UPDATE: District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s team said they reached an agreement with MTA to pause overnight parking enforcement until March 28.

As city workers installed “No Stopping” signs along San Francisco’s Bernal Heights Boulevard on February 28, 40-year-old Nhemias Chacon kept his daily routine: clean the street and take care of the community’s dog. Chacon is one of several residents of a small RV community that is resisting the city’s push to displace them.

“We don’t cause problems,” said Chacon, who has lived on this street for 10 years. “We are simply taking care of each other.” 

Overnight parking on Bernal Heights Boulevard has been banned for 27 years, but city officials never enforced it. The winding street, which separates  a quiet community of mainly owner-occupied houses from Bernal Heights Park, did not have parking signage or police presence. This allowed a group of primarily working-class people, a majority of them Latinx, to have a stable and safe place to park their cars and RVs, and go to sleep.

“The majority of the people who live here are people who work,” said Armando Bravo Martinez, a caregiver who joined the RV community in October. “People are not here during the day, but they return at night.” While people are working, Chacon is the trusted steward that cleans up the area and takes care of the community’s vehicles and pets. 

Armando Martinez, 59, looks out from his RV with his beloved 9-year-old dog, Audrey, on Bernal Heights Boulevard in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2024. Credit: Pablo Unzueta / El Tecolote/CatchLight Local

After nearby homeowners complained to city officials about “eyesore” conditions, San Francisco announced an end to the fragile but stable lifestyle that has formed along the street. “From one night to the next, they are kicking us out,” said Martinez, who is leading the community’s effort to stay parked on the street. “We’re organizing ourselves as a community, and with neighbors who support us.”

On the night parking signs went up, RV residents and supportive neighbors wrote letters asking Mayor London Breed and MTA’s Jeffrery Tumlin for a 30-day pause on overnight parking enforcement. “The Bernal Hill RV community is peaceful, clean, and respectful,” wrote neighbor Michelle Hammar. “They are part of our community and need time to figure their lives out.”

City workers placed notices on RVs and cars parked along Bernal Heights Boulevard in San Francisco on Feb. 27, 2024 after officials announced they will start enforcing a decades-long ban on overnight parking. Photo: Pablo Unzueta for El Tecolote/CatchLight Local Credit: Pablo Unzueta for El Tecolote/CatchLight Local

District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s team said they “advocated strongly” with MTA, who agreed to pause enforcement until March 28.

The overnight parking ban on Bernal Heights Boulevard is yet another example of San Francisco’s struggle to provide safe, affordable housing. Luis Naal and Zuleimy Bolio, both 25, ended up parking an RV on this street after their previous landlord evicted them over their beloved 3-year-old pitbull. “We just had a lot of problems with the landlord, the place was small and infested with rats – it was an ugly situation in reality,” Naal said.

Luis Naa, 25, looks out the window with his wife Zuieymi Bolio, 25, on Bernal Heights Boulevard in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 29, 2024. Credit: Pablo Unzueta for El Tecolote/CatchLight Local / El Tecolote/CatchLight Local

Despite Naal working two prep-cook jobs and Bolio working as a dishwasher, the couple was unable to find an affordable place to rent. They decided investing in an RV would be the best way to continue living and in the city they work in. “Staying [here] is convenient for our job,” said Naal, who is also fighting to keep his RV in the quiet neighborhood. 

Many of the long-time RV residents argue that conditions cited by neighbors, including littering, noise and occasional violent incidents, are caused by people outside their community. “We protect this place and clean it up,” said Darwin Reyna, a house painter who works several jobs. “Other people know this street is open… they come at all hours and do things they shouldn’t be doing.”

Darwin Reyna looks outside the window to his parked RV after coming home from work on Bernal Heights Boulevard in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2024. Credit: Pablo Unzueta / El Tecolote/CatchLight Local

According to Martinez, there used to be about a dozen RVs stationed on the street before parking signs were erected. The following morning, only six remained. “People get a bit scared,” he said. “Since many are from other [countries], like Mexico and Honduras, they didn’t want to risk it.”

Martinez says many of the displaced RV residents simply moved to other San Francisco neighborhoods.

Laura Waxton, another RV community resident, wrote her own letter in Spanish when the parking signs were installed. Here’s a translated version of her words:

What is the reason to move us from here?

Because we are the weakest

Because we are poor

For hate


Before we parked here there was crime

Even young people had died

And since there’s been 6 RVs parked

There is more security on the street

We are a unified community and we take care of each other

The city didn’t even give us an option to move somewhere else

We are poor but decent

Here there are no noises after 10pm

Neighbors are kind

We are respectful

And the neighbors support us with signatures to stay here

Help us with another option

The police passed by saying that they were going to give us a ticket and tow us

Put yourself in my shoes

I’m nervous

I am a survivor of domestic violence survivor

My only home is my RV

Without more to say


Laura Watson

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....