Major drama is playing out in Mountain View over the status and future of people living out of their vehicles. Central to that drama is Measure C on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The initiative, reflective of a city ordinance passed a year ago, would prohibit parking of oversized vehicles, including RVs, on city streets less than 40 feet wide. A 4,200-signature referendum submitted by opponents forced the issue to come before voters.
City council proponents cited traffic safety issues as the main reason for adopting the ordinance. But detractors see the effort as an attempt to push out vehicle dwellers in the city. Mountain View officials estimate 250-300 residents living in vehicles.
Proponents assert in ballot language that the ordinance was developed with “significant community input to address public health and safety concerns.” When RVs park on narrow streets, “they make it difficult to see children, walkers, runners, bicyclists and vehicles, especially at driveways and intersections … and some vehicles are leaking waste or other hazardous liquids that can create public health and environmental issues.”
Opponents claim concerns over obstructed visibility and RV leakage can be addressed without kicking out the unstably housed.
“Housing insecurity and displacement in our community disproportionately impact people of color who have historically been disadvantaged by racism,” opponents said in ballot remarks. “Displacing more people by drastically restricting RV parking would perpetuate racial injustice.”
Leading proponents of Measure C include former Councilman Jac Siegel; Shari Emerling, an outspoken critic of the proliferation of RVs; and Councilwoman Lisa Matichak, who is seeking re-election to the council. Opponents include former Mountain View vice mayor Nancy Noe; Bruce England of the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning (which has not come out against Measure C); Maria Marroquin, executive director of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View; and former mayor and current city council candidate Lenny Siegel.
Proponents take aim at a “myth” that most vehicle dwellers are local residents who were forced out of their homes.
“There is no evidence that anywhere near a majority of the RV dwellers on Mountain View streets were previously Mountain View residents who were evicted,” said Measure C backers on their website (mvsupportmeasurec.org).
They claim the city is the only one in California that allows RV dwelling on its streets.
“It is clearly a draw to people all over the Bay Area and beyond,” proponents said.
But opponents see the potential exodus of poor people as another step toward Mountain View gentrification. Siegel, who initiated the referendum, believes more should be done to prevent that from happening.
“We need more off-street (‘safe’) parking, with fewer restrictions and more services, and should open up industrial streets to vehicle residences until we have enough off-street lots,” he said in an email. “In the longer run, we need more housing for low-income people. We should address each traffic hazard directly, but we shouldn’t even consider enacting a city-wide ban on oversized vehicles until there is a place for everyone to go.”
He notes that Measure C and the city ordinance target RV parking on narrow neighborhood streets. But he contends that streets on which RVs are currently congregating, such as Crisanto Avenue, Wentworth Street and Continental Circle, are just under 40 feet but are adjacent to train tracks and away from neighborhood areas.
“These are not neighborhood streets, but at 40 feet they are the principal targets of the ordinance,” Siegel said in the email.
More information on the opposing viewpoint can be found at the No on C site (https://stopthervban.com/).
Siegel and Matichak are at polar opposites and major players in the Measure C debate as they seek council election.
Matichak was in favor of the RV parking restrictions ordinance. Some residents have speculated that Siegel, who was defeated in his 2018 re-election bid for city council, was voted out specifically because of his support for the RV dwellers.
For more information on the initiative, visit mountainview.gov.