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Mountain View voters will decide city's RV parking ban

City Council's parking restrictions on RVs, oversized vehicles set for referendum vote in November election

The final decision on whether to prohibit oversized vehicles like RVs from parking on most city streets will be up to Mountain View voters this November.

In a unanimous vote at its Tuesday, Jan. 14, meeting, the City Council decided to bring its September parking ordinance to a popular vote following a successful referendum to overturn it.

The city's parking ordinance, referred to as the "RV ban," will be suspended until the election, the council decided.

It was a rare easy choice for Mountain View leaders even though it dealt with the city's most vexing issue. Council members quickly agreed the voters should make the final decision on where large vehicles, including inhabited RV and trailers, are allowed to park in the city.

"It's time for the voters to vote, but I don't expect us to suspend our work with finding solutions," said Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga. "Our safe parking is just getting off the ground, and I do believe that as we learned from other cities, it goes hand in hand with some restrictions."

The parking ordinance passed last September on a 4-3 council vote. The ordinance called for all-hours restrictions on oversized vehicles parking on narrow streets, defined as any road less than 40 feet in width. These oversized vehicles would include any cars, trucks, vans, motorhomes or trailers measuring more than 22 feet long, 7 feet high or 7 feet wide, albeit with some exceptions.

The parking ordinance touched a nerve for many Mountain View residents because the brunt of the restrictions would have fallen on people living out of their vehicles. Social justice advocates immediately blasted the ordinance as a thinly veiled attempt to push the homeless out of the city. City officials have insisted the parking rules were designed to improve traffic safety, particularly the visibility problems for drivers caused by rows of large vehicles lining the curbs.

So far, the city has not specified precise boundaries for where parking would be restricted. A preliminary city map published last year indicated most residential neighborhoods would be closed off while some industrial areas of the city would remain open for large vehicles. Public Works staff previously said they were still figuring out exactly which neighborhoods would fall under the narrow streets rule.

The City Council's action last fall prompted a swift backlash. Advocates with the Housing Justice Coalition and the Democratic Socialists of America quickly canvassed the city to collect signatures for a referendum petition. In less than a month, they delivered thousands of voter signatures, forcing the city to pull back the ordinance.

Speaking before the council on Tuesday, opponents urged the city to rescind the RV ban, saying it wasn't worth bringing the issue to voters.

"The fact that we so quickly gathered more than the required signatures speaks to the unpopularity of this measure," said John Lashlee of the Democratic Socialists. "To the council who voted for this, you will be the face of evictions, and you will be defeated."

With their hands tied by the referendum, elected leaders either had to rescind the ordinance or ask voters to decide in an upcoming election. City staff reported that it was already too late to include it in the March primary election. The next available opportunity would be to call a special election in April, but the city would have to carry nearly all the costs, estimated to be upward of $1.3 million, according to the city clerk.

Instead the City Council threw its support behind saving the ordinance for the November presidential election, which was estimated to cost about $90,000.

It was the best choice out of a bad set of options, said Councilman Chris Clark, who previously opposed the ordinance. He admonished his colleagues for overreaching, saying it only resulted in causing further delays for the city to address the actual hazards.

"If we had crafted an ordinance that dealt with the safety issue and that wasn't so broad, we might not have had to go through this referendum process," he said. "Sometimes we don't make the right decision the first time around."

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Comments

140 people like this
Posted by This Resident Cannot Wait
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Thank god the citizens can FINALLY have a say in how our diminishing quality of life can be improved. This is something we've all wanted for so long!
Now, VOTE!


10 people like this
Posted by roaksinri
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:49 pm

