News

City to end free waste dumping

Council ends septic program for RV dwellers amid low turnout

People living out of motor homes on the streets of the Mountain View will no longer be provided with a free service for cleaning out their septic tanks, based on Tuesday night's City Council decision.

The free waste disposal service was launched earlier this year as a way to prevent people living in RVs from illegally dumping their sewage down the stormwater drains. The council decided to end the program in a 5-2 vote with council members Ken Rosenberg and Pat Showalter opposing.

Even though it was free, the service was apparently not used by many RV campers. Only about one in seven people who received a voucher for the free waste dumping ended up using it, according to city officials.

This muted response opened a wider debate among the council on whether the city's tolerant approach to the growing homeless population was proving ineffective, if not misguided.

"This is another example of us trying our best and spending money, but there's a population out there that doesn't want or need our help," said Councilman John McAlister. "We need to figure out the best use of our resources."

From the start, the $30,000 waste-dumping service was intended as a test to see if the city should attempt some type of permanent solution. For people living in vehicles with bathrooms, there are no easy options for dumping their septic tanks. The nearest disposal facility is in Redwood City and it charges about $50.

City officials report that since July 2017, they found about a dozen incidents of illegal dumping per quarter. It remains unclear whether the free waste service actually reduced illegal dumping.

When the program was launched in January, about 250 vouchers were handed out to people living in RVs. To redeem those vouchers, they had to drive their motor homes out to a disposal truck parked across town near Shoreline Amphitheatre, which later moved to a city lot off Whisman Road.

Within the first weeks, staff with the Community Services Agency acknowledged the program was having some problems. Some RV residents complained of scheduling problems, saying they couldn't make it out during the limited hours on the two days a week when the free disposal was available. Others who were handed vouchers were living in vehicles that were broken down and unable to drive out to the dump sites.

Some RV owners are operating like landlords, renting out spare vehicles to other individuals, according to city staff. In some cases, city officials say that these RV landlords were hiring their own septic trucks to come out and handle waste dumping.

For council members, the waste dumping discussion was inextricably linked to the larger issue of Mountain View's rising homeless population. Multiple council members pointed out they were getting an increasing number of complaints from residents impatient with having people squatting in front of their homes.

When the council last took up the issue in March, a bare majority of four members voted down the idea of stepping up enforcement and placing new restrictions on where vehicles could park. The disappointing results from the waste dumping program became the latest political football in this debate.

"When I hear comments that we're trying to criminalize homelessness, that's not what we're doing. We're trying to offer help," said Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga. "But if they're not willing to take our help, then I don't know what else we could be doing, and then we have to address some of the other issues that are coming up as a result."

In response, Showalter disputed that the low turnout for the city's brief pilot program demonstrated a lack of good faith on the part of the vehicle dwellers. As a health and safety issue, the city should keep the program going, she said.

Like the previous meeting on the homeless issue, the council pinned their hopes on a possible solution to a fledgling safe parking initiative. A nonprofit coalition of faith leaders called Lots of Love is hoping to use their church parking lots as a secure place for people living in vehicles to camp overnight.

The idea has been bogged by challenges since it was first proposed back in 2015. A spokesman for the group, Brian Leong of the Lord's Grace Church, said his group still needs to get their insurance finalized. He hopes the program can begin in July.

While that safe-parking program would be helpful, it was still too little, too late, council members said. Pushing for a more "accelerated" plan, Councilman McAlister suggested the city use its affordable housing funding to buy a parking lot for a car encampment. Other council members suggested the city do more to partner with other cities, Santa Clara County or the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

City Manager Dan Rich said city staff were already doing exactly that.

"We've been talking ad nauseum with other agencies," he said. "I want to be clear, we have been working on a number of fronts at your direction for a number of years."

Until a safe parking program launches, the city should hold off on stepping up enforcement, said Councilman Chris Clark.

"I don't want to kick everyone out to some other city without being able to offer a viable alternative," he said. "When we have some sort of viable alternative ... I will fully support additional enforcement."

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Comments

161 people like this
Posted by Otto_Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 17, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Otto_Maddox is a registered user.

Ha ha.. something that costs $30,000.00 is NOT FREE.

These people don't want to leave their precious parking spots. God knows what they are doing with their waste.

We have to start enforcing PARKING rules. That will clear this whole thing up in a few weeks.


30 people like this
Posted by A Talking Cat
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2018 at 1:20 pm

A Talking Cat is a registered user.

Sigh, I kind of wish the MV Voice closed down comments on news stories about RV's. It's kind of sad watching the vitriol spew forth as neighbors anonymously argue past each other.


181 people like this
Posted by Get real
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Get real is a registered user.

Free waste dumping was never a viable solution and it never will be. Get the RV's off the streets; that is the objective, not to provide a myriad of free services to keep them where they are. Other cities don't have this problem. Why? Because they enforce their own laws about vehicles parked on their streets. These vagrants are ruining a nice town and the bleeding heart liberals in the city government are letting them do it. Move it on or move it out! Enforcement of the laws is not cruel; it's necessary.


