Ask Me Anything: trailer woes, want to volunteer

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Q: I have a neighbor who has their travel trailer (5th wheel) parked on our street for extended periods of time. I have left notes on the trailer asking nicely for the trailer to be moved. I know there is a 72-hour policy. What can be done about this? This is an eye sore, danger to kids, to cars and trucks coming and going down the block. It’s too bad that your neighbor is not willing to address this issue. I’m sure you’re not the only one in your neighborhood who feels this way. You are correct in that Winters has a municipal ordinance that prohibits parking a recreational vehicle on the street for more than 72 consecutive hours. (section 10.16.050). In fact, the police have the authority to remove the vehicle under California state law. (Vehicle Code section 22651 and 22669). Since your neighbor has not responded to your notes, it seems that you may have to take things a step further. Before taking more drastic steps, however, consider having a direct, in-person conversation with your neighbor. In my last article, I mentioned Non-Violent Communication methods of making a request, and this is a perfect situation in which to practice this. Here are the steps: Step 1: state your observations (not judgments or evaluations): “Your trailer has been parked on the street for x number of days. I have seen near accidents/I have not been able to have a clear view of the street when driving/my visibility has been impaired….” (I would leave out the eyesore part, as that is a judgment and people tend to get defensive when judgments or evaluations are made.) Step 2: state how you feel: “I feel worried/concerned/anxious/frustrated…” Step 3: state what your need is: “I need my neighborhood to be as safe as possible.” Step 4: request that which would enrich your life without demanding (ask your neighbor to take a specific action) Put all together this might look something like, “Your trailer has been parked on the street for 2 weeks. It blocks both drivers’ and children’s views, which creates a dangerous situation. I feel concerned and anxious that someone will get hurt by accident, and I have a need for safety in my neighborhood. Would you be willing to park your trailer in a storage facility/friend’s house/somewhere other than the neighborhood if it’s going to be here for more than 72 hours?” If this does not work, I suggest that you talk with other neighbors and see if they feel the way you do. Assuming some do, you could then put your request in writing and have those neighborhood members who feel the same way sign it. You could add that you all prefer that this be resolved without having to go further, but that if it’s not, your group is willing to take it to the police. In the meantime, you could also have an informational conversation with the police department to find out what can be done. I would guess that they would send a community services officer to talk with your neighbor before fining or towing or taking other action. It would be helpful for you to be fully informed and to know what the steps are if you decide to go that route. The downside to all this, however, is that it might create tension (or perhaps increased tension since this seems to already be a tense situation) between you and your neighbor. It’s unfortunate, since it’s really your neighbor and his/her lack of consideration for others with whom they share a neighborhood that has forced your hand. Even if you do end up having to involve the police after you have made efforts to work it out using healthy methods of communication, then at least you know that you did your best to resolve it, regardless of how your neighbor responds (or doesn’t), and you can feel good about your part and how you’ve handled yourself. Again, this is from Marshall B. Rosenberg’s NVC website, Q: I want to volunteer in a local group, but I don’t have a lot of time to commit. How can I help out when I’m not sure I can fit the needs they are looking for? My cousin Sass E. Yeahsole has been visiting me this week and we were discussing this question. Not surprisingly, Sass’s answer was “pick up the phone ask,” but I thought that was a bit harsh, though I do agree that the best way to find out what kind of help they need it to ask. Then you can figure out whether you have the time to help. I’m sure any organization that accepts volunteers understands the limited availability of their volunteers and appreciates the help. Ask Me Anything is an advice column in which you are invited to ask columnist M.L. Flagel anything. Submit your questions online at The advice offered is intended for informational purposes only. This advice is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal or other professional advice.

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