A note to clarify the "Clarifys" and others speaking out of ignorance- As an actual case manager assisting the homeless in Mountain View, I can assure you that categorizing "vehicle dwellers", "tent dwellers", and people living outside, even under an overpass, as "Homeless" is perfectly acceptable as defined by HUD (Federal) and the County of Santa Clara. Rex makes some very salient points regarding the NIMBY reactions. The truth of the matter is that homelessness has increased by over 30% in the last two years in SC County. In the midst of plenty and prosperity for a few, you have a perfect storm of under-funded mental health services, Baby Boomer seniors that are priced out of the housing market, single parents- usually women, often victims of abusive relationships, with no job skills eking out an existence for themselves and their children, a county shelter system with about 1,000 spaces and over 9,000 homeless that have been counted("Santa Clara County officials conducted the biennial homeless census over two days in January 2019 and found 9,706 homeless adults living in the county's 15 cities and unincorporated areas, an increase of 2,312 from the 2017 count"), an influx of undocumented asylum seekers fleeing the cartels and gangs of Latin America where horrific crimes against the innocent go unreported in our media unless it occurs against American tourists. This is the poor among us. Even I, and all other Social Workers, qualify as "low income" based on the County's median income of $123,000/year. It is time for complaining to stop and citizens to step up. Government and faith groups, businesses, large and small. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowlalso resulted in displacement and homelessness. Certainly there are solutions from the past that can inform and inspire solutions for our poverty problems of today.
Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Can’t see comments
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:07 pm

How come I can’t see comments the case worker poster is referring to?


88 people like this
Posted by Jake O.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:14 pm

Finally the voters get to have their say! I wonder if votes against the ban will total the same as the amount of signatures gathered late last year. Hopefully after the ban passes, the city is quick to act


125 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:29 pm

@roaksinri

You are trying to liken the current economic climate to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl? Are you serious?

There are 7 million more jobs in this country than there are people willing to fill them. Employment conditions for every demographic group are at 50 year highs. The only thing is, not all 7 million of those jobs are HERE. Not everybody can afford to live here, yet many local politicians act as if any who wants to must be accommodated. Those same politicians think it's okay to tax those who work to be able to live here so that they can give that money to those with no job and no prospect of getting one. That isn't help - it's enabling. It is also making those who could otherwise afford to live get taxed to the point where they can't. I can't imagine how that could be seen as fair.

You should probably read Toxic Charity. I believe the author is Robert Lupton. It deals with the issue of financing people in their misery rather than equipping them to make a better life on their own. We should be enabling people to be independent rather than subsidizing their dependence. If you can't find a way to support yourself in this economic climate, it's either because you can't or won't. If you legitimately can't work due to physical or mental issues, that's one thing. If you won't because of some other reason, then you should not be getting assistance. If I don't choose to work, I have to ensure I can support myself by other means. Why should the government pay for some but not others who don't choose to support themselves? How is that equitable to all?


145 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:53 pm

Great! I also hope that we will have an option to vote on a “total Citywide RV ban” instead of the proposed ban. I’d like to vote for a total ban! Enough is enough!


25 people like this
Posted by Ballot Arguments
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:59 pm

There was only brief discussion, but no decision, on who/how the ballot argument will be written.

A few councilmembers (Hicks, +1) opined that council should only write a "fact-based" neutral argument for the measure, with no pros or cons.

That seems insufficient. First, the council majority approved this new regulation. They should stick to their guns and follow this through, even if it's 4-3 again. Second, if council only submits a "neutral" argument, then how does that counter the "con" argument which will surely be written by the other side?


37 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 4:40 pm

It is amazing at what length we need to go to make common sense prevail.
I am sure there will be a new lawsuit or something to counter the results of the referendum though!


115 people like this
Posted by Not Okay!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2020 at 5:13 pm

Earlier this week someone defecated on my front property! This is actually the third time. The first two incidents the perpetrator went to my back yard and pooped in the water fountain. This problem with homelessness is only going to get worse. Just look at SF. Waiting for the November ballot may be too late.


51 people like this
Posted by Where is Silicon Valley 'Community' Foundation?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 6:11 pm

Fighting for the right for someone to live on the streets in a decrepit RV is irresponsible and misguided, no matter how well-intentioned. Instead of misrepresenting the issue by collecting signatures under the guise of 'helping homeless people' Lenny should be lobbying the Silicon Valley 'Community' Foundation to part with some of their 13 BILLION (yes, Billion) in assets to help relocate these people into stable housing. SVCF is located IN Mountain View, this issue is in their backyard, where was their leadershp last night at the council meeting? The silence is deafening.


121 people like this
Posted by RV's do not meet code for habitable housing
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2020 at 6:48 pm

If we converted our garage to a rental with a portable toilet, a space heater and a few mattresses on the floor, it would be shut down immediately, so would we ever condone living in an RV, with no power, heat or sanitation? Garages have more stringent criteria, the same should apply to RV's.

Garages in California need to meet these basic requirements to count as a habitable space.

