News

ACLU threatens lawsuit if Mountain View bans overnight RV parking

Civil right attorneys warn that parking ban would illegally criminalize homeless

Civil rights attorneys are stepping up their warnings that a proposed Mountain View ban on oversized vehicles will face a lawsuit if the City Council moves forward with it.

Last discussed in June, the proposed vehicle ban is largely seen as an attempt by city officials to crack down on the homeless people living out of RVs and trailers along city streets.

In a letter sent on Sept. 5, attorneys with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the American Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Advocates warned that they would sue Mountain View if the vehicle ban was enacted. The letter follows similar warnings issued by the legal groups in May.

“The council cannot rationally believe that this unconscionable, yet likely outcome is in the best interests of this community,” the attorneys wrote. “We are therefore prepared to challenge any overnight parking ban the council considers, because it would violate state and federal law, and it would be devastating to hundreds of Mountain View residents.”

The Mountain View City Council is scheduled to hold a closed-session discussion on the litigation risk outlined in the letter at its Sept. 17 meeting.

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The city’s proposal is to ban so-called oversized vehicles, defined as any vehicle over 7 feet high, 7 feet wide or 22 feet in length. City officials have framed the overnight vehicle ban largely around traffic safety issues, emphasizing that large vehicles lining the streets can present a danger by blocking sight lines for drivers and cyclists. Homeless advocates have blasted those traffic-safety concerns as a pretext, and they allege the true motive is to close off the city’s neighborhoods to people who can’t afford housing.

The City Council is currently scheduled to consider the oversized vehicle ban at its Sept. 24 meeting.

If the vehicle ban is enacted and a lawsuit filed, the case would likely hinge on whether the actions taken by Mountain View officials amounted to criminalizing homelessness. In April, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals shot down a prohibition against homeless people sleeping on public property in the city of Boise, Idaho. In that case, the judges found that Boise's ban was illegal because the city didn't provide adequate shelters or any other alternatives for its homeless population.

For Mountain View, any legal defense for its vehicle ban will likely depend on the city’s fledgling safe parking program, which has struggled to grow.

At the Sept. 24 meeting, the City Council is scheduled to discuss a proposed ordinance establishing new rules for future safe parking sites. Right after that discussion, council members are expected to consider whether to move forward with the oversized vehicle ban.

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ACLU threatens lawsuit if Mountain View bans overnight RV parking

Civil right attorneys warn that parking ban would illegally criminalize homeless

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Sat, Sep 14, 2019, 11:15 am

Civil rights attorneys are stepping up their warnings that a proposed Mountain View ban on oversized vehicles will face a lawsuit if the City Council moves forward with it.

Last discussed in June, the proposed vehicle ban is largely seen as an attempt by city officials to crack down on the homeless people living out of RVs and trailers along city streets.

In a letter sent on Sept. 5, attorneys with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the American Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Advocates warned that they would sue Mountain View if the vehicle ban was enacted. The letter follows similar warnings issued by the legal groups in May.

“The council cannot rationally believe that this unconscionable, yet likely outcome is in the best interests of this community,” the attorneys wrote. “We are therefore prepared to challenge any overnight parking ban the council considers, because it would violate state and federal law, and it would be devastating to hundreds of Mountain View residents.”

The Mountain View City Council is scheduled to hold a closed-session discussion on the litigation risk outlined in the letter at its Sept. 17 meeting.

The city’s proposal is to ban so-called oversized vehicles, defined as any vehicle over 7 feet high, 7 feet wide or 22 feet in length. City officials have framed the overnight vehicle ban largely around traffic safety issues, emphasizing that large vehicles lining the streets can present a danger by blocking sight lines for drivers and cyclists. Homeless advocates have blasted those traffic-safety concerns as a pretext, and they allege the true motive is to close off the city’s neighborhoods to people who can’t afford housing.

The City Council is currently scheduled to consider the oversized vehicle ban at its Sept. 24 meeting.

