For Maria Diaz, losing $80 is a big deal. It could be the difference between whether she eats, takes her medication or heats her home.
Like many others in Mountain View, Diaz lives in a rented vehicle parked on the street. And like some of her neighbors on Crisanto Avenue, she said she was frustrated last week to find an $80 ticket on her trailer for failing to move her vehicle for street cleaning after city officials explicitly assured residents that they wouldn't be cited.
"I won't pay this." Diaz said, speaking through a Spanish translator. "We got notifications saying that we didn't need to move on this day."
The incident began early last week when the city's Public Works department posted letters on Crisanto Avenue informing residents that the regular street cleaning was canceled due to nearby work on a Caltrain fence. No one needed to move their vehicles, the letter said.
But the city's parking enforcement apparently didn't get that memo. On Tuesday, Nov. 7, Diaz and other residents came home to find citations left on their windshields. Each $80 ticket cited the city code violation -- parking along the curb during street-cleaning hours.
A total of eight citations were handed out, according to police officials.
Multiple residents said they went to the Mountain View Police Department to complain about the tickets and police officials told them that they couldn't do anything -- all complaints would have to be taken to the Parking Violations Office in downtown San Jose.
Daniel, a Crisanto resident who asked that his last name not be printed, said he was also ticketed. It felt unfair to have to travel all the way down to San Jose for someone else's mistake, he said.
"I'm upset because this looks like the city did a bad job," he said. "We feel powerless. If we complain, there could be retaliation."
It was his third parking citation, he said. For Diaz, it was her ninth parking citation since 2015.
On a citywide basis, the total number of parking citations written in Mountain View has been dramatically declining, dropping more than 42 percent over the last three years. But neighborhoods with large numbers of car campers may be the exception. Diaz and other residents say parking enforcement has become more frequent and patrols on their streets happen like clockwork.
Police officials could not immediately provide the Voice with the total number of citations written at Crisanto and other Mountain View car encampments.
Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson described the Nov. 7 citations as a communications error. The police traffic unit wasn't informed in time that the street sweeping was called off. She gave assurances that all the citations handed out would be dismissed.
"We have been in the process of attempting to contact everyone to let them know that we will dismiss the citations immediately," she told the Voice via email. Anyone with questions should call Lt. Saul Jaeger at 650-903-6344.
City officials warn that people living along Crisanto Avenue will be asked to relocate later this month for sewer work, which is expected to start on November 27 and run through December 8. That project is expected to require digging and trenching work during daytime hours.
Latham Street restrictions
Recently, police officials have stepped up parking enforcement at another vehicle encampment on Latham Street. Earlier this month, new signs were posted along the street to prohibit vehicles over six 6 feet high from parking there.
In recent city meetings, residents from the nearby apartments complained it was becoming dangerous to pull out onto Latham, saying they couldn't see oncoming traffic because the larger parked trailers and motorhomes were creating a wall that blocked their view.
Technically, the Mountain View municipal code since the late 1980s has prohibited vehicles over 6 feet in height from parking along the curbs, but it's unclear if that rule has ever been rigorously enforced. Along with Latham, warning signs about the height limit are also posted along Oak Lane, Wyandotte Street and along sections of El Camino Real, according to city officials.
Assistant to the City Manager Kimberly Thomas said the city had previously tried restricting parking along Latham Street by painting curbs red near driveways, but nearby residents and businesses owners complained that more needed to be done to stop large vehicle from blocking visibility, she said.
Police officials estimate a dozen vehicles parked on Latham had to relocate due to the new height restrictions. They could not specify how many people were cited for exceeding the height limit.