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Editorial: Questioning the City Council's RV ban

 

The recent action -- and inaction -- by the Mountain View City Council regarding vehicle dwellers is disheartening and somewhat baffling.

On Sept. 24, Mayor Lisa Matichak, Vice Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, and council members Ellen Kamei and John McAlister bypassed opposition from dozens of impassioned residents and threats of litigation and a voter referendum to narrowly approve an all-hours ban on oversized vehicles parking in most neighborhoods, effective June 2020. Dissenting council members urged their colleagues to wait until June to decide on the proposal, when the city will consider whether to renew a shelter emergency passed earlier this year. Their argument: If the shelter emergency was resolved, then it would make sense to begin parking enforcement.

Abe-Koga argued that delaying action would amount to "kicking the can" on the issue, and Kamei ended up as the swing vote when she switched her support after McAlister made a motion to make the shelter crisis irrelevant to the parking ban.

Three days before that, the Mountain View Whisman school board rejected the idea of offering homeless students safe parking at one of the district's middle schools, citing the city's strict regulations and skepticism about whether homeless families could be convinced to self-identify and participate in the program. Of the nearly 300 occupied vehicles in Mountain View, 21 district students are living in 16 RVs, and two more children are living in one car, according to data collected by the school district.

"My gut is telling me that yes, morally it is the right thing to do," Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said. "But logistically and from a liability standpoint, it's not the place the district should be in."

This has been a common refrain among local government agencies when discussing the housing and homeless crisis: that they truly want to help, but their hands are tied up in red tape. Residents desperate for real action and solutions are tired of hearing it.

The sweeping nature of the RV ban and the council's insistence on passing it now -- even though it won't take effect until June 30, 2020 — isn't practical, and it certainly isn't the most moral approach. After council members threw their support behind a proposal in June to restrict overnight parking for large motor homes and trailers throughout the city from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. daily starting in January 2020, staff came back with the much stricter 24/7 ban that will segregate vehicle dwellers to industrial areas of town, farther from schools and services — and complaining residents.

Oversized vehicles will be prohibited from parking on any street with a designated bike lane or on streets deemed too narrow because they are less than 40 feet wide, which means dozens of miles of streets, including all of the city's suburban neighborhoods, will be off-limits. (Abe-Koga estimated this would amount to two-thirds of the city's streets.) Traffic safety was used as the rationale, but police have not cited oversized vehicles as a contributing factor in a rise in accidents, and the city has not provided any evidence that such vehicles are actually causing traffic hazards, especially along narrow streets.

The council approved this proposal despite repeated threats from a coalition of civil rights attorneys who warned they are ready to sue if the city went ahead with the parking ban. In their latest letter, they said the ban as proposed would have the same effect as a citywide ban, and argued the city's claim that it's in the name of traffic safety is just pretext.

"The staff report betrays the idea that the proposed ordinances are needed to protect the health and safety of Mountain View residents," the letter reads. "It speculates that oversized vehicles create safety concerns on streets equal to or wider than 40 feet but fails to provide any evidence for this assertion. In fact, Mountain View already has an ordinance restricting parking on narrow streets, but this ordinance defines 'narrow' as less than or equal to 30 feet. Without further factual findings, and particularly without findings from a traffic expert, it is impossible to understand the health and safety concerns behind this arbitrary cut-off."

It's hard not to question the motive in tying the all-hours ban to traffic concerns. Although Abe-Koga pointed out that she did not want to wait for an RV-related accident to happen to spur change, one would think that the ban would be implemented sooner than the end of June if there is an immediate safety concern. Everyone certainly wants to prevent collisions, but the city may have to spend quite a bit of time — and money — defending its rationale in court. That alone makes one question the logic of approving this ban now, in the midst of a council-declared shelter emergency and with more time needed to study its impacts. We can't help but wonder whether Matichak and Abe-Koga were influenced by the fact that their seats are up for re-election in November 2020, and that voters' rejection of former council members Pat Showalter and Lenny Siegel last year was seen as retribution for the growing homeless crisis.

The notion, as Abe-Koga expressed, that this move won't be "displacing that many folks" because "we have safe parking lots opening up and some streets still open" is misguided and lacks compassion.

