Mountain View moves ahead with RV parking restrictions

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
RVs line Crisanto Avenue in Mountain View. The Mountain View City Council passed RV parking restrictions last week, citing traffic safety issues.

Working under the threat of legal action and vocal opposition, Mountain View City Council members Sept. 24 approved parking restrictions on RVs and other oversized vehicles, citing primarily traffic safety issues.

The council voted to restrict oversized vehicle parking on narrow streets effective June 30, 2020, and restrict oversized vehicle parking on any street with a designated bike lane.

The controversial action has been framed by some as a move to oust homeless residents, a charge city officials have denied. In a separate move intended to help such residents, the council also approved expansion of Safe Parking program sites and emergency shelter locations.

The council changed the hours of operation for the Safe Parking program to 5 p.m. to 9 a.m., increased the maximum number of emergency shelter beds from 78 to 150 and directed city staff to discuss the use of local schools’ athletic facilities as emergency shelters. The Safe Parking program designates parking areas where RVs and other oversized vehicles may stay in lieu of city streets. The city identified 103 such spaces in a staff report at last week’s meeting, but city officials indicated they were seeking out additional spaces. The same report noted 298 vehicles citywide that “appeared to be used for habitation,” 207 of them RVs.

Council members said they also will continue to pursue an exemption from the state to allow 24/7 lot operations on city-owned and controlled lots.

‘Difficult decisions’

The decision capped another long council meeting that featured numerous speakers, mostly in opposition to the parking restrictions.

Advocates for RV residents said the restrictions are unconstitutional and indicated they may take the city to court.

“The Safe Parking (program) doesn’t come close to providing 300 stable places,” said one speaker, who added, “I think it is unconscionable for us in Mountain View to displace 300 families that have already been displaced from other housing options.”

City officials cited oversized vehicles obstructing views for cyclists and motorists exiting out of driveways as the main reason for the ordinance. But residents also have complained about unsanitary conditions.

Some speakers suggested the city’s traffic safety reasons for instituting parking restrictions were “disingenuous,” and that the real reason was removing vehicles that some residents see as a blight on the city.

Former Mayor Lenny Siegel said the biggest clusters of RVs are in areas where there is no traffic problem.

“This is all about people who live in their motorhomes who are less fortunate than the rest of us,” he said. “Pretending that such denial is necessitated by traffic safety is subterfuge.”

Resident Shari Emling said the parking restriction ordinance “will be the first time in all these years that there’s going to be any vetting in who really lives or works in Mountain View.”

She noted that vehicle dwellers from other cities are being drawn to Mountain View because of its leniency.

Still, some council members expressed hesitancy about moving forward without assurances that there would be safety nets in place for residents impacted by the parking restrictions by the time the ordinance takes effect.

“My strong preference is for a phased approach,” said Councilman Lucas Ramirez.

But Mayor Lisa Matichak and council members Margaret Abe-Koga, Ellen Kamei and John McAlister approved the ordinance in a 4-3 vote. Ramirez and council members Alison Hicks and Chris Clark dissented.

“These are very difficult decisions,” Matichak said. “But we do need to address them. ... This issue came from residents and it’s our job to address issues that are brought forward. There have been a large number of people over the past three years that have been asking us to address this issue of improving safety on our routes.”

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