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If county takes over Mountain View's safe parking lot for homeless vehicle-dwellers, it could stay open 24/7

Having to leave lot every day is major obstacle for homeless; city says it can't operate around the clock -- but Santa Clara County can

Mountain View's fledgling safe parking program is poised to enlist some much-needed outside help to relocate some of the hundreds of homeless people currently living out of vehicles parked along city streets.

Council members are expected to vote Tuesday, Feb. 25, on whether to lease a portion of Shoreline Amphitheatre's parking area to Santa Clara County, setting aside enough room for 30 "oversized" vehicles including RVs. If approved, the county would be able to operate the parking lot 24 hours a day. The limited overnight hours currently offered under the city's safe parking program are largely seen as the biggest barrier for making the program work.

Santa Clara County's homeless population has risen from 7,394 people in 2017 to 9,706 in 2019, according to a census taken last year, mirroring a regional homelessness crisis that has gripped the Bay Area. A growing segment of the homeless population has sought shelter by living in vehicles, including cars, vans and RVs.

Mountain View has in some ways been the poster child for the problem, with national media attention focusing on the lines of RVs parked along Crisanto Avenue and Shoreline Boulevard just a few miles from some of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

The City Council drafted a safe parking program last year that was supposed to bring lived-in vehicles off of city streets and into safe, designated areas offering support services. But it's gotten off to a rocky start, running into difficulty finding insurers willing to provide liability coverage. And once the safe parking program finally got off the ground this year, few people actually showed up.

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The biggest impediment, according to homeless advocates and officials running the program, is that the city's rules forbid vehicles from staying in the safe parking lots around the clock -- they must relocate between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. City leaders say their hands are tied, citing the City Attorney's opinion that allowing all-day parking would trigger state mobile home residency laws.

The first safe parking lot to launch, located in Shoreline lot "B," opened a few weeks ago, and only a few vehicles have used it to date, said Amber Stime, director of the nonprofit Move MV. That isn't to say there isn't any interest -- plenty of people are asking about it -- but many people are reluctant to take advantage of the program if they have to move their vehicle every day.

"They are concerned about the logistics of moving," she said, adding that some vehicles are as big as Winnebagos. "But people are interested, they do want to be off the streets they do want somewhere where they can be a bit more safe."

When asked about the county stepping in to solve the problem, Stime said she was first interested to see what the council decides at its Feb. 25 meeting. The item is on the consent calendar, typically reserved for noncontroversial items and routine business.

The reason Santa Clara County can operate a safe parking program around the clock, while Mountain View cannot, is because of a special exemption enshrined in state law for a select number of agencies. AB 932, passed in 2017, allows an explicit list of cities and counties to construct and operate homeless shelters without having to abide by rules contained in the Mobilehome Parks Act or the Mobilehome Residency Law.

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When asked why the pair of state laws would prevent the city from operating 24 hours a day, City Attorney Krishan Chopra told the Voice that it would saddle the city with requirements like tenant protections, as if the parking lot was a "permanent housing source." It would essentially mean the city is operating a mobile home park.

The idea of the county stepping in was spearheaded by county Supervisor Joe Simitian, who said that Mountain View deserves credit for grappling with the insurance and legal challenges along with finding an appropriate place to put the safe parking sites. But at this point, it looks like leveraging the county's special status is the best way to get RV dwellers off city streets and solve the "logjam" around the issue of 24-hour parking.

"If we lease or buy a site and it is in the county's control, it becomes the county's site." he said. "We would not have to operate safe parking programs with the same set of concerns that would otherwise be a source of anxiety."

Finding a place for vehicle dwellers to park, along with establishing the city's rules and regulations for the de facto homeless shelters dates back to early 2018. When asked why the county didn't use its special status to fix the problem years ago, Simitian told the Voice it was important to let Mountain View retain its autonomy in resolving the challenge of vehicle dwellers until it was necessary for the county to take a more active role.

"It was only when the city really confronted the issue of the need for a 24-hour facility and expressed the concern about being the agency that provided that when I felt it was appropriate to say, 'All right, we should step up in a more significant way,'" Simitian said.