1. Natural ventilation that is at least 1/20 the size of the floor space or 5 square feet at a minimum.

2. Sleeping areas need a window that is no more than 44 inches off the ground. Also, has an opening of at least 5.7 square feet.

3. Ceilings need to be at least 7 feet and 6 inches in height.

4. Heating that keeps rooms at a temperature at 70 degrees for at least 3 feet above the floor.

5. Rooms must have natural light that is at least 10 percent the size of the square footage.

6. A room used for sleeping cannot have a garage open into the room.

7. All rooms need a smoke detection device installed.

8. The room requires at least one wall controlled light switch.

9. Electrical wall outlets need spacing to ensure that no part of the floor is more than 6 feet away from an outlet.

10, The room cannot have a gas water heater in it if it is a sleeping space.




14 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 7:07 pm

Let’s see how fast the comments will be only allowed from registered users...


156 people like this
Posted by Remember in November
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2020 at 7:12 pm

Article says,
"Advocates with the Housing Justice Coalition and the Democratic Socialists of America quickly canvassed the city to collect signatures for a referendum petition."

The so called "Housing Justice Coalition" is Lenny's Siegel organization.
He works very closely with the Socialist party as well.

You also recall that Siegel got the ACLU involved and had the them write a letter to the city to warn them that if they passed this, that the ACLU would file a lawsuit and sue the city.

This is what former council member Lenny Siegel has brought to our city.
Siegel is responsibly for this mess. He as council member ordered the MVPD to not enforce our parking ordinance against these RV's.

Remember in November to not to vote for Lenny Siegel again for city council, as he is running again after being thrown out of office over this.

Keep in mind these people,
Pat Showalther
A.Hicks
Lucas Rameriz
Past and present council members who oppose any enforcement of these RV's.


134 people like this
Posted by Old Mtn View
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:53 pm

I agree with these comments. Why are we relaxing the rules for what constitutes a home so people from out of town can drive here and park at the side of the road and make a permanent home? This policy makes no sense.

The voters were clear. Get rid of the RVs. Not in 6 months but now.


10 people like this
Posted by @Old Mtn View
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2020 at 10:45 pm

Oof, sorry buddy. You gotta listen to your betters up on the dais. They clearly said it's not a ban. If folks like you were a little less rabid, you might have your ban by now. Instead, by law it has to be pushed out until November, and then, even if there are enough angry folks like you to pass it, the City will get sued by the ACLU and have to back down anyway. Enjoy the drama!


160 people like this
Posted by Sanity please
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 11:57 pm

The Voice seems to be a mouthpiece for Lenny, once again. How pathetic.

The truth is there has never been a complete survey of all RVs on Mountain View streets, as most will not open their door to the police. However, our police make clear they are aware of a number of gun and drug sales, prostitution and sex offenders living here in this way. Lenny Siegel's group and the Voice like to portray the RV dwellers as poor prior MV residents working hard to better themselves. Yes, some certainly are, and those are the ones we need to identify and help move towards housing. Assisting our legitimate Mountain View RV dwellers towards housing will take an effort on both sides, but will be worth it.

Unfortunately, there is also a population of freeloaders that we encourage - by supplying services of police protection, sewage and trash collection, and other living assistance - at a cost of over $2.5M of your tax dollars. Many (if not most) are out of town people who came here, as their hometowns do not allow RVs on their streets. Several are junk RVs dumped here by East Bay contractors who rent them out during the week to their laborers - so these non-residents are making money off our streets and also not paying property tax here. Actually, none of the RVs pay property tax - even the well paid Google engineers who choose to live this way to avoid rent.

Mountain View has set up a method to clearly identify the actual prior MV residents. Those identified must be law-abiding, have a license, a registration for their vehicle, employed if able bodied and be willing to work together with Community Services Agency towards being housed. Nobody should live in this way and nothing is solved by allowing this to go on. MV can work with our own, but the rest need to go to their home cities and work with organizations there.

MV taxpayers cannot carry the burden for the entire Peninsula, but can help our true local RV dwellers in a dignified, respectful and structured way towards better living. Sadly, this has now been postponed nearly a year because of Lenny Siegel and his referendum campaign to have RVs living on our streets without restriction. (Remember that in the November election!)


