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Judge unlikely to throw out lawsuit seeking to overturn Mountain View's RV parking ban

Michael Trujillo, an attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, during a July press conference announcing a lawsuit against the city of Mountain View. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

A federal court judge said Tuesday he does not plan to dismiss a lawsuit challenging new parking restrictions in Mountain View that would prohibit oversized vehicles -- many of them inhabited by homeless residents -- from parking on most city streets.

During a brief Oct. 20 hearing, Judge Nathanael Cousins said he is "not inclined" to accept the city of Mountain View's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which alleges that a pair of city parking ordinances should be overturned for violating the rights of vehicle dwellers who have sought shelter along public roadways.

The two ordinances are already in effect, and prohibit large vehicles from parking on streets with bike lanes and on "narrow" streets, defined as streets 40 feet wide or narrower. Though written solely as traffic safety measures, the parking restrictions followed a yearslong battle over what to do with the city's growing vehicle-dwelling population.

The more controversial of the two, the narrow streets ban, was subject to a referendum and placed on the ballot last year, where it won nearly 57% of the vote. Enforcement of the law was delayed until August this year.

At issue during the Tuesday hearing was the city's motion to dismiss the case outright, with defense attorneys arguing that the parking restrictions are lawful and protect the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and other drivers. Attorneys say the city has also taken an abundantly compassionate approach to enforcement, with a declaration from police Lt. Scott Nelson detailing significant outreach that precedes ticketing and towing of RVs.

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Though the case is unlikely to get scrapped in its entirety, some of the claims presented in the lawsuit may be on shaky ground. Cousins said there are a few allegations that he might dismiss, specifically ones suggesting that the parking ban violates vehicle residents' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state and federal rights to freedom of movement.

Less clear, however, is how the judge intends to rule on an injunction that would block the RV ban from taking full effect pending a final decision in the legal battle. Vehicle residents, represented by lawyers from the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco-based firm King & Spalding, are asking the city to hold off on ticketing and towing until the case has been settled.

The lawsuit makes the case that vehicle residents face the threat of losing their makeshift homes and their only source of shelter if the ordinances are enforced, and that they can hardly afford the high costs of retrieving an impounded vehicle.

"In this case plaintiffs' homes are in imminent danger of being towed away and all of their possessions taken ... which the court should take at face value for purposes of a motion to dismiss," said attorney San Diamant. "There will be thousands of dollars in fines through unlimited ticketing and over $1,000 required to retrieve plaintiffs' RVs from impound."

A sign banning parking of oversized vehicles along Alvin Street in Mountain View. Photo by Magali Gauthier

Margaret Prinzing, an attorney representing the city, said Mountain View has a right to implement traffic safety measures and ensure that all citizens are safe on city roadways, and that the lawsuit fails to show evidence that vehicle dwellers would be irreparably harmed if the law were to go into effect.

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Prinzing pointed to Nelson's declaration, and said the city is going out of its way to provide adequate notice to RV residents prior to citations and towing. To date, no vehicles have been towed under the two ordinances, Prinzing said, and an injunction cannot be based on "hypothetical, conjectural fear" of future danger, and that there simply isn't an imminent threat to RV residents.

"The only thing that plaintiffs are at risk of losing here is their preferred parking spot," Prinzing said.

While Mountain View police may be going above and beyond, that policy is unenforceable and subject to change at any time, said Michael Trujillo, an attorney with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. The city's compassionate approach could have been added to the ordinances or could be issued as official police policy, he said, but for now the rules are entirely discretionary and come from a self-serving declaration by one officer.

"We really see this as an illusory promise, and are concerned about having this case go forward without some sort of injunction from the court."

Trujillo also emphasized that the plaintiffs he represents are people who rely on a stable place to park their vehicle, and that forced relocation means losing access to schools, jobs and health care. The threat of tickets and towing for a single infraction is significant, he argued, and the city has repeatedly refused to give vehicle dwellers a map of streets where they can still park.

"The city's suggestion that plaintiffs are only at risk of losing their preferred parking spot is seriously out of touch with the needs and risks that plaintiffs and the provisional class members are facing," he said.

There is no firm date on when Judge Cousins will provide the written orders on both the motion to dismiss and the motion for a preliminary injunction.