Council members at the Feb. 25 meeting are also scheduled to vote on whether to amend the existing lease agreement between the city and Live Nation, which produces concerts at Shoreline Amphiteatre, that would allow a portion of lot B to be used for safe parking during the concert season. Under the current agreement, the safe parking program is scheduled to end on March 15 to make room for concert parking. More information on the proposal is available online.

While the lease agreement would help the city operate one of its safe parking lots on a 24-hour basis and attract more participants, it's likely to just make a dent in a regional problem. Cities grappling with rising homelessness in the Bay Area are increasingly turning to safe parking, including recently launched programs in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, which are bound to run into the same challenges as Mountain View.

That could change soon. Earlier this month, state Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) introduced legislation that seeks to broaden the list of public agencies empowered to create safe parking programs exempt from legal requirements associated with permanent residency, particularly mobile home tenant relocation requirements. Mountain View city staff reportedly met with Berman last month to discuss the scope of the law, AB 2586, and potential sponsorship by the city.

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If county takes over Mountain View's safe parking lot for homeless vehicle-dwellers, it could stay open 24/7

Having to leave lot every day is major obstacle for homeless; city says it can't operate around the clock -- but Santa Clara County can

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 12:38 pm

Mountain View's fledgling safe parking program is poised to enlist some much-needed outside help to relocate some of the hundreds of homeless people currently living out of vehicles parked along city streets.

Council members are expected to vote Tuesday, Feb. 25, on whether to lease a portion of Shoreline Amphitheatre's parking area to Santa Clara County, setting aside enough room for 30 "oversized" vehicles including RVs. If approved, the county would be able to operate the parking lot 24 hours a day. The limited overnight hours currently offered under the city's safe parking program are largely seen as the biggest barrier for making the program work.

Santa Clara County's homeless population has risen from 7,394 people in 2017 to 9,706 in 2019, according to a census taken last year, mirroring a regional homelessness crisis that has gripped the Bay Area. A growing segment of the homeless population has sought shelter by living in vehicles, including cars, vans and RVs.

Mountain View has in some ways been the poster child for the problem, with national media attention focusing on the lines of RVs parked along Crisanto Avenue and Shoreline Boulevard just a few miles from some of the most powerful tech companies in the world.

The City Council drafted a safe parking program last year that was supposed to bring lived-in vehicles off of city streets and into safe, designated areas offering support services. But it's gotten off to a rocky start, running into difficulty finding insurers willing to provide liability coverage. And once the safe parking program finally got off the ground this year, few people actually showed up.

The biggest impediment, according to homeless advocates and officials running the program, is that the city's rules forbid vehicles from staying in the safe parking lots around the clock -- they must relocate between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. City leaders say their hands are tied, citing the City Attorney's opinion that allowing all-day parking would trigger state mobile home residency laws.

The first safe parking lot to launch, located in Shoreline lot "B," opened a few weeks ago, and only a few vehicles have used it to date, said Amber Stime, director of the nonprofit Move MV. That isn't to say there isn't any interest -- plenty of people are asking about it -- but many people are reluctant to take advantage of the program if they have to move their vehicle every day.

"They are concerned about the logistics of moving," she said, adding that some vehicles are as big as Winnebagos. "But people are interested, they do want to be off the streets they do want somewhere where they can be a bit more safe."

When asked about the county stepping in to solve the problem, Stime said she was first interested to see what the council decides at its Feb. 25 meeting. The item is on the consent calendar, typically reserved for noncontroversial items and routine business.

The reason Santa Clara County can operate a safe parking program around the clock, while Mountain View cannot, is because of a special exemption enshrined in state law for a select number of agencies. AB 932, passed in 2017, allows an explicit list of cities and counties to construct and operate homeless shelters without having to abide by rules contained in the Mobilehome Parks Act or the Mobilehome Residency Law.

When asked why the pair of state laws would prevent the city from operating 24 hours a day, City Attorney Krishan Chopra told the Voice that it would saddle the city with requirements like tenant protections, as if the parking lot was a "permanent housing source." It would essentially mean the city is operating a mobile home park.