The council did take positive steps to address homelessness last week, expanding the hours of its safe parking program to 5 p.m. to 9 a.m., raising the maximum number of emergency shelter beds from 78 to 150 and increasing the number of safe parking spots to 80. (Though half of these spaces are on lots that will be unavailable by spring.)

But the city is shooting itself in the foot with strict regulations of its own creation. The city's Environmental Planning Commission recently warned staff about loading too many rules on the safe parking program. But in updated regulations approved by the council Sept. 24, safe parking sites can open only in certain designated neighborhoods or zoning areas, and RVs need to be generously spaced. Requiring vehicle dwellers to relocate during the day — especially when there will be few streets to legally park on come next summer — means there will inevitably be less participation.

It's not clear whether city officials have spoken with any vehicle dwellers about what kind of program they'd participate in; it's evident they didn't exhaust all contacts who could potentially host safe parking lots, as Rudolph and Tom Myers, executive director of the Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos, both suggested at a council meeting in June. We hope that city officials are extensively reaching out to property owners about the prospect of hosting safe parking lots, particularly all-hours ones that could be prioritized for vehicle-dwelling families with children.

By implementing an all-hours RV ban, the city will force vehicle dwellers — many of whom work or attend school in Mountain View — to choose between leaving the city, fighting for a parking spot on one of the few streets not covered by the ban or sleeping on the streets if no other options exist.

In an op-ed in the Voice earlier this year, Abe-Koga and Matichak wrote, "We believe the Mountain View City Council has shown incredible character, compassion, and leadership on these very complex regional issues. And we challenge you to find another city in the area that has done more, relative to our size, on housing and homelessness." But it was those qualities that were missing in the council chambers last week when the RV ban was approved.

The council is expected to do a second reading of the ban before approving it on Tuesday, Oct. 22, giving residents another opportunity to make their voices heard — and council members the chance to reconsider.

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Comments

97 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2019 at 10:11 am

1) Who are the RV users. Are they really displaced workers or freeloaders. There has been NO complete survey of whom we are expected to help.
2) Are they really ex-residents of Mountain View or did they come from elsewhere. Can we stop more from coming here as we rehouse the existing group.
3) Who owns the RV. If they are paying rent, why are we not requiring the landlord to pay the City.
4) Are you entitled to live in this City just because you really really really want to- even if you are a danger to others and the dumb taxpayers have to pay for you. Can we all move to Atherton or Menlo Park just because we want to, then have those citizens pay for us to live there.
5) The ACLU wants to sue. Do threats enable someone to break the law . Who decides which laws can be ignored. The ones with the loudest voice it seems.


128 people like this
Posted by End the RV Parking NOW!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2019 at 11:08 am

This story sounds like it was written by Lenny Siegel!

A very few people seem to think, that by allowing certain people to disobey the laws that we have, that it will make their lives better.This RV is only the start, it never ends, problems just grows. Tent sidewalks is next.

Look at what has happened to other cities in our state that has allowed these types of violations, like San Francisco, L.A and many others. How can a city like San Francisco think that it is O.K to hand out 400,000 syringes to drug addicts in their city every month? Only to be discarded at the playgrounds, parks, beaches, city streets, just waiting for someone else to be accidentally poked and God only knows what you would be infected with.


In our city, you have the activists like Lenny Siegel, Jobe Lopez, and the Editorial Board at the Voice pushing to make us like San Francisco. The editorial board does not even live in our city, why should anyone listen to them?

The residents know if this RV parking stays/expands, this will only lead to tent cities, and the continuing decline of the city.

It is long over due to end this, if no solution has been found after all these years, then none exists. Spending Millions of tax dollars has not solved the problem. It is past time to end this.

As far a voter referendum, I say go ahead. The voters will flatly reject it, just like the way they voted/kicked out Lenny Siegel from the city council.

As far as litigation, the U.S Supreme court will very likely take up and overturn the ruling from the Ninth Circuit, which stated that the city needs to provide housing to the homeless if they remove them from the streets. The city of L.A is part of that case and is asking the Supreme court to take up that case.