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Judge unlikely to throw out lawsuit seeking to overturn Mountain View's RV parking ban

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Oct 20, 2021, 1:28 pm

A federal court judge said Tuesday he does not plan to dismiss a lawsuit challenging new parking restrictions in Mountain View that would prohibit oversized vehicles -- many of them inhabited by homeless residents -- from parking on most city streets.

During a brief Oct. 20 hearing, Judge Nathanael Cousins said he is "not inclined" to accept the city of Mountain View's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which alleges that a pair of city parking ordinances should be overturned for violating the rights of vehicle dwellers who have sought shelter along public roadways.

The two ordinances are already in effect, and prohibit large vehicles from parking on streets with bike lanes and on "narrow" streets, defined as streets 40 feet wide or narrower. Though written solely as traffic safety measures, the parking restrictions followed a yearslong battle over what to do with the city's growing vehicle-dwelling population.

The more controversial of the two, the narrow streets ban, was subject to a referendum and placed on the ballot last year, where it won nearly 57% of the vote. Enforcement of the law was delayed until August this year.

At issue during the Tuesday hearing was the city's motion to dismiss the case outright, with defense attorneys arguing that the parking restrictions are lawful and protect the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and other drivers. Attorneys say the city has also taken an abundantly compassionate approach to enforcement, with a declaration from police Lt. Scott Nelson detailing significant outreach that precedes ticketing and towing of RVs.

Though the case is unlikely to get scrapped in its entirety, some of the claims presented in the lawsuit may be on shaky ground. Cousins said there are a few allegations that he might dismiss, specifically ones suggesting that the parking ban violates vehicle residents' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state and federal rights to freedom of movement.

Less clear, however, is how the judge intends to rule on an injunction that would block the RV ban from taking full effect pending a final decision in the legal battle. Vehicle residents, represented by lawyers from the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco-based firm King & Spalding, are asking the city to hold off on ticketing and towing until the case has been settled.

The lawsuit makes the case that vehicle residents face the threat of losing their makeshift homes and their only source of shelter if the ordinances are enforced, and that they can hardly afford the high costs of retrieving an impounded vehicle.

"In this case plaintiffs' homes are in imminent danger of being towed away and all of their possessions taken ... which the court should take at face value for purposes of a motion to dismiss," said attorney San Diamant. "There will be thousands of dollars in fines through unlimited ticketing and over $1,000 required to retrieve plaintiffs' RVs from impound."

Margaret Prinzing, an attorney representing the city, said Mountain View has a right to implement traffic safety measures and ensure that all citizens are safe on city roadways, and that the lawsuit fails to show evidence that vehicle dwellers would be irreparably harmed if the law were to go into effect.

Prinzing pointed to Nelson's declaration, and said the city is going out of its way to provide adequate notice to RV residents prior to citations and towing. To date, no vehicles have been towed under the two ordinances, Prinzing said, and an injunction cannot be based on "hypothetical, conjectural fear" of future danger, and that there simply isn't an imminent threat to RV residents.

"The only thing that plaintiffs are at risk of losing here is their preferred parking spot," Prinzing said.

While Mountain View police may be going above and beyond, that policy is unenforceable and subject to change at any time, said Michael Trujillo, an attorney with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. The city's compassionate approach could have been added to the ordinances or could be issued as official police policy, he said, but for now the rules are entirely discretionary and come from a self-serving declaration by one officer.

"We really see this as an illusory promise, and are concerned about having this case go forward without some sort of injunction from the court."

Trujillo also emphasized that the plaintiffs he represents are people who rely on a stable place to park their vehicle, and that forced relocation means losing access to schools, jobs and health care. The threat of tickets and towing for a single infraction is significant, he argued, and the city has repeatedly refused to give vehicle dwellers a map of streets where they can still park.

"The city's suggestion that plaintiffs are only at risk of losing their preferred parking spot is seriously out of touch with the needs and risks that plaintiffs and the provisional class members are facing," he said.

There is no firm date on when Judge Cousins will provide the written orders on both the motion to dismiss and the motion for a preliminary injunction.

Comments

Rouel - Urban Living
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2021 at 4:05 pm
Rouel - Urban Living, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 4:05 pm

Motorhome = Bedroom with small queen bed; bathroom with shower/tub, flush toilet, and washbasin; kitchen with oven, stove top with three burners, microwave, and refrigerator with freezer, and dishwash basin; dinning with conversion to sleeping bed / entertainment area; water heater for showers, air conditioner for hot days, furnace heater for cold nights; Solar system for electricity. And a motor to move, seems pretty stable housing.

We, People in motorhomes/vehicles simply need a place to park, and don't want or need anything else, (maybe clean Porta-Potties), if not in the streets, then in Safe Parking without unrealistic expectations. Like, must sign up with organizations pushing residents to transition to renting. Even though the economic conditions that caused people to be in the Safe Parking are not being reversed, and with the current trajectory will never be reversed. And If one does not transition to renting, then asked to leave the Safe Parking program. It is not just availability of affordable housing, everything is bigger $$$. Most residents of Safe Parking have pride, and strive to provide for them self's and family. If a Safe Parking Lot resident really needs assistance of some kind, they know they can reach out, but it should not be pushed as a requirement for Safe Parking.

Currently Safe Parking Lots in Mountain View provide:
1. Porta-Potties, if 50 people use per day, and only cleaned once a week, but Residents are not allowed to clean.
2. Shower trucks & laundry twice a week.
3. One fresh water spigot location, is manageable.
4. On occasions $25 cards for grocery shopping have been provided. Possibly not needed now, might have been more critical during the worst COVID condition due to low employment at that time.
5. Most vehicles have some sort of small Solar system capacity for electricity. Usually installed with a assistance from residents.
6. Not provided, Removal of waste water from motorhome tanks is not free, have paid $40 to $80.


Polomom
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Oct 20, 2021 at 4:36 pm
Polomom, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 4:36 pm

Stable Housing? : You have no hook ups for your RV plumbing. You have no trash pick up service. You have no source for your water needs. You are squatting on public streets that are maintained by the City of MV, with taxes paid by residents. You and your motorhome belong in an RV park that takes care of the mentioned needs. Oh, wait, that costs money. You are promoting the free loader society. Not the needy population that would be happy to move into transitional housing. Especially with kids. As a resident of MV I am not willing to support your lifestyle. Complaining about the city services is a disgrace, MV is bending backwards to help vehicle dwellers. Urban Living at the expense of MV residents (I am not listing again and again what RVs on our streets have done) is not cool!


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 20, 2021 at 5:01 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 5:01 pm

Polomom, what a perfect name for someone complaining about poor people! Unfortunately, you clearly misunderstand the purpose of the ordinance. I can't see why, since the city has been overly clear and it's definitely not just pretext. It was for traffic safety! Stay on message!


Polomom
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Oct 20, 2021 at 5:54 pm
Polomom, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 5:54 pm

@Randy, just addressing how Rouel obviously misunderstood Safe Parking Program. Not the ordinance, different issue!


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 20, 2021 at 7:12 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 7:12 pm

In that case, stick to polo, as your comments are both unclear and off-topic for this article.


Em
Registered user
North Whisman
on Oct 20, 2021 at 8:44 pm
Em, North Whisman
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 8:44 pm

Rouel, forever rent-free with services is unrealistic and can be called free loading.

The rv safe parking program is a good stepping stone to take yourself and your family out of the streets.

It is also a little bit off-putting to criticize the services you get for free that are paid for by tax payers.

Randy, I hope to see a relevant and a comment with substance from you.

Polomom, thank you for putting that out. Freeloading is not cool and should not be normalized.

peace out, peace out yoy


Ron MV
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Oct 20, 2021 at 8:51 pm
Ron MV, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 8:51 pm

@Randy, Polomom is welcome to state her opinion, which was in no way off topic. It is a public forum, not Randy's Dictatorship Board.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 20, 2021 at 8:59 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 8:59 pm

She explicitly stated that it wasn't related to the article, which is about Mountain View's RV Ban and how the City is being sued for its attempts to roust the poor from the city. There are plenty of places to post freeform opinion, but Town Square is meant for discussing the articles.


Peter
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 20, 2021 at 9:43 pm
Peter, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 9:43 pm

Re: Randy Guelph
Not sure if you own or rent a house, but if you do, are you willing to open your driveway to an RV?
I’d be forever grateful!


