News

City readies a trio of safe parking lots for homeless

New sites expected to take in 70-plus vehicles during the winter, but opening date is uncertain

Mountain View's safe parking program is on the cusp of a dramatic expansion, potentially adding enough space to take about 70 inhabited vehicles off the city's streets this winter.

City officials say they are just about ready to launch three new safe parking sites, each larger than any current locations. If all goes according to plan, city staff and nonprofit partners believe the expanded safe parking program can eventually funnel homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing.

The first and largest of the new sites is a city-owned parking lot located near Shoreline Amphitheatre at the corner of Crittenden Lane. Under city guidelines, the lot is expected to hold up to 30 RVs or trailers, significantly more than city officials originally expected. The downside is the site can only be used temporarily, during the winter, and that window is closing. By March 15, city officials say the Shoreline lot must be cleared out because of the city's contract with Live Nation for use of the parking during the amphitheater's concert season.

Exactly when the Shoreline lot will begin taking in residents is up in the air, and neither the city nor its nonprofit partners could provide a firm launch date to the Voice. In recent days, city officials say they have canvassed all the inhabited vehicles in Mountain View to encourage occupants to sign up for the safe parking program through the Community Services Agency (CSA).

A waiting list of families and individuals is ready to go as soon as the safe parking sites open, said CSA executive director Tom Myers. The nonprofit has reportedly been screening applicants to ensure their RVs or other vehicles are functional.

When a sufficient number of people are cleared to move in, the Shoreline lot will open up, said Amber Stime, director of Move MV, the nonprofit that runs Lots of Love, which offers overnight parking in church lots.

"Right now, the lots are ready, and as soon as the tenants are ready, they'll open up," she said. "Quite a few vehicles need some repairs, and we don't want them breaking down in the lots."

Under city rules, anyone residing in a safe parking lot must have a working vehicle that doesn't leak oil, sewage or other hazardous materials. Citing potential liability, city officials restricted the hours of operation of their safe parking sites to 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. During the day, safe parking residents are required to move their vehicles to some other location off-site. This condition is the main reason that individuals have been discouraged from signing up for the program, according to CSA officials.

Up to 30 more vehicles could soon be parked at a former VTA parking lot at the now-closed Evelyn light rail station. Earlier this year, Mountain View officials signed an $11 million deal with the transit agency to lease the parking lot for 65 years. City officials intend to eventually redevelop the site for affordable housing, but in the meantime they say it should serve well as a temporary safe parking location.

The VTA parking lot is expected to open shortly after the Shoreline site, but again no clear date has been announced. Move MV members say the VTA site is expected to open after the Shoreline lot reaches capacity.

Less clear is the fate of a third safe parking site, this one located in the Terra Bella neighborhood. The property was offered by the Palo Alto Housing Corporation as a temporary parking site before it is developed for affordable housing. Over a year ago, the City Council approved $230,000 to prepare the site to host vehicles, and later allocated an additional $65,000 after a request by city staff.

City officials have received criticism for dragging their feet on opening up the Terra Bella site. In September, city staff finalized a set of formal rules and regulations for safe parking lots as it became clear that elected leaders wanted to reduce the number of inhabited vehicles on the street. Last month, the Terra Bella site received a conditional use permit to open after being reviewed by seven separate city departments. When it opens, the Terra Bella site is expected to host eight RVs and three smaller vehicles.

Even when all the anticipated safe parking sites are opened, they won't provide nearly enough spaces to accommodate all the inhabited vehicles in Mountain View. By city counts, about 200 inhabited vehicles have settled along city streets, and officials have acknowledged that they still need to find more locations that can host vehicles. Additionally, each of the three new safe parking sites that will open soon is only available on a temporary basis.

Two groups have taken up the job of trying to encourage property owners to participate in the safe parking program. As of this summer, the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning launched its own task force to work on expanding safe parking. Around the same time, the Mountain View Human Relations Commission was assigned a similar job on behalf of the city. The two delegations have approached numerous private landowners, but so far none have been willing to sign up, said IdaRose Sylvester, a Human Relations commissioner.

"Everyone shares a similar set of concerns. They're concerned about who will be living on the lot, the liability, and if there is insurance available," she said. "There's all these moving parts and it's in flux. We're all volunteers, but we're trying to move as fast as we can."

City Council members have said they need to step up enforcement to restrict the rising number of large inhabited vehicles along city streets. In recent weeks, the council approved a package of measures that would limit where large RVs and trailers can park, banning them from most city streets. On Nov. 22, a citizen referendum was submitted to the city to overturn those rules.

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Comments

10 people like this
Posted by Crazy Bad
a resident of Gemello
on Nov 27, 2019 at 12:05 pm

So parking at night, but not during the day, but somewhere else. What problem is the city trying to solve?


7 people like this
Posted by Eh
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 27, 2019 at 2:19 pm

I’m driving from Sunnyvale, which exit is this?

That city was giving me such a hassle with parking so this helps!


5 people like this
Posted by Mel
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2019 at 2:46 pm

It’s a step in the right direction but hearing directly from the RV residents it’s not practical .....it’s basically an overnight parking hotel with late night check in and early morning check out. Include the RV residents in these discussions to meet real needs while nice not practical or the real solution. It’s my understanding only 12 people have signed up for the open spots out of well over 100 RV/Vehicle residents ——it doesn’t make sense for them.