Remember, NO court has ordered the city of Mountain View to stop enforcement of these RV's. Other local cities, including Sunnyvale, was chasing them out of their cities and telling them to go to Mtn. View, when at the time we had Lenny Siegel on the city council who not only wanted them to stay, but wanted to expand the parking to other parts of the city.

City council members Hicks, Ramerize, we will remember you voting No on this parking enforcement when your re-election starts in 3 years from now.

We will also remember to vote for Mayor Lisa Matichak, Vice Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, next year. They wanted an earlier date to enforce the RV parking ordinance.

Council member Kamei, you have been flooded by the activists, yelling at you, and this has distorted your view of right and wrong. We are watching you and hope you come back to what is right, tough love is needed. You can not let children eat what they want, you have to be the adult here.



7 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 12, 2019 at 11:43 am

Showing/acting compassion? I'd agree with the editors, neither the MVWSD's Rudolph and Board, or the majority of the City Council seem to be doing that (and I know the current conditions cannot prevail). But I will certainly not vote for Abe-Koga ( I think she is termed out?) and even though I supported and contributed to the campaign of Matichak (check the campaign fillings) I require compassion in the candidates I support!

I too "have a choice" Lisa Matichak (and @NOW!) - and I will be exercising that Choice by neither supporting you or voting for you in the next election.


64 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 12, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Our City Council did not go far enough with this RV ban. It should ban RVs throughout the entire City, and not select areas. This RV issue should never have been allowed to happen in the first place and now, because it was, RVs are everywhere. Thank you City Council for doing the right thing and listing to the residents.


72 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 12, 2019 at 3:12 pm

[Post removed due to multiple posters using the same name]


26 people like this
Posted by Yimby #2
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 3:41 pm

A Google bus swerved into the middle of the road.
To give adequate clearance to an RV parked on the side of the road
Right when I was turning onto that road
Fortunately, I am always careful at that intersection
And got out of way of the on-coming Google bus in my lane
I don't blame the Google bus
I do blame the RV


12 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 12, 2019 at 3:57 pm

[Post removed due to multiple posters using the same name]


8 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 5:00 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

The majority of these people are likely "contractors".

THey cannot rely on a job that lasts for more than 6 months.

AB 5 is designed to fix the problem, but it will likely terminate all computer contracting in the state.

Thus all this work will be outsourced out of state

Google uses >50% of workforce as contractors. They will be moving come Jan 1,2020

PayPal uses 70% of workforce as contractors. They will be moving come Jan 1,2020.

The REAL story is that there is going to be a significant change.


Like this comment
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2019 at 6:01 am

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to LOL of Bailey Park you said:

“In the last election, Siegel and Showalther where voted out because of their extreme views. The Voice and people in the Siegel camp tried to silence a candidate for council, John Inks. The Voice also did their part in writing stories against Inks. HE HAD AN EXCELLENT RECORD AS A PREVIOUS COUNCIL MEMBER, BUT THAT DID NOT MATTER.”

Excellent record like being determined to have tried to influence the City Council where he had a conflict of interest? You forgot about the report found here (Web Link) and here (Web Link)

Given that there was even this kind of inquiry regarding his conduct in the City Council greatly indicates that even his own City Council members questioned his actions. Is this an EXCELLENT record? Or is it an EXCELLENT record was of corruption. That is all I wanted to clarify.

To me you do not remember history very completely, only where it suits your interest.


2 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 13, 2019 at 6:27 am

@LOL thanks for being completely befuddled by my politics! I supported John Inks with my Vote - because he very often was the only voice of RESTRAINT of government overreach. He often both spoke up and voted as a councilman on issue of importance to small and medium business and property owners. I liked some of his Libertarian style government/personal responsibility positions. [a "well regulated militia" was not our point of agreement]
I have voted for "The Lenny" also and Showalter was becoming more interesting to me as she seemed to soften her stances some by showing 'governmental institution compassion' to those doing less well-off.
Democratic Suburbanite Party? That seems to be Abe-Koga's brand of politics. It's definitely NOT Democratic Socialist (like "Bernie") or 'for the working class' like Warren.


