The Mountain View City Council on Tuesday, June 11, will consider an oversized vehicle ban intended to restrict the number of people living out of motor homes and trailers on city streets. The proposed ordinance comes in spite of warnings from civil rights attorneys that the action would be unconstitutional because it would essentially criminalize the city’s homeless population.
Homelessness has surged across the Bay Area in recent years, and for Mountain View that trend has been marked by dense encampments of people living out of their vehicles. City officials believe more than 290 inhabited cars are parked on city streets, and that number is likely an undercount. Santa Clara County figures released last month show homelessness countywide has increased 31% in 2019, although new data specific to Mountain View is not yet available.
In response to ongoing complaints from residents, the Mountain View City Council in March voted to enact a citywide ban on large vehicles, although some of the plan’s specifics were left unclear. Many of those details are now fleshed out in a new city staff report prepared for the Tuesday meeting.
If elected leaders desired, the city could move to ban large vehicles as soon as this September, according to the report. Previously, council members had indicated they wanted a long runway before they enact the ban, possibly a year or longer, in order to give ample time for people living out of their vehicles to relocate.
Mountain View officials have focused the proposed ban on large vehicles over 7 feet high, 7 feet wide or 22 feet in length. These oversized vehicles are being singled out by city officials because they cause obstructions and safety hazards for drivers and cyclists. As proposed, the city ordinance would ban these large vehicles from parking along the street for all hours of the day.
Last month, attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley warned city officials that their proposed ban seemed to be tailored to push out the city’s poorest residents. Earlier this week, attorneys with the Stanford Community Law Clinic echoed similar concerns in their own letter to the city. The law groups warned the city that any ordinance that tries to penalize homelessness would be a civil rights violation because the city hasn’t provided a viable alternative.
In light of that concern, Mountain View officials at the same Tuesday meeting are planning a significant expansion of the city’s safe parking program. The expansion would involve new safe parking sites at one parking lot at Shoreline Amphitheatre and a parking lot recently acquired from VTA. Together these sites could accommodate about 40 large vehicles starting this November.