Local
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Oct 20, 2021 at 10:47 pm
Local, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 10:47 pm

There will always be trolls who crave attention, so spend their time making empty rationale and never a solution. (They also never offer to personally help the situation: "Oh no, not me.... YOU need to solve this...I just want to criticize others.")
The vehicle dwellers are given a great deal of free services, yet some refuse the Safe Parking lots because it means they can no longer "live free". I think it's the old adage saying that we need to help those who agree to help themselves.
You would understand why this health and safety ordnance (clearly NOT an RV ban no matter how the Voice continues to spin it) was passed if you ever tried to turn a corner with large vehicles and RVs parked all the way to the corner. Bicyclists take dangerous chances weaving between cars and oversized vehicles. The health reason for this ordnance is clear: sewage, trash dumped on the streets and down street drains, and oil leaks on the roadways are serious health and wellness issues. Nobody should live without running water, working toilets, and reliable lighting and security!


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 21, 2021 at 12:32 am
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 12:32 am

Fair to note that the very same person posting above about how they despair the living conditions of vehicle dwellers is also actively against adding more homes to Mountain View with R3 zoning update and actively against permanent supportive housing at the Crestview Hotel site. One might accurately call their comments "crocodile tears."

Great message discipline, though, except for the minor Freudian slip in calling it "ordnance". It certainly is metaphorical ordnance on these people's lives, but literally the RV ban is an ordinance.


Local
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Oct 21, 2021 at 1:30 am
Local, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 1:30 am

Randy Goulph (Oh dear... did I make another typo?) You did not say anything here other than criticism of other posters - maybe you should consider volunteering so you contribute to society and perhaps raise your opinion of yourself? Or even better, perhaps you could let an occupied street vehicle park in your driveway? Either action could help build your self-worth.
I also note your "facts" are "alternate facts", as you erred on what I have supported or not supported in the past - particularly, I have never given my opinion on the Crestview site. However, though I understand that facts have not been your strongest contribution to conversation, you do excel at trolling and obsessing on others. Give it a rest.


Rouel - Urban Living
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:31 am
Rouel - Urban Living, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:31 am

If the city is interested in safety on city streets, then, it is known that vehicle accidents can result in bodily injuries and death, then in the name of safety, should the city ban vehicles from being driven in city streets ? Of course not, we should focus on having better driving to avoid those trajedies, and building safer streets.

Are some streets too narrow to park motorhomes ? Sure, most motorhomes parking try to avoid such streets. But the city using the safety call to ban motorhome parking in basically the entire city, is a bit much.

The city, the county, the state have properties that can be used to provide Safe Parking Lots, thereby having a better alternative to street parking. I am a resident of Mountain View, ... just filled motorhome gas tank, 45 gal, $4.59 per gal of which, $0.51 per gal goes to taxes that are used for public street maintenance. I Shop at MV grocery stores, that helps keep some people employed. At least once a week eat at MV restaurants, that helps keep some people employed. When volunteers from churches bring food stuff to the Safe Parking Lots, I always pass on taking, it is for people who really need it.
Lived in last RV park in MV, till rates nearly double over 7 yrs, if you are renting, hope your rent does not double in the next 7 yrs. The way things are going it might. That RV park is now an apartment complex, or condo. Of course, more $$, than plain RV Park.
Safe Parking Lots don't have to be free, can charge, say $400 per month, that is reasonably within minimum wage. Most Safe Parking residents are working these days. The Safe Parking that I was in has 30 spaces X $400 = $12,000 per month = $144,000 per year. The Safe Parking does not provide hook ups for vehicles, and people are surviving, and maintain their pride / dignity.


MV Resident
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:47 am
MV Resident, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:47 am

When did people have a right to live in an area? If I can't afford to live in Mountain View I would move. You can't afford to live in Mountain View, move. Also why the favoritism by some folks for the rich RV dwellers? I personally know 2 people who are homeless and they live in tents; well hidden. If you feel RV dwellers should be allowed to park on the streets, then you should be for tent dwellers putting their tents up on sidewalks.


Rouel - Urban Living
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:51 am
Rouel - Urban Living, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:51 am

Everyone has the right to safely use public streets, but my opinions has supported the better Safe Parking. But my only issue is a piece of the implementation. That residents must transition to renting, even though the economic conditions that caused people to be in the Safe Parking are not being reversed, and with the current trajectory will never be reversed.