The idea of the county stepping in was spearheaded by county Supervisor Joe Simitian, who said that Mountain View deserves credit for grappling with the insurance and legal challenges along with finding an appropriate place to put the safe parking sites. But at this point, it looks like leveraging the county's special status is the best way to get RV dwellers off city streets and solve the "logjam" around the issue of 24-hour parking.

"If we lease or buy a site and it is in the county's control, it becomes the county's site." he said. "We would not have to operate safe parking programs with the same set of concerns that would otherwise be a source of anxiety."

Finding a place for vehicle dwellers to park, along with establishing the city's rules and regulations for the de facto homeless shelters dates back to early 2018. When asked why the county didn't use its special status to fix the problem years ago, Simitian told the Voice it was important to let Mountain View retain its autonomy in resolving the challenge of vehicle dwellers until it was necessary for the county to take a more active role.

"It was only when the city really confronted the issue of the need for a 24-hour facility and expressed the concern about being the agency that provided that when I felt it was appropriate to say, 'All right, we should step up in a more significant way,'" Simitian said.

Council members at the Feb. 25 meeting are also scheduled to vote on whether to amend the existing lease agreement between the city and Live Nation, which produces concerts at Shoreline Amphiteatre, that would allow a portion of lot B to be used for safe parking during the concert season. Under the current agreement, the safe parking program is scheduled to end on March 15 to make room for concert parking. More information on the proposal is available online.

While the lease agreement would help the city operate one of its safe parking lots on a 24-hour basis and attract more participants, it's likely to just make a dent in a regional problem. Cities grappling with rising homelessness in the Bay Area are increasingly turning to safe parking, including recently launched programs in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, which are bound to run into the same challenges as Mountain View.

That could change soon. Earlier this month, state Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) introduced legislation that seeks to broaden the list of public agencies empowered to create safe parking programs exempt from legal requirements associated with permanent residency, particularly mobile home tenant relocation requirements. Mountain View city staff reportedly met with Berman last month to discuss the scope of the law, AB 2586, and potential sponsorship by the city.

Comments

Need to protect outlying areas
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:54 pm
Need to protect outlying areas, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:54 pm

If they go fwd with this, the city MUST plan for homeless camps to pop up surrounding this RV area.
Camps in the creeks and wetlands will increase from what is already an intolerable amount. The creeks and wetlands are their bathrooms. It's sad to say but it is true.

Many don't know but right now MV is being sued for human waste coming from our creeks and into the bay.
Web Link
It doesn't take a detective to guess where it's coming from.

Right now homeless camps from the Guadalupe R up into Steven's creek and northward are exploding. The city of SJ had to pay 100M to settle with the group that is suing MV.
This is costing us all AND polluting the natural areas left around us.
Please get the homeless out of our creeks and wetlands!


Green
Sylvan Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 1:38 pm
Green, Sylvan Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 1:38 pm

Steven’s Creek is full of plastic bottles, abandoned shopping carts and other trash. Why is city doesn’t do anything to prevent littering?


$$100M lawsuit against MV
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm
$$100M lawsuit against MV, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm

We don't get sued for trash but we do for humans waste in the waterways.
Trash is way down in the creeks btw, since the plastic bag ban, but again, remove the camps and we'll also have much less trash.
If we have RV's emptying their sewage into storm drains, which I personally have not seen but others have reported numerous times, that also is a cause of why we're being sued.


Peter
Cuesta Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:31 pm
Peter, Cuesta Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:31 pm

I’m 100% against this!
Surely Council knows that by doing this, it will never end and even if it does plan to “end this program” at some point, they will be demonized for ending it. They opened Pandora’s Box by allowing the RVs to stay wherever they want and now it’s a no-win situation. I feel that more and more RVs, and homeless in general, are coming to MV just because word is out that we don’t enforce our laws and/or ordinances/codes.
I really wish our City Council would say that enough-is-enough and listen to your constituents!


Peter
Cuesta Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm
Peter, Cuesta Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm

#giveaninchandtheywilltakeamile!


