News

'There's more work to be done': County pushes to find safe parking for people living in cars

Board of Supervisors prepares to invest more resources, identify additional sites in Palo Alto, Mountain View

With "safe parking" programs for vehicle dwellers rolling out throughout Santa Clara County, the Board of Supervisors agreed on Tuesday to help cities find new sites for those without permanent homes.

A day after the Palo Alto City Council voted to launch a "safe parking" program — joining the likes of Mountain View, Morgan Hill and San Jose — the board directed county staff by a 5-0 vote to move ahead with a series of initiatives relating to the programs. These include identifying sites that could be used by vehicle dwellers and stay open for 24 hours.

This would be in sharp contrast with Mountain View's existing program, which is open to vehicles between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m., and Palo Alto's new one, which allows vehicle dwellers to park from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. While the Palo Alto's program is open only to congregations, with the number of vehicles limited to four per lot, Mountain View's program also includes two city-owned sites: a lot formerly owned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and a lot at Shoreline Amphitheatre, each of which can accommodate up to 30 oversized vehicles.

The county has already invested $750,000 in funding for safe parking programs, which pair participants with case managers that aim to steer them toward permanent housing. County funding helps support case management, program administration and identification of new lots, according to a news release from Supervisor Joe Simitian, who proposed increasing the county's involvement.

According to a report from county staff, the number of county residents living in cars and recreational vehicles has increased significantly in recent years. The latest Santa Clara County census found that 18% of unhoused residents were living in vehicles, up from 8% in 2015 and 2019.

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In a news release, Simitian said identifying a sufficient number of sites is the "necessary first step, and that's been a struggle." He said his office is hoping to spearhead a coordinated effort to identify more sites this spring in Mountain View and Palo Alto.

"Cities have faced a number of barriers to opening safe parking programs, including finding appropriate sites, the lack of insurance for nonprofit partners, and challenges in establishing 24-hour lots," Simitian said. "We need to identify more sites, find a way to keep them open 24/7 and connect local non-profits with the insurance coverage they need to get the job done."

Simitian said it has become increasingly clear that programs would benefit from additional support and engagement from the county. The steps approved by the board include working with nonprofits that operate safe parking sites to obtain insurance coverage; and possibly leasing parking lots at a very low cost — or even no cost. Staff was also directed to report back to the board about additional funding that would be required to make the programs "adequately scale."

"While having enough affordable housing to house this population is the ultimate goal the county and our partners should pursue, there's more work to be done to remove barriers for folks looking for a safe, designated place to sleep at night while seeking permanent housing," Simitian said.

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'There's more work to be done': County pushes to find safe parking for people living in cars

Board of Supervisors prepares to invest more resources, identify additional sites in Palo Alto, Mountain View

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jan 14, 2020, 5:08 pm

With "safe parking" programs for vehicle dwellers rolling out throughout Santa Clara County, the Board of Supervisors agreed on Tuesday to help cities find new sites for those without permanent homes.

A day after the Palo Alto City Council voted to launch a "safe parking" program — joining the likes of Mountain View, Morgan Hill and San Jose — the board directed county staff by a 5-0 vote to move ahead with a series of initiatives relating to the programs. These include identifying sites that could be used by vehicle dwellers and stay open for 24 hours.

This would be in sharp contrast with Mountain View's existing program, which is open to vehicles between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m., and Palo Alto's new one, which allows vehicle dwellers to park from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. While the Palo Alto's program is open only to congregations, with the number of vehicles limited to four per lot, Mountain View's program also includes two city-owned sites: a lot formerly owned by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and a lot at Shoreline Amphitheatre, each of which can accommodate up to 30 oversized vehicles.

The county has already invested $750,000 in funding for safe parking programs, which pair participants with case managers that aim to steer them toward permanent housing. County funding helps support case management, program administration and identification of new lots, according to a news release from Supervisor Joe Simitian, who proposed increasing the county's involvement.

According to a report from county staff, the number of county residents living in cars and recreational vehicles has increased significantly in recent years. The latest Santa Clara County census found that 18% of unhoused residents were living in vehicles, up from 8% in 2015 and 2019.

In a news release, Simitian said identifying a sufficient number of sites is the "necessary first step, and that's been a struggle." He said his office is hoping to spearhead a coordinated effort to identify more sites this spring in Mountain View and Palo Alto.

"Cities have faced a number of barriers to opening safe parking programs, including finding appropriate sites, the lack of insurance for nonprofit partners, and challenges in establishing 24-hour lots," Simitian said. "We need to identify more sites, find a way to keep them open 24/7 and connect local non-profits with the insurance coverage they need to get the job done."

Simitian said it has become increasingly clear that programs would benefit from additional support and engagement from the county. The steps approved by the board include working with nonprofits that operate safe parking sites to obtain insurance coverage; and possibly leasing parking lots at a very low cost — or even no cost. Staff was also directed to report back to the board about additional funding that would be required to make the programs "adequately scale."

"While having enough affordable housing to house this population is the ultimate goal the county and our partners should pursue, there's more work to be done to remove barriers for folks looking for a safe, designated place to sleep at night while seeking permanent housing," Simitian said.

