Voters to decide on oversized vehicle parking restrictions

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
An RV is parked in a lot on California Street in Mountain View near Shoreline Boulevard, a popular destination for oversized vehicles. City leaders last week voted to restrict oversized vehicles from parking on streets 40 feet wide or less.

The Mountain View City Council last week voted unanimously to place its ordinance restricting oversized vehicle parking on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The Jan. 14 decision comes after a referendum petition forced the city either to repeal the ordinance or put it before voters. The ordinance bans oversized vehicles, which include RVs, trailers and boats, from parking on streets 40 feet wide or less.

Councilman John McAlister, who made the motion to put the ordinance on the ballot, said the city had long been working on the issue and that all Mountain View residents should now get a chance to weigh in.

“Let the residents discuss it and vote on it,” McAlister said. “They’re the ones that are going to have to live with it.”

Over the past few years, RVs and other large vehicles parking on city streets has become a hot-button issue in Mountain View. Last October, the council adopted Ordinance 15.19, banning such vehicles from parking on narrower streets. The vote was 4-3, with Chris Clark, Alison Hicks and Lucas Ramirez dissenting.

At the same time, the council enacted an ordinance restricting oversized vehicles from parking on streets with certain bike lanes. That ordinance passed unanimously and has taken effect.

However, advocates for vehicle dwellers launched a referendum petition opposing the narrow-streets ordinance. That petition gathered enough signatures to compel the council either to repeal the ordinance or put it on the ballot. The ordinance is currently suspended from taking effect.

The council reviewed three options Jan. 14: repealing the ordinance, calling a special election April 14 or placing it on the Nov. 3 ballot.

According to a staff report, as of Jan. 9, no other jurisdiction in Santa Clara County had placed an item on the April 14 ballot, and an estimate from the county registrar of voters put the cost to the city of an April election at between $1.29 million and $1.81 million. In contrast, putting the ordinance on the November presidential election ballot is estimated at $90,000.

Commenters weigh in

More than 40 members of the public spoke at the Jan. 14 meeting. Those in favor of restrictions on oversized vehicles argued that they are a public health and safety hazard, negatively impacting neighbors. Opponents said the ordinance would harm those forced to live in their vehicles and fails to solve the underlying lack of affordable housing.

Some of those who collected signatures on the referendum petition opposing the ordinance spoke at the meeting. They pointed to residents’ willingness to sign the petition as evidence that the ordinance was unpopular.

“As we talked to our neighbors, asking them to sign the petition, we found that they were full of compassion for the people affected. Many of them were facing high rents themselves, asking themselves, ‘Would I be next?’” one commenter said. “The fear of displacement is real. It was easy getting those signatures because no one really likes this ban.”

However, another speaker said the vehicles are clustered in certain areas of the city, affecting residents unequally. He argued it was important to let voters have a say in how to address the issue.

“My experience has been that RVs create dangerous traffic situations. I was almost in an accident yesterday on my way home from work, because RVs were blocking sightlines,” he said. “RVs change the nature of neighborhoods.”

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