If the vehicle ban is enacted and a lawsuit filed, the case would likely hinge on whether the actions taken by Mountain View officials amounted to criminalizing homelessness. In April, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals shot down a prohibition against homeless people sleeping on public property in the city of Boise, Idaho. In that case, the judges found that Boise's ban was illegal because the city didn't provide adequate shelters or any other alternatives for its homeless population.

For Mountain View, any legal defense for its vehicle ban will likely depend on the city’s fledgling safe parking program, which has struggled to grow.

At the Sept. 24 meeting, the City Council is scheduled to discuss a proposed ordinance establishing new rules for future safe parking sites. Right after that discussion, council members are expected to consider whether to move forward with the oversized vehicle ban.

Comments

Oberser
Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2019 at 11:28 am
Oberser, Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2019 at 11:28 am
84 people like this

Just start ticketing the vehicles for parking in excess of 72 hours. Hit them every time with a ticket and just watch how fast they disappear. Problem solved.


the city owns the streets
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:04 pm
the city owns the streets, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:04 pm
85 people like this

Stop the whining, hand wringing, and post the signs. Not okay to sleep on city streets in Mountain View. Period.


Kevin
Castro City
on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm
Kevin, Castro City
on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm
26 people like this

Here's an existing city ordinance from 1960:

SEC. 19.71. - Parking between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. prohibited; exceptions.

It shall be unlawful for the owner or driver of any vehicle to allow such vehicle to remain standing upon any street or alley in the city for a period of time longer than one hour between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. without a permit therefor, provided, however, that this section shall not apply to vehicles of any regularly licensed physician when actually engaged in making professional calls.

In cases of hardship where the owners of vehicles cannot obtain suitable storage or parking facilities, permits for parking for more than one hour during all the time between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. may be issued by the chief of police. The application for a permit shall be signed by the applicant, shall state the make, model and license number of the vehicle, and shall contain a statement of the necessity and reasons for the permit. If, upon investigation, it is found that the necessity exists therefor, and that the applicant has no reasonable means for night storage of the vehicle during the above stated hours, the chief of police shall issue the permit for a period not to exceed six (6) months. Before using such permit, the permittee shall pay the chief of police or his representative, a fee of one dollar ($1) for six (6) months. The permit shall not be transferable and shall be displayed on the left side window to the rear of the driver of the vehicle for which it is issued at all times during which the vehicle is parked upon the street between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. The chief of police shall revoke the permit when the necessity under which it was issued and the reasons therefor cease to exist, or may renew such permit if the hardship still exists. No permit shall be granted for commercial vehicles.

In cases involving temporary hardship, not exceeding ten (10) days in duration, a permit may be issued, as provided in this section without charge to the applicant.


to funny
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm
to funny, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 2:36 pm
16 people like this

In the sixties, most doctors recommended Chesterfield's


Keith Samuel
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 4:00 pm
Keith Samuel, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 4:00 pm
21 people like this

You people are selfish and unconsionable.
Rents are ridiculous in MT View. There is not enough affordable, reasonable housing. Rent control is over. And there is no real housing for the poor, yet you are happy to displace people who are willing to work but are forced to live in RVs?!
Shame on you! You must be Republicians!


OldGuy
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Sep 14, 2019 at 5:03 pm
OldGuy, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2019 at 5:03 pm
17 people like this

SUVs should be banned too, for the same reason: that they block sight lines for drivers and cyclists. All of these create unsafe blind exits where smaller vehicles would not. If safety is the rationale, then SUVs and vans should be placed in the same category as the RVs.


MV is going to turn into a dump...
North Bayshore
on Sep 14, 2019 at 5:31 pm
MV is going to turn into a dump..., North Bayshore
on Sep 14, 2019 at 5:31 pm
24 people like this

I'm completely fine with RV dwellers on our streets, but ONLY IF they dispose of waste properly and not park in red zones. I'm tired of our streets being a landfill for these people. Near Rengstorff park, the streets smell like sewage and it's disgusting. Had proper waste management is considered, there would be no problem.


Chesterfield wins
The Crossings
on Sep 14, 2019 at 6:08 pm
Chesterfield wins, The Crossings
on Sep 14, 2019 at 6:08 pm
10 people like this

> SUVs should be banned too, for the same reason:

Hell, yeah. And pick up trucks too!


