community of RV residents is turning into a saga of evictions, costly parking tickets and uncertain futures amid one of the wealthiest cities in the country.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency posted parking citations on RVs parked along a street in the Bayview neighborhood in San Francisco, Calif., on April 3, 2024. Credit: Pablo Unzueta for El Tecolote/CatchLight Local

Fragile stability, interrupted

It all started when a group of neighbors complained to city officials about “eyesore” conditions along the winding Bernal Hill street, citing littering, noise and safety issues. In response, San Francisco revived a decades-old overnight parking ban, posting “No Stopping” signs along the street on February 28.

Not all Bernal Heights neighbors wanted the RV community to be pushed out, and with the help of Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s office, MTA granted the RV community a pause on parking enforcement until March 28.

Tensions in the neighborhood only worsened during the 30-day pause. “We feel like we out-stayed our welcome,” said Martinez, 59, days before the pause ended. “And we’re also kind of tired … we don’t want to deal with the police and MTA anymore.” According to Martinez and other RV residents, some neighbors, who often jog and run down the street, started to become more vocal and aggressive towards the RV community: “You never know who’s going to do what, or look inside your trailer.”

Martinez, who has become a leading voice for the RV community’s fight against displacement, has helped organize the small caravan of RVs as they face ongoing challenges with parking restrictions, overnight safety and handling confrontations with disgruntled neighbors.

A silhouette of Armando Martinez with his dog Audrey days before a parking ticket was placed on his RV in San Francisco, Calif. Credit: Pablo Unzueta for El Tecolote/CatchLight Local

When parking signs along Bernal Heights Boulevard were erected February 28, the group of nearly a dozen RVs dwindled to about half that number. By the end of the 30-day parking pause, five RV residents still didn’t know where to go. Many hoped to get placed into Candlestick RV Park, San Francisco’s only RV site, but they either didn’t qualify or faced a backlogged waiting list.

Forced to look for less formal options, the RV community scrambled to find streets without parking restrictions instead, which are increasingly rare in San Francisco. Lincoln Way in the Sunset District, for example, was one street the RV community considered as a possible parking site. After asking around, Martinez found out that parking rules on Lincoln, too, would change within the month: “They are going to put in diagonal parking, so that the big RVs don’t fit.”

On the final evening of the parking enforcement pause, the RV group finally decided to move to a long stretch of empty street in the Bayview neighborhood. Since Martinez was the only RV owner with a driver’s license, a group of supportive neighbors and volunteers from the Coalition on Homelessness helped drive and relocate the seven vehicles to their new destination, about three miles south of the city.

Since then, Bernal Heights Boulevard has been cleared of RVs, and is now mainly utilized by joggers and their dogs.

Fragile stability, interrupted — again

Once in Bayview, the RV community had six nights of relative peace.

The street they found in the Bayview is more private, insofar as there are fewer people jogging and walking in the area. On the other side of the wide street, there is a mix of apartments, single-family homes and several other RVs – some parked for recreational use, some also used as residences – which are not connected to the Bernal Heights transplants.

Zuleimy Bolio is a resident of the small RV community that was forced to relocate to another neighborhood in San Francisco, Calif. Credit: Pablo Unzueta for El Tecolote/CatchLight Local

Zuleimy Bolio, 25, hoped the larger distance between their RV and the houses would be enough to insulate against complaints. “To be honest, we’re more comfortable and more secure [here],” said Bolio, days after relocating. She and her husband, Luiz Naal, 25, own a pitbull and are among the RV residents trying to get placed into Candlestick RV Park.

Darwin Reyna, 34, who now owns five dogs after a different RV resident had to abandon two dogs to access another housing arrangement, said he also prefers the new location: “My little dogs are happy because they have something like a yard.” He said he continually cleans both sides of the streets to try to avoid common accusations of littering.

Despite attempts to avoid backlash from their new neighbors, the community has already received parking tickets, suggesting the beginning of a new iteration of an all-too-familiar struggle. “We’ve played [this game] already. We know how it ends,” said Martinez. “There’s something about an RV like this … it makes people uneasy.”

Stay tuned for El Tecolote’s continued coverage on San Francisco’s RV community.

Pablo Unzueta

Pablo Unzueta is a first generation Chilean-American photojournalist documenting health equity, the environment, culture and displacement amongst the Latino population in the Bay Area for El Tecolote....