The opening of new safe parking lots in Mountain View will likely face weeks of additional delays after insurers abruptly pulled out of talks to provide coverage at the sites.
This week, advocates with the nonprofit Move MV said they were blindsided by news that they needed to find new liability coverage for three new safe parking lots for homeless people living in vehicles.
Up to this point, Move MV officials say they thought their liability insurance was secure. Since around August, they said they had been told by insurance agents that getting coverage for the sites shouldn't be a problem.
But something apparently changed just before the Christmas holiday, said Move MV executive director Amber Stime. They received notice from their insurer that the firm's underwriter could not sign off on a policy. Stime declined to name the insurance firm.
"We were given information that we would be covered, but they asked us to let them know when we were ready," Stime said. "I can't get into their thinking exactly, but now it looks like we have to find another insurer."
Since around November, city and nonprofit officials signaled they were ready to launch a trio of new sites that could provide an overnight sanctuary for about 70 inhabited vehicles. Expanding the safe parking program has been a major plank of the city’s effort to rein in the number of people living out of RVs and other vehicles parked along city streets. In tandem with the safe parking program, the Mountain View City Council passed a ban on large vehicles parking along most city streets.
However, efforts to grow the city’s safe parking program have faced a gauntlet of delays. City departments have been criticized for dragging their feet on permit approvals, and for imposing onerous requirements. People living out of their vehicles have said they were reluctant to sign up for the program because the parking sites would only be open overnight. During the daytime hours, they would be required to move their vehicles off-site, likely back onto city streets.
As of last week, only 13 individuals had signed up for the expanded safe parking program.
The new problem of finding insurance for safe parking sites came as a surprise to everyone involved, Stime said. Insurance agents gave little explanation for why they were denying liability coverage, except that Move MV is a relatively new organization, she said. Move MV already provides liability coverage for two local churches that participate in the safe parking program, but Stime suspected that insuring larger parking areas for dozens of vehicles was seen as more risky.
City officials did not respond immediately to questions about the safe parking program.
Stime expressed confidence that Move MV would obtain insurance coverage within a couple weeks.
Timing is critical for the new safe parking sites because they are all only available temporarily, over the winter. The largest site, a parking lot at Shoreline Amphitheatre, must be cleared out by spring for concert season parking.