Blame Liberals
Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2019 at 9:46 pm
Blame Liberals, Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2019 at 9:46 pm
123 people like this

This is what you get, residents of Mtn. View, when you vote for Liberals and wishey washy council members for do not understand rule of law and fold like a cheap suit when you have our local activists send out their crew to attack city council members with sob stories. Lenny Siegel is the core of the problem with him contacting these outside activists coming here and threatening lawsuits. They would love to turn our city into San Francisco.


Dave
Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2019 at 10:36 pm
Dave, Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2019 at 10:36 pm
89 people like this

Mountain view cannot turn to a slum [portion removed] as San Francisco. We need to stand behind the council members who support the ban. Let's remember those who vote against ban and they certainly don't care about Mountain view, where they actually live!


Peter
Cuesta Park
on Sep 14, 2019 at 10:59 pm
Peter, Cuesta Park
on Sep 14, 2019 at 10:59 pm
106 people like this

Stay strong City Council, and don’t be bullied by this silly lawsuit. And please adhere to the voice of the voters, like myself, want an end to RVs on city streets. Enough is enough and the sooner the better!


ConsiderReality
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2019 at 4:06 am
ConsiderReality, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2019 at 4:06 am
45 people like this

And please let the police do their job.

There are already laws on the books. By telling police to arbitrarily not enforce existing laws:

1. You are telling citizens that they can choose to obey or disobey any law they want (see also "no dogs allowed" or "stop for pedestrians " or "stop at red lights" for examples where this is becoming an issue).

2. You are empowering police to be capricious and discriminatory. If there is a specific human that the police are annoyed with, they can get them on an existing laws, legally, while not going after anyone else. So, make sure you play nice and don't upset the government, otherwise you may be in for a bad time.

If the city council doesn't want a law enforced, get rid of it. If the police don't want to enforce a law, they should petition the city council to remove it. If citizens are annoyed with a law, they should petition and use their votes.

But the "let's just make a bunch of unenforced laws" is the worst thing for policy.


Fair
Rengstorff Park
on Sep 15, 2019 at 7:41 am
Fair, Rengstorff Park
on Sep 15, 2019 at 7:41 am
20 people like this

I can just hear the pitter-patter of little feet as the City Council scurrys under the bed.

Lions, tigers, and ACLU... Oh my!


3rdMAW
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2019 at 11:53 am
3rdMAW, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2019 at 11:53 am
12 people like this

One does not simply ignore the ACLU.
Ha! Ha!


But
Rex Manor
on Sep 15, 2019 at 7:35 pm
But, Rex Manor
on Sep 15, 2019 at 7:35 pm
46 people like this

But other cities have bans? I wouldn't mind it so much if all cities up and down the Peninsula had these problems, but burdening one city with the majority of RV street campers isn't right.

I won't be donating to the ACLU anymore. Threatening Mountain View does not help us get any closer to a solution that fixes this huge issue for all. Other cities also need to step up and build more housing, and that is out of MV's control.


From here
Old Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2019 at 9:02 pm
From here, Old Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2019 at 9:02 pm
51 people like this

Too many people in MV already. Motor homes need to go. City council needs to grow a set


Thad
another community
on Sep 16, 2019 at 7:07 am
Thad, another community
on Sep 16, 2019 at 7:07 am
10 people like this

1. It is not illegal to be poor.
2. Being poor is not a choice.

Discriminating against the poor is no different than sexism or racism.


the home of American Civil Liberties
North Bayshore
on Sep 16, 2019 at 9:22 am
the home of American Civil Liberties, North Bayshore
on Sep 16, 2019 at 9:22 am
2 people like this

I'm doubling up on my contributions to the ACLU in the name of American Civil Liberties.

They put Obama in his place more than once!


Fair
Rengstorff Park
on Sep 16, 2019 at 10:49 am
Fair, Rengstorff Park
on Sep 16, 2019 at 10:49 am
19 people like this

Come on ACL guy. Time to go back to your basement. Mama is bringing home dinner.


