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.