Qualifications
Bailey Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:54 pm
Qualifications, Bailey Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 2:54 pm

Any users should need to have proof that their last permanent residence was in MV. Otherwise we'll only attract more and more.
Also, if they do not sign a contract that they will accept housing if offered they should not qualify. We should not have to tolerate full time FREE campers by choice. If they want top remain in their RV after housing is offered, they need to find a spot and pay for it. The goal should be the overall reduction of RV dwellers, not just a place to put them all.

This should be only used as a helping hand up for MV people who need it and want to get into housing.


Polomom
Waverly Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 3:17 pm
Polomom, Waverly Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 3:17 pm

With a 24/7 RV parking lot we should be able to declare all current hot spots like Shoreline, Crisanto and Continental as "No parking for oversized vehicles" zones.If we do not do that, all spaces vacated by these RVs moving into the lot will be taken over by new RVs from surrounding areas.


Old Mtn View
Old Mountain View
on Feb 24, 2020 at 3:20 pm
Old Mtn View, Old Mountain View
on Feb 24, 2020 at 3:20 pm

No. Just no.

There is literally nothing to stop people from other towns from moving into Mountain View and parking overnight on our streets or a small RV lot.

This is a poorly thought out idea.


Nomenclature
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2020 at 4:22 pm
Nomenclature, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2020 at 4:22 pm

I wish the voice and some readers would stop referring to the RV Dwellers as "homeless". None of these people are homeless. The homeless are living in tents in the creeks. The RV Dwellers have chosen to live in their (mostly rented) RVs as a cheap, local alternative to a home that's farther away. Some have homes in other parts of the state and live in RVs during the week and return home on the weekends. Some work near MV and would rather live in an RV than commute. Some prefer to live cheaply to save for retirement. Some are high paid techies banking money. This article, albeit older, includes interviews with some of the RV Dwellers in Palo Alto. Web Link Read their stories.

It shouldn't be incumbent upon the taxpayers to find them a place to live adjacent to their workplace so that they don't have to commute like the thousands of other workers we see on the highways on a daily basis. Ban RV parking and the dwellers will find real homes in which to live. The true homeless are another story, they need care in mental hospitals as most are either mentally ill or addicted. Shelters can take in those that are neither. The "homeless" problem could be solved if those in power were really interested in compassionate care for those in need.


19
Rex Manor
on Feb 24, 2020 at 5:21 pm
19, Rex Manor
on Feb 24, 2020 at 5:21 pm

I’m all for RV parks with facilities. But I think they should charge for them. Maybe sliding scale, but not free.


Rossta
Waverly Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 5:51 pm
Rossta, Waverly Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 5:51 pm

I agree with 19 that this should not be a free program. There should be some rent for having space to park, at least as much as a concert goer pays for a space. That's pretty cheap for land in MV, which is expensive because it is where all the traffic is trying to go every morning - look at the traffic maps to confirm.
This location in Shoreline looks appealing since it is available without neighbors to complain, but there are no services that residents would need - grocery store or anything. So, long-term, that should be addressed.


@Need to protect outlying areas
Old Mountain View
on Feb 24, 2020 at 7:48 pm
@Need to protect outlying areas, Old Mountain View
on Feb 24, 2020 at 7:48 pm

You said,

"Many don't know but right now MV is being sued for human waste coming from our creeks and into the bay."
Web Link


This is not right.
The residents of our city should NOT have to constantly pay the bills for these RV dwellers. It is already well over a $1,000,000.00 of taxpayer money.

We should be able to sue individually the council members who have created this problem, who refused to stop it, and who only want to expand this program in our city.

Here is who should have money coming out of their bank account to start paying off all the costs that the tax payers have paid out so far. Now we also have to include attorney fees for this lawsuit, just ridiculous.

Lenny Siegel- running to be on council again, to have a tent city on every other sidewalk block.
Pat Showalther-running to be on council again.
Lucas Rameriz- currently on the council.
A. Hicks- currently on the council.