Old Mountain View
Old Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2019 at 3:02 pm
Old Mountain View, Old Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2019 at 3:02 pm
23 people like this

Each year I've been donating to the ACLU and have been happy to do so but this is just silly.

Our neighbors band overnight parking so there's nothing illegal about us doing the exact same thing. This is just lawyers trying to bully a town because someone is complaining loudly.

Will I continue to donate to the ACLU after this? I'm not sure, but probably not. I can't wait until they call me again asking for a donation.......


@Keith Samuel
Monta Loma
on Sep 16, 2019 at 3:09 pm
@Keith Samuel, Monta Loma
on Sep 16, 2019 at 3:09 pm
7 people like this

you must be a snowflake


botski
North Whisman
on Sep 16, 2019 at 3:19 pm
botski, North Whisman
on Sep 16, 2019 at 3:19 pm
20 people like this

This is not the right argument about the problem.
85% of the homeless people in the county lived in the county in the year before they became homeless. 80% of those who are homeless are unemployed.
As a percentage the number of people in a shelter went down from 36% in 2017 to 22% in 2019. At the same time RV dwelling went from 8% to 18%.

I think you need to seriously consider that being in an RV isn't the solution, and those arguing for preserving status quo needs to consider if that actually is a solution or masking a problem.

We should look to what is going on with the shelters and why RV's are becoming a more common option to replace shelters with. I don't think anyone wants to be in either, i think people do this because every other option is worse.

At the same time the same survey identified that over half of the homeless aren't pursuing work so making the case that affordability solves this problem also untrue. This is a group that lives off government assistance and its clearly not working.

The demographic is largely older (typical is 50 and up), male and white. Most have spent well over a year as homeless person.

This is what poverty looks like in our county. We should stop debating RV's as a solution and figure out what we need to do to solve the poverty problem for this aging demographic who increasingly can't or won't work.

Sticking them in cars and RV's for the long haul is not a solution -its a symptom of something else not working at all. Why is our shelters 0declining? why don't we have long term affordable living for those most in long term need? why is section 8 not working for what looks less like a temporary problem and much more like a structural group of people that just won't have an income for the rest of their lives?

These are the types of questions we seriously need to answer. Not the, lets tuck people into RV's and as long as they are out of sight all is well. ACLU is misplaced if they think that their lawsuit is solving anything, being in an RV is just perpetuating the problem and making you think you are defending the poor -no you are just forever putting them into a less dignified living conditions and structurally putting them into a type of poor hose that they will increasingly become incapable of maintaining leading to shanty towns across our streets.

ACLU and its friends already made that happen on the streets of san francisco. I much rather not repeat that experience here, and instead focus on long term sustainable solutions to the poverty problem among our elders.


Rodget
Sylvan Park
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:04 pm
Rodget, Sylvan Park
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:04 pm
32 people like this

Let the ACLU huff and puff us we support the city council members who will vote on this ban of squatters
People who actually need help ahold be given a place to park with trash sewer etc services.

Menlo Park has a great law, no overnight parking period


Opinion
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:09 pm
Opinion, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:09 pm
35 people like this

@ Botski - If 80% of the homeless are unemployed, why are they living in Mountain View? They could move to any number of places withing or outside of the state and live for a fraction of the price they're paying here (yes, most of the RVs are rented, they're not "free", so these folks are not necessarily homeless, many just choose to live in RVs rather than communally in apartments or in shelters or in another area. There are rules and responsibilities in shelters but none in an RV- they can make as big an unsanitary mess as they want with no consequences. Also, 50 yrs old is hardly "elderly" and I'm not sure your age statistics are correct. Lots of these RVs have kids (who attend the local public schools while paying ZERO taxes since their "landlords" pay no taxes) as evidenced by the toys, bikes, etc that litter the streets near their vehicles.

In short, the vehicle dwellers live in their RVs because we let them and because they don't mind that lifestyle and prefer it to moving elsewhere and/or paying rent which they could afford but would prefer to save. I don't think we need to be so sympathetic to them - they have options that they prefer not to use.