Rouel - Urban Living
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:12 am
Rouel - Urban Living, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:12 am

The Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
I choose to do in my home city, Mountain View, CA. I bike, I walk, I hike, my life friends live in MV, and I live and am happy in my city.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:45 am
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 6:45 am

Local, how would you characterize your comments in this article: Web Link

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Tal Shaya
Registered user
another community
on Oct 21, 2021 at 9:22 am
Tal Shaya, another community
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 9:22 am

It was utterly predictable that allowing free camping on public streets would lead to an influx of homeless vehicle-dwellers to Mountain View. Having been homeless for many years, I know the challenges of that lifestyle. I also know that sometime you have to pee in someone's yard. That's not okay. The City may have the best of intentions, like free money for migrants, but it's simply irresponsible in the long run. Enjoy your lawsuit.


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Oct 21, 2021 at 9:30 am
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 9:30 am

I am disturbed at the amount of vitriol being directed at RV dwellers by people who are lucky enough to have homes in this city. Yes, I say "lucky," because luck (including where you were born and in which family) has more to do with what you can afford than hard work does. In this economy, people can work three jobs and still not be able to afford an apartment. Does that mean that they should be banished from our city? What if they have kids? Should the kids have to leave all of their friends forever simply because of the failure of society to manage the cost of living in a particular jurisdiction?

Our ancestors were all unhoused. Our ancestors were all nomads. There is nothing bad or shameful in it. It is not inherently dirty or antisocial or wrong. Our society today has simply privatized so much of the existing land that people who can't afford to buy in have nowhere to go. That is a collective failure, not a private failure. People who connect wealth with righteousness are ignoring reality.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 21, 2021 at 10:03 am
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 10:03 am

Moderators, it's not disrespectful to point out that Local has a history of lying in support of her crusade against the poor. They lied about the purpose of the RV Ban, they lied about Measure V to repeal it, and they're lying here about their opposition to permanent supportive housing at the Crestview Hotel.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 21, 2021 at 1:21 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 1:21 pm

One of the biggest problems with the conservative politics these days is the way they characterize many things as a lie which are not a lie. It's not a lie to give an opinion. It's a lie to cite facts which are inaccurate though to back that opinion up.

The on street parking DOES cause safety issues in many places. It's also highly inappropriate in some places more so than in others. The city has been banning the RV parking in North Bayshore around Google FOREVER. The streets up there are sacred and no vehicles can languish there with people living in them.

I don't really see the difference between that location and most of the areas the city has now identified for newly posted signs. Why should the signs be posted? Well, the signs weren't needed before when there wasn't much occurrence of these mobile homes even trying to use the streets as if they were private property. The city has responded by created places where parking is allowed. The question here is if people can say no thanks they prefer to park on the street.

An interesting question is whether it is illegal for a city to charge for parking on the street using the grounds that some people can't afford the fee.


Rouel - Urban Living
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:50 pm
Rouel - Urban Living, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:50 pm

I have lived full time in my motorhome since retirement for 15 yrs, some at the last RV park in MV ( which is no more ), some on the streets of MV, 1.5 yrs in Safe Parking Lot in MV, and now again on the streets of MV. I spend my Social Security Check in my home city of Mountain View, all in all am a resident / citizen of Mountain View, as it is my right, to live here. Never park / live in motorhome in residential areas. Rather live in Safe Parking as stated in my above comments, but not allowed. The implementation of Safe Parking Lots needs to be improved, above have made a suggestion for a change.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 22, 2021 at 10:01 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2021 at 10:01 am

@Rouel, thank you for your measured comments as a long-time resident and contributor to our city.

-THE ARTICLE is about the details of the Federal suit against the City. "Throw in the kitchen sink" (for good measure) seems to be the way many lawyers work, as the federal judge noted. There are some substantial State and Federal COURT RULINGS (not necessarily legislative statutes = laws) that make state actions (through city governments) ILLEGAL/UNCONSTITUTIONAL. These rulings are quite firm - at the state level through "PUBLISHED" appeals court rulings and at the federal level at least through the 9th (federal) Court of Appeals. (I think)

I'm a bit surprised that the RV-side lawyers did not also file in State Court. A government action may be OK under federal law (and federal court decisions) and yet clearly illegal under state court decisions (citing the California Constitution).

INJUNCTION: I hope the federal judge issues one of these soon!


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