117 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 17, 2018 at 3:30 pm

MyOpinion is a registered user.

This is a regional problem, Los Altos needs to step up and work with Mountain View to find a solution. Instead they just ticket RV's immediately and push them over the border. Out of sight out of mind, no hand wringing or guilt over their zero tolerance policy, Or maybe the Silicon Valley Community Foundation can allocate some of that 13 BILLION for safety net programs (which they claim is one of their 'donor circle's)... Web Link

BTW... Council elections this November, let's elect someone who is going to serve the residents, not waste money on unsuccessful programs.


79 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 17, 2018 at 3:35 pm

MyOpinion is a registered user.

On a side note, I was told that when the City attempts to take a survey of RV dwellers to assess the problem, a significant number of these 'dwellers' refuse to engage and will not reveal any details about their situation. Those people need to be told "the price for living on our streets is that you have to cooperate with those trying to help you" otherwise ticket them.


84 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 17, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Observer is a registered user.

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


138 people like this
Posted by MV Parents
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 17, 2018 at 4:48 pm

MV Parents is a registered user.

I cannot describe how angry this article makes me. My child practices soccer twice a week at Eagle Park, where there is an endless line of RV's parked permanently. Also, around the corner from my home, there are 3-5 very run down RV's parked everyday, next to the Nob Hill shopping center. I believe the RV's are supposed to move at night, due to posted signs indicating no parking 2a-6am on Pamela Drive, but I have never driven over there to check during those hours. Regardless, previous Voice articles have indicated the MVPD and City Council has made a conscious decision to not enforce parking laws. I'm not sure at what point this city lost it's way so badly that it decided it is ok to allow 30+ motorhomes, dumping raw sewage onto the street, to park their vehicles (often with a passenger car the occupants use to drive around town) directly next to the city center with children playing sports activities at the community park, the library, and the city swimming pool all within 500 feet. It must make for a nice view for the RV occupants! I would like to thank the Voice for reporting on this news. This really feels like the last straw. We need to draw a line as to what is acceptable, balancing tolerance for those that are struggling with the safety of our community's children.


72 people like this
Posted by dont go away mad
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2018 at 7:09 pm

dont go away mad is a registered user.

They block the bike lanes
They put their belongings on the sidewalk daily
They park their passenger vehicles next to the RV (many times 2)
The RV’s block the view of on coming traffic (mercy right on shoreline)
They leave their garbage in adjacent lots.
They leave their pets in the RV when they go to work
It’s a blight on the once nice family neighborhood

This has gone on long enough.


41 people like this
Posted by Ron MV
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 18, 2018 at 7:51 am

Ron MV is a registered user.

@My Opinion:
You have it backwards. Los Altos actually enforced their laws, so the RV population moves out. MV does not enforce their laws, so they are a magnet to this population. If MV enforced their own laws, they would also not be a dumping ground.


18 people like this
Posted by ShorelineWestDude
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 18, 2018 at 1:09 pm

ShorelineWestDude is a registered user.

Mountain View is now a "sanctuary city" for bums...???
I guess the new community garden on Shoreline and Latham will now become their personal food pantry.
I guess one can only expect this sort of pathetic situation with a communist radical agitator as mayor....


11 people like this
Posted by cc-r
a resident of North Bayshore
on May 19, 2018 at 11:15 am

cc-r is a registered user.

to Ron MV - about your post to @My Opinion...I believe that he/she has posted that Los Altos was enforcing their street parking laws, and because of that the RV's were moving over to MV to park here as rarely are the laws enforced at least that was the way I read it before seeing your correction. And @ShorelineWestDude...what you posted about the community garden being viewed as a personal food pantry is a great possibility. I had a plot in Palo Altos Main Community Garden by the library, and it was a large garden with many plots that were viewed as a freebie not only for the homeless, but also the residents with homes in the area. It was a continual battle for the garden manager to stop people coming in with their shopping bags to fill up from our hard earned produce. Sometimes we would end up at the end of the season with very, very little to show for our spent money for plants, our work, our sweat.


87 people like this
Posted by mv_resident
a resident of Castro City
on May 21, 2018 at 9:55 am

mv_resident is a registered user.

This is really frustrating to read.

City Council needs to enforce the law! We are ruining a beautiful city. For what? To protect a few that have total disregard for the law? How about those who pay taxes and make it possible for the city to even entertain programs like free waste dump?

This November let's vote for someone who will protect the tax paying residents of Mountain View. Let's get our city back!


11 people like this
Posted by dont go away mad
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 21, 2018 at 5:49 pm

dont go away mad is a registered user.

Interesting, more people are upset about this situation than there are RVs on the street. Yet we pay for everything and they get a free pass because that’s where they decided to park Living the dream


15 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 21, 2018 at 8:05 pm

LOL is a registered user.

It's cute watching all the liberals here go full Trump when they have to look at homeless people. Build the wall, huh?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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