ShorelineWestDude
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:13 pm
ShorelineWestDude, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:13 pm
51 people like this

Note to MV City Council:
You can easily be voted out of office just like the last crew who were in power.
Have some guts and stand up to that organization, the ACLU. (It is not your father's ACLU).
It has become a front for Stalinist "Progressive" social engineers intent on wrecking the fabric of our society, in my opinion.

Thank goodness for the Community garden on Shoreline which has eliminated the disgusting mess of RVs on that side of the street near El Camino.

See? Simply investing in some no parking signs and enforcing the existing laws does wonders doesn't it ?
Now climb out of your safe space and put up some similar signs on the other side near Eagle Park and at least this neighborhood will be free of the blight.

By the way City Council,
do you think it is a good idea to have a homeless and transient population immediately next to a park where children are playing.? I have seen garbage and trash piled up next to these RVs and their accompanying 'feeder' vehicles, as well as open drug use!
Before the government's leftist turn in Mountain View, this would never have been tolerated for a minute !

I sympathize with all people who are having a rough time finding affordable housing, but this is no solution and it will not stand !

Its unfortunate that the Siegel administration allowed this situation to become entrenched in our town.

Now we are playing catchup trying to remedy the situation.


MV Homeowner
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Sep 16, 2019 at 7:00 pm
MV Homeowner, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2019 at 7:00 pm
11 people like this

As Kevin wrote SEC. 19.71. - Parking between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. This should be vigorously enforced without any exceptions.


psr
Registered user
The Crossings
on Sep 16, 2019 at 10:42 pm
psr, The Crossings
Registered user
on Sep 16, 2019 at 10:42 pm
19 people like this

@Keith Samuel
@Thad
Way to virtue signal there, gentlemen!

You two have no problem bad-mouthing others but I doubt either of you is willing to put his money (or his driveway) where his mouth is. If either of you really thinks as you say, feel free to open up YOUR homes to these people so they have a place to stay. You don't have a right to impose that on anyone else though.

If you are so concerned that these folks somehow have a "right" to be here, I would love to hear your reasoning. They have a right to live WHERE THEY CAN AFFORD TO DO SO. They do NOT have a "right" to live HERE.

In case you missed it, the economy is booming. Unemployment rates are literally the lowest they have EVER been for most demographic groups. If you want a job, there is no reason you can't find one unless you are unwilling to go where the jobs are, which might not be here.

The ACLU is no longer concerned with civil liberties and hasn't been for some time. They are attempting to bully the city into allowing vagrancy, which is unfair to the people who are actually footing the bill around here. If the city fold and allows the ACLU to get their way, the entire council needs to be removed. Their first responsibility to to the taxpayers of this town. Their safety and rights come first.


NIMBY BUT IN YOURS IT'S FINE
Blossom Valley
on Sep 18, 2019 at 4:14 pm
NIMBY BUT IN YOURS IT'S FINE, Blossom Valley
on Sep 18, 2019 at 4:14 pm
14 people like this

I know quite a few of the board members of Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. It's pretty rich for them to be up in arms about what MV plans to do, given that pretty much the entire board lives in Los Altos, LAH, MP/Atherton, or Portola Valley. No RV would last an hour in those places. But for us folks in Mountain View, how dare we complain?


But
Rex Manor
on Sep 18, 2019 at 9:33 pm
But, Rex Manor
on Sep 18, 2019 at 9:33 pm
4 people like this

It's our own fault as well. We should have put an end to the RV camping as soon as it started. Now Mountain View has become synonymous with street camping and organizatiins like the ACLU will want to make an example of us. If we'd done something much earlier we would not have captured their attention. A classic situation of permanently punishing those who try to help. Next time, no help!


Jonathan Brown
another community
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:29 pm
Jonathan Brown, another community
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:29 pm
5 people like this

ACLU and similar civil rights activists: Please put your energy into finding humane solutions, not helping cities turn a blind eye to people living in inhumane conditions. Unregulated vehicle dwelling is wrong, and it's a public health problem. A properly drafted ban is entirely appropriate and legally justified. There are places for these people to go, and we need to create more and do more to help them, but car camping in front of residences is not the answer.


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