Comments

Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:52 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:52 am
13 people like this

On TV (city channel 26) I caught the end of the agenda item Tuesday night regarding the referendum challenging the City Council's passage of an "oversized vehicle" ordinance. It appeared that the Council had placed the matter on the November ballot for voters to decide whether to approve or reject it. There will also be candidates on the November ballot for President and on down - including for City Council. Meanwhile, the "oversized vehicle" ordinance does not take effect. But, if I remember right, there is a 72-hour limit on parking on a city street without moving that could be more often enforced.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:28 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:28 pm
5 people like this

The 72 hr. limit is sometimes already enforced! (perhaps not much and it seems Not Enough). My own small RV (oversized - too Tall) was ticketed a few years ago, near a school, for exceeding the 72 hrs. About $82 I think.

Should I park it in my backyard, and Air B&B it? Without registering, like those large apartment owners (both rent control and short term rentals). Sounds like a dumb ass plan!

But what about as an Accessory unit, a month-to-month rental?

=== humor aside === Supervisor Cindy Chavez - in Mercury News coverage 1/15/20, shows she is not a Democratic Suburbanite (unlike Mayor MAK), pp B1 Local News ""Mountain View restricting RVs on their streets ... they did that without having a place for the RVs to go, and I worry other cities will get impacted. What I don't want to do is reward behavior that isn't aligned with what we're trying to accomplish."


roaksinri
another community
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:52 pm
roaksinri, another community
on Jan 15, 2020 at 1:52 pm
6 people like this

A note to clarify the "Clarifys" and others speaking out of ignorance- As an actual case manager assisting the homeless in Mountain View, I can assure you that categorizing "vehicle dwellers", "tent dwellers", and people living outside, even under an overpass, as "Homeless" is perfectly acceptable as defined by HUD (Federal) and the County of Santa Clara. Rex makes some very salient points regarding the NIMBY reactions. The truth of the matter is that homelessness has increased by over 30% in the last two years in SC County. In the midst of plenty and prosperity for a few, you have a perfect storm of under-funded mental health services, Baby Boomer seniors that are priced out of the housing market, single parents- usually women, often victims of abusive relationships, with no job skills eking out an existence for themselves and their children, a county shelter system with about 1,000 spaces and over 9,000 homeless that have been counted("Santa Clara County officials conducted the biennial homeless census over two days in January 2019 and found 9,706 homeless adults living in the county's 15 cities and unincorporated areas, an increase of 2,312 from the 2017 count"), an influx of undocumented asylum seekers fleeing the cartels and gangs of Latin America where horrific crimes against the innocent go unreported in our media unless it occurs against American tourists. This is the poor among us. Even I, and all other Social Workers, qualify as "low income" based on the County's median income of $123,000/year. It is time for complaining to stop and citizens to step up. Government and faith groups, businesses, large and small. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowlalso resulted in displacement and homelessness. Certainly there are solutions from the past that can inform and inspire solutions for our poverty problems of today.
A note to clarify the "Clarifys" and others speaking out of ignorance- As an actual case manager assisting the homeless in Mountain View, I can assure you that categorizing "vehicle dwellers", "tent dwellers", and people living outside, even under an overpass, as "Homeless" is perfectly acceptable as defined by HUD (Federal) and the County of Santa Clara. Rex makes some very salient points regarding the NIMBY reactions. The truth of the matter is that homelessness has increased by over 30% in the last two years in SC County. In the midst of plenty and prosperity for a few, you have a perfect storm of under-funded mental health services, Baby Boomer seniors that are priced out of the housing market, single parents- usually women, often victims of abusive relationships, with no job skills eking out an existence for themselves and their children, a county shelter system with about 1,000 spaces and over 9,000 homeless that have been counted("Santa Clara County officials conducted the biennial homeless census over two days in January 2019 and found 9,706 homeless adults living in the county's 15 cities and unincorporated areas, an increase of 2,312 from the 2017 count"), an influx of undocumented asylum seekers fleeing the cartels and gangs of Latin America where horrific crimes against the innocent go unreported in our media unless it occurs against American tourists. This is the poor among us. Even I, and all other Social Workers, qualify as "low income" based on the County's median income of $123,000/year. It is time for complaining to stop and citizens to step up. Government and faith groups, businesses, large and small. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowlalso resulted in displacement and homelessness. Certainly there are solutions from the past that can inform and inspire solutions for our poverty problems of today.
Web Link


The Registrant
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:07 pm
The Registrant, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:07 pm
8 people like this

This is incredibly good news. Voters have been hungry for a say in this matter and frustrated with the do-nothing approach that has perpetuated this problem.


Dan Waylonis
Jackson Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:23 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 3:23 pm
10 people like this

The only viable solution to this problem is to create more housing -- of any price range. The best thing the city could do would be to relax building regulations and reduce permit costs.

With respect to RVs, if the city increases funding and support for them, there will be more RVs. If the city (and voters) decide that they want fewer RVs, then passing laws to limit their available parking space will solve that problem.


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