5 people like this
Posted by unseen bigger issue
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2019 at 8:04 am

While RVs are a wider and more visible issue, right across from Google by Taco Bell are people living fully homeless on the street, some even without tents.


9 people like this
Posted by One idea
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2019 at 10:18 am

Since many of those who live in RV's are employed at big technology companies, often as contractors, perhaps we can ask (expect) Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and other large hi-tech employers to provide overnight parking or camping for "their own" in designated corporate parking lots. Even highly paid tech workers balk at paying thousands of dollars in rent each month, especially when all they really need is a place to sleep. (They work long hours, and they can eat and shower at work. Sometimes they own real estate out of the area where they go for the weekend.) Yet the community shouldn't have to pay for what is essentially a "lifestyle choice" for some. That would free up community resources to support the most needy.


32 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 13, 2019 at 10:20 am

[Post removed due to multiple posters using the same name]


8 people like this
Posted by Rex
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Those of you upset that there have been RVs in the first place would do well to review basic civics: we do not live in fortified towns with hard borders and people may move between towns, cities, and states freely in pursuit of work and happiness. If this upsets you, consider relocating to a remote desert commune where no one will ever come bother you. Your absence will only improve the city, as your NIMBYism has only worsened the housing crisis and done nothing to help it.


3 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 14, 2019 at 2:43 pm

James Thurber is a registered user.

People assume an awful lot regarding our RV families living in Mountain View.

Do yourself a favor and walk down Crisanto Ave some day - mid-day - early - whenever. You'll find children playing, folks getting water, cooking, getting ready for the day, etc. They are regular people who, because of economics and the vicious cost of living in Mountain View, are doing the only thing they can to remain here.

And the option? A horrific commute. Driving opposite the commute traffic you'll see (literally) miles and miles of vehicles moving at a snail's pace. Those folks sometimes spend over two hours, each way, per day in their vehicles so they can get to / from work.

If anyone has any better ideas let me know. Personally I'd like to see landlords, who used to charge $600 for a one room apartment (and remaining in the black - business wise) having raised the rent to over $2,500 and now making enough money to embarrass a robber-baron of the 1890's, drop their rent. They should be able to make money but charging so much that folks are reduced to homelessness or living in an R.V. . . . . grrrrrrr.

Thanks for listening.


8 people like this
Posted by jordydog1
a resident of Slater
on Oct 14, 2019 at 6:24 pm

jordydog1 is a registered user.

@James Thurber, you make a good point about the high cost of living and the emotional toll of a multi-hour commute. What I don't understand is why MV can't investigate and distinguish RV dwellers with local roots and/or jobs from contractors who can afford to live elsewhere, people chased out of less welcoming neighborhoods, or flat-out transients.

According to this editorial, MV currently plays host to 300+ RVs. It's appalling that this issue has been in existence for so many years and, until now, hasn't been addressed in any substantive way. It adversely affects the quality of life and property for taxpayers and can't be a healthy situation for anyone living long-term in an aging RV.

Couldn't people who belong here be housed in vacant apartments with support from the town or put in line for an affordable apartment? Almost every apartment building in MV seems to have a "For Lease" sign in front. Permanent "safe parking" with so many restrictions that it becomes unfeasible is no way to solve the problem. Consigning people to vehicle dwelling in perpetuity is inhumane. And, given the cost of this safe parking, I have to imagine it would be as affordable for the town to subsidize housing for these needy residents as it would be to fill MV with a bunch of RV Pottervilles.

Additionally, in my opinion, anyone in an RV without a demonstrable and strong association to MV should be removed ASAP. June 2020 is too long to wait.


Like this comment
Posted by Sophie888
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 14, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Sophie888 is a registered user.

Some commenters mentioned the contractors of big Tech companies. Do you know that these big Tech companies intend to hire contractors from remote areas so that they can paid them below average hour rate? Since these out-of-towners don’t need to pay high cost of housing in Mountain View, Cupertino, Menlo Park, and they are happy with relatively low hour rate (I.e.$40/hr) While residents in these cities couldn’t afford housing cost unless they are paid fairly (I.e. $80/hr). It’s the similar situation that corporate brings in H1B workforce to hold down the pay grade, instead of hiring local.


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