28 people like this
Posted by Sonny
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 16, 2020 at 9:34 am

Parking of RVs on Mountain View streets has existed for decades, however the "homeless" living in those RVs has only grown to problem level in the last two years or so. Even so, enforcement of the new parking statutes was in plan for much of the last year only to be pushed back another year because of the gathering of signatures opposed to the statutes. I don't blame the petition signers because we simply disagree on this topic, instead the city council has earned the brunt of the blame because they lacked the foresight to put this in front of voters before it grew to current levels. If there is a City of Mountain View legal team they share in the blame for not warning the city council of this likelihood. As it is we've got almost another year of problem growth with every other city in the area sending their homeless in our direction.


103 people like this
Posted by Simon
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2020 at 9:46 am

Please go to election in November and use you judgement....coming from a socialist country that fell apart because of its political structure, I can assure you that Socialism is like a cancer.....
Your neighbors residents are praying for RV total ban.
Don't go far-look at Los Altos. They don't have a ban but they are simply enforce ordinance that is prohibiting overnight parking for oversized vehicles. They don't need special elections... They don't face a lawsuit. Mountain View is simply needs to enforce a current law. Why our City manages order the police ignore the Law?
They only need to enforce no overnight parking and problem will be solved.
And remember all these socialists democrats when you go to vote.......
Look what these socialist democrats did to San francisco...and what are they doing to California......
Respectfully,
Yor moderate Democratic neighbor from Palo Alto


80 people like this
Posted by Why don't activitsts petition City of Los Altos?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2020 at 10:43 am

Agree with Simon, why is it that activists like Lenny Siegel,ignore the fact that the City of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills have no issue with enforcing RV parking restrictions and offer no homeless shelters or soup kitchens. Who do you think is building these luxury homes, working in downtown LA resturants, blowing their leaves and cleaning their homes? Yet, the only city that has bent over backwards to address the homeless people living in uninspected, substandard vehicle 'housing', gets nothing but grief.


8 people like this
Posted by I agree with myself
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2020 at 12:44 pm

As the Lenny Obsessed poster commenting under different names and agreeing with myself(as usual) I agree with myself. I will not seek help.


16 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2020 at 12:47 pm

@ Sanity Please
Last year, after our current mayor incorrectly told Channel 7 news that there was gang violence associated with Mountain View's vehicle residents, I asked the police chief about it: He wrote, "In staff’s presentation to Council, it was noted that there is no evidence that suggests people living in vehicles are any more or less likely to commit crimes than people living in traditional homes."


7 people like this
Posted by Proud Taxpayer
a resident of Willowgate
on Jan 16, 2020 at 12:51 pm

A report released last month by the Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that the percentage increase in California's homeless for 2019 is higher than the total of all the 49 other states combined. The increase (more than 16 percent) was recorded in a year when most states saw a decrease in their numbers of homeless.

While the rest of the country experienced a combined decrease in homelessness in 2019, significant increases in homelessness on the West Coast – particularly California and Oregon – offset those nationwide decreases, causing an overall increase in homelessness of 2.7 percent in 2019.


15 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2020 at 12:51 pm

@Where is Silicon Valley 'Community' Foundation?
Last year I met withe the Silicon Valley Community Foundation a few times to engage them in addressing issues around vehicle households. They formed a regional task force. I was invited to the first meeting. Unfortunately, our mayor at the time refused to continue participating if I was invited back.
This is indeed a regional issue, and even though I'm no longer on the Council I communicate frequently with elected officials in nearby cities to develop solutions that benefit both vehicle residents an our communities as a whole.


9 people like this
Posted by Frank Richards
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 16, 2020 at 2:20 pm

Simon,

The Scandinavian countries are doing quite well under socialism. Why do they always get ignored? Norway, for example, has more of its economy under state ownership than Venezuela. They're some of the happiest, most prosperous people on the planet! If that's cancer, sign me up.


78 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 16, 2020 at 4:53 pm

@Lenny - Whatever this Task Force is that you are referring to I am not able to find any details about it online or on SVCF website. The fact is that in 2019 the SVCF Donor Circle for Safety Net made a couple of grants totaling 100K in 2019 (same for two prior years) Web Link. How about putting SVCF under your microscope rather than continuing this ongoing crusade of disrupting Mountain View city government? We are all VERY tired of it, if you had voter support you would have retained your seat on the city council, the people have spoken, accept it.