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Feb 24, 2020 at 11:35 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Feb 24, 2020 at 11:35 pm

Why don't we create a sustainable market solution like allowing tiny homes in MV mobile home parks. Right now, city zoning sets mobile home sizes, prohibiting tiny homes, similar rules prohibit tiny homes in all MV neighborhoods. Tiny homes cost about the same as what people are paying for RVs, but tiny homes would be hooked up to utilities, more aesthetically appealing, and still provide both affordability, and in the case of the mobile home park in North Bayshore, close access to employers. They also have a far lower carbon footprint.

Tiny homes in mobile home and RV parks are being piloted in Palm Springs (Palm Canyon Mobile Park), Sacramento (Park Delta Bay), Portland, OR (Ann Arbor Mobile Home Park), Las Vegas (Aistream Park tied to Zappos employees), and Google has explorations for their own tiny homes (Factory OS).

We don't allow the market to provide tiny homes, and force people to rent $3000+ or buy $1 million plus, and we wonder why people live in their cars. People want to follow the laws, they just need more options.


JustAWorkingStiff
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2020 at 12:19 am
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2020 at 12:19 am

24/7 Safe Parking is a move in the right direction
It should be only for former MV residents
They can be helped with water and sewage and garbage disposal
Social services can help them migrate to permanent housing

MV cannot solve the RV issues of entire Bay Area. MV has already spend
$2.2 M. Any money spent should focus on helping former MV residents

Lenny Siegel's idea of inviting RV from any where to park anywhere in MV
is wrong. It places an unfair burden on the resident who live where these RVs
choose to park. All of MV should help/support former MV residents; not just the residents where the RVs choose to park.

It is a tough life living in an RV. Getting all these things (water/garbage/sewage) taken care of is hard. So while I don't condone things like dumping sewage, I understand why we have these issue when you stick large number of RVs all over the city without water/garbage/sewage support. (Schlepping about 3 gallons of water per day to support 3 people in an RV is not fun; assuming each person needs about 1 gallon of water per day, and each gallon weighs about 8 pounds is about 24 pounds)

My understanding is that there was a time when there were just a few RVs, and city laws were changed to allow them to park in MV. But now, it seems that Lenny's team wants to let any RV from anywhere come park in MV. Now you have a problem of scale. That means dealing with dozens, perhaps over a hundred RVs, and their water, garbage,sewage disposal needs become an issue. This is clearly an unworkable plan for a medium sized city such as MV.

Safe Parking, 24X7, with support for water/garbage/sewage is the only compassionate practical plan being proposed. And the support should be focused on on helping former MV residents if we are to have any fiscal responsibility associated with this program. Rather than an open ended where you have no idea how much tax payers money will be spent


James Thurber
Shoreline West
on Feb 25, 2020 at 6:08 am
James Thurber, Shoreline West
on Feb 25, 2020 at 6:08 am

The advantage to having your "home" parked in downtown (or nearby) is that stores (and supplies) are available. To put everyone WAY out in Shoreline makes easy shopping impossible. Remember, these are folks that don't have a lot of extra money.

A better idea would be to set aside portions of mall / shopping center parking lots. This would give the residents access to things they need to survive. Crisanto Ave is a good site because of the adjacent park, bathrooms, and grocery store.

And the city should provide extra portable bathrooms and trash facilities. A truly good neighbor would ensure that shower trucks visited the region at least daily. Security? Absolutely.

Remember all you naysayers, not everyone has the resources you do. America is not just a land of rich. And these are your neighbors. They have jobs. They have children. Their kids go to school. Let's join up and take care of everyone.

Thanks for listening.


Mel
Monta Loma
on Feb 25, 2020 at 8:06 am
Mel, Monta Loma
on Feb 25, 2020 at 8:06 am

Step in the right direction. Agree with other posts it absolutely should not be free. A rental fee per month would be fair. Most RV dwellers have lived in the City for many years - get to know your neighbors. Yes, there are a handful that commute and live here during the week. I’m not for them one bit taking up a spot in the lot unless they can prove they had a permanent address here in the City before they needed to relocate. Also agree with another post remove access to parking for oversized vehicles on City streets as more permanent parking becomes available. Staggered though not all at once.


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