Mountain View elected leaders will be forced to retract a citywide large-vehicle ban that was accused of being a thinly veiled crackdown on the homeless.
On Monday, officials with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters announced that a referendum petition had successfully collected enough signatures to overturn the vehicle ban. If a majority of the Mountain View City Council wishes to pursue the ordinance to ban large vehicles, it must go before voters to decide.
The announcement was hailed as a victory by members of the Housing Justice Coalition and the Silicon Valley Democratic Socialists of America. The two groups had coordinated a campaign in November to collect the needed signatures in less than a month.
While many Mountain View residents are deeply troubled by the area's growing homelessness, they also don't want a superficial solution that just pushes poverty elsewhere, said former Councilman Lenny Siegel, speaking for the Housing Justice Coaltion.
"The community is split on what is means to have people living in vehicles, but most people in Mountain View want a real solution," he said. "I'm hoping that we can go beyond the restrictions and come up with something that works for the vehicle residents."
The referendum takes aim at an ordinance passed on Oct. 22 that banned all vehicles more than 7 feet high, 7 feet wide or 22 feet long from parking along most city streets. The ordinance explicitly avoids any mention of homelessness, and it was instead written to focus on traffic safety issues.
Under the proposed rules, this ban is expected to close most of Mountain View's suburban neighborhoods to large vehicles, including RVs and trailers. The city has not released final details on which streets would be affected.
Ever since the parking ban was first proposed, Housing Justice advocates warned they would work to overturn it. Under city rules, ordinances approved by the City Council do not take effect for 30 days, and they can be overturned through a citizen petition process. To qualify, a referendum petition must include signatures from about 10% of the registered voters in Mountain View, which equates to more than 3,700 individuals.
Last month, activists delivered a petition with nearly 5,000 signatures to City Hall. Elections officials say nearly 15% of the signatures analyzed were found to be invalid, mainly because the voter names were not registered. Nevertheless, the petition was still signed by 4,179 legitimate voters.
As part of the certification process, elections officials verify only a fraction of the total names that were submitted -- 500, in this case.
The petition results will be considered by the Mountain View City Council at its Jan. 14 meeting, according to City Clerk Lisa Natusch. At that time, the council must decide whether to repeal the ordinance or bring it to voters at the next regular election. Since the deadline for the March ballot has already passed, that means the ordinance would have to wait until November.