28 people like this
Posted by Jake O.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 2:48 pm

I’d like to know of the 200 people living in the cars in MV, how many of them previously were living under a roof in MV?


23 people like this
Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

These Safe Parking Lots are the first step to get vehicle dwellers into permanent housing, get them medical help and generally speaking put an end to their vehicle dwelling. These vehicles are not meant for permanent living arrangements outside a full service campground. The fact that people are not interested in signing up shows us that they are really not interested in our help. Since MV has zero laws on the books that makes their reluctance unlawful, we are really going nowhere with our city wide effort and the quite substantial expenses associated with this. It always comes back to our City Council and their actions.
The other west coast cities with successful Safe Parking lots all have the same rule, you can actually only stay from 7 pm to 7 am in those lots. BUT they have a " no overnight parking of over sized vehicles" and "no sleeping in vehicles" on public streets. This ensures all vehicle dwellers are in one/ or multiple places together where they get services. It also ensures their vehicles are operational and there are no RV landlords who can withhold the keys.
Faulting the safe parking lot rules for the lack of enthusiasm is short sighted, we need to start somewhere to get people into permanent housing and off the streets.


11 people like this
Posted by Sophie88
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2019 at 3:43 pm

The article shows $295,000 is budgeted for the proposed Terra Bella safety parking site which can host 8 RV + 3 smaller vehicles. How much budget is proposed for the new safety parking site taking in 70+ Vehicles? Where is the fund coming from? Mountain View residents tax money? Or Business tax from companies hiring those people living in these RVs?


Like this comment
Posted by Bruce England
a resident of Whisman Station
on Nov 27, 2019 at 4:32 pm

If you're interested in learning more about the Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning (MVCSP) Safe Parking Community Task Force, see Web Link.


10 people like this
Posted by Right On
a resident of Bailey Park
on Nov 27, 2019 at 5:05 pm

I'd like the city to set me up with a place to live, preferably for free. This is a step in the right direction. Most important for me is a place to take a hot shower and a place to set up my grill for BBQ.


26 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 28, 2019 at 12:36 am

It doesn’t matter how big the lots are or how many lots we create. If we don’t have laws that prohibit parking of RVs on city streets like our neighboring cities do, people will just keep funneling into MV because we offer this for free. These lots will fill up and then what? This is an idiotic plan. I’m all for helping people who used to be MV residents but not every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants a free place to park their RV. Do background checks to see if people were former MV residents and then help them. If not, move along. It’s the only way to limit this problem.


7 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:46 am

SRB is a registered user.

While it makes sense to have safe parking only at night on churches' lots (so that their congregation can park during the day), I don't understand why the 3 city locations are not available during the day. None of the locations will be used for anything else, what's the point to have empty parking lots during the day?


13 people like this
Posted by Polomom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 29, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Polomom is a registered user.

@SRB It is not about creating permanent RV parking lots. It is about putting an end to homelessness, which everybody in MV claims is the case in our vehicle dwellers. If we allow 24/7 parking we are actually creating RV campgrounds, they serve a different purpose. But I have said this before, as long as we are not dividing these vehicle dwellers into the categories they belong into, we are not going anywhere in MV. I am hoping the people that have shown interest in the sign ups, are the people we all want to help. We are not interested in helping the workers that were sent here by their employers "MV doesn't care if you live in your trailer Monday to Friday on their streets". These workers should live on their construction sites, I have personally seen nice housing on large construction projects in Europe. The workers go home on Friday, like our trailer occupants here in MV. The other group works at local tech companies, Google said "no" to temporary night time parking. College students were told the same " not on our campus", everybody concerned about liability, sanitation, safety. Then why are our public streets ok for overnight stays? People who are simply living on our streets because it is free, should have to move and pay for an RV facility, MV is not a campground. Any home owner has to live by city codes, any business operating here has to obey our codes, so why are we exempting people living in RV's? We keep discussing the housing crisis, in the meantime we have people taking matters into their own hand.
I strongly believe Safe Parking Lots will get homeless residents into permanent housing, get help to our displaced families. But we have to act swiftly against people not wanting to sign up for these.


9 people like this
Posted by Billy Bob
a resident of Bailey Park
on Nov 29, 2019 at 5:16 pm

This is a joke at best council has had years to deal with this now they come up with spots to park 70 rvs at night but have to leave in the daytime wher do the go back to the streets. What happens to the other 200 plus rvs that have no where to go . They spend our tax dollars but have no long term solution . Only have baked ideas like the money they spent on the sewage waste program that no one used . This is not a long term solution only smoke and mirrors again.


15 people like this
Posted by Endless Stream
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Nov 29, 2019 at 6:00 pm

@Frank has it nailed. Without regulation, the number of RVs will not drop below the current 200-300 level. The 70 who go to "safe parking" will be replaced by 70 others, most likely NOT displaced MV residents.

I believe another Bay Area city has stipulated that its "safe parking" qualifications include providing documentation of residence or employment in that City within the prior 12 months.


2 people like this
Posted by I’m guessing...
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2019 at 9:12 pm

So....no one wants to move to a parking lot at night because their spot will be in the morning. Am I reading this right? This is too good to be true for the folks who are looking for a prime spot to open up!


1 person likes this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 29, 2019 at 9:38 pm

The concept is the "house less" person drives to work.... during the day


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