6 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 16, 2020 at 9:22 pm

@My Opinion
I fail to see how collecting signatures on initiative and referendum petitions is disruptive of city government. It's what democracy looks like.

Here's the agenda for the May 10 meeting I attended. It appears that the task force had limited success due to the lack of commitment by the elected-official participants.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation
OVERVIEW
Building Inclusive Communities: RVs, local ordinances and regional solutions
Friday, May 10, 2019, 11am – 1pm
2440 W. El Camino Real, Suite 300, Mountain View, CA
Introduction
In partnership with Assemblymember Marc Berman (AD-24), SVCF will bring together city and county elected officials in AD 24 to discuss local and regional solutions to the plight of unsheltered individuals and families living in RV’s and other vehicles. The goals are to:
• Learn and disseminate the scale of the problem,
• Identify research needs, particularly around impact of local ordinances, and
• Identify local and regional solutions.
Background
Silicon Valley is a place with far more jobs than housing. This imbalance drives up an already high cost of living and displaces people who cannot afford housing into outlying areas many miles from their jobs. The number of cross-county commuters in and out of Silicon Valley has increased 175% over the past decade.
For some Bay Area workers that cannot afford the transportation costs of mega-commuting, living in a recreational vehicle (RV) is a last resort. In fact, the number of people living in an RV in Silicon Valley – a visible demonstration of our housing crisis – is on the rise. Data collected from the 2017 San Mateo County One Day Homeless Count and Survey reports a 44% increase in the number of people counted in RVs and a 25% increase in the number of people in cars from 2015 to 2017. In response to the growing number of people living in RVs, cities in Silicon Valley have received pressure to both ramp up restrictive municipal codes and enforce them – such as parking time limits, vehicle registration violations, RV size restrictions, and RV dwelling and traffic hazard regulations – while also develop extensive short-term action plans focused on outreach, case management, basic human services, faith engagement, sheltering and safe parking.
Local and national journalists have led efforts to bring to light the rippling displacement effects individual municipal decision that restrict people living in RV have throughout our region. RVs include nurses, construction workers, students, teachers and others who work in the city but can't afford to live in Silicon Valley.
How are mayors thinking about solving the effects of RV ordinances in their cities? Are there best practices that can be shared or regional solutions to be designed?
Agenda
TIME TOPIC LEAD
11:00 a.m. Welcome Gina Dalma, SVCF
11:15 a.m. Why this is important for SVCF? Nicole Taylor, SVCF
11:25 a.m. Setting the stage:
• Who are our residents living in their RV?
• What is the scale of the problem? Moderator: Bruce Ives, CEO LifeMoves
An RV Resident
12:15 p.m. Local ordinances examined:
• What types of ordinances?
• What is the social, economic and political impact of these ordinances? Moderator: Lisa Gauthier, Mayor of East Palo Alto
12:45 p.m. Mapping solutions:
• What works locally?
• Scaling – Is there a regional/state approach/solution? Moderator: Asm. Marc Berman
AD 24
1:45 p.m. What we heard: Moderator: Gina Dalma
1:50 p.m. Call to Action and next steps Pastor Paul Bains
2:00 p.m. Adjourn


89 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 16, 2020 at 10:42 pm

@Lenny - Apparently that SVCF meeting was a waste of time, paying lipservice instead of taking action. CSA should be receiving a hefty grants from SVCF, I do not see that happening.

Regarding democracy, a democracy means rule by the people, where the people can take part in the decisions that affect the way their community is run. The people decided in Nov 2019 that they did not like the direction the city was headed, that is why you are no longer on the council. With all due respect you did lose by a big margin. Please allow the elected representatives do their job.


9 people like this
Posted by Sophie88
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2020 at 8:32 pm

@Where is Silicon Valley 'Community' Foundation. That foundation was designed for corporations to get tax refund and publicity opportunities, not for them to solve real problems in the community. Besides, their notorious toxic management in 2019 told us what this foundation is.


1 person likes this
Posted by roaksinri
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2020 at 2:16 pm

California Today: How Do People Become Homeless?

Web Link


25 people like this
Posted by The Registrant
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2020 at 2:53 pm

I'm pleased the voters of MV will finally get to address this issue directly. It's been a hot topic of discussion for too long. No more will we have to say "I wish they'd do something about this"


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