News

Judge to weigh in on Mountain View's RV parking ban next week

A sign banning parking of oversized vehicles along Alvin Street in Mountain View on Aug. 31, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

A federal court judge could soon decide the fate of Mountain View's ban on RV parking, addressing a legal challenge against the city's ordinances that clamp down on where oversized vehicles can be parked on public roadways.

Judge Nathanael Cousins is set to weigh in on the lawsuit, filed by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and other legal advocacy groups in July, on Oct. 20 in San Jose. The suit alleges that Mountain View sought to use parking restrictions as a means to oust homeless people from the city, violating the constitutional rights of those who are homeless and inviting discriminatory enforcement against vehicle dwellers.

One of the two laws, passed in 2019, prohibits RVs and other large vehicles from parking on streets that are 40 feet wide or narrower, which accounts for 83% of all the streets in Mountain View. The law was subject to a voter referendum last year and prevailed at the ballot box with nearly 57% of voter approval.

A second ordinance prohibits oversized vehicles from parking on streets with protected bike lanes, which went into effect in 2019 and was not challenged from the outset. The recent lawsuit is seeking to overturn both ordinances.

Defense attorneys for the city have emphatically denied that the ordinance was a means for shooing homeless residents out of the city, arguing that parking restrictions on oversized vehicles were necessary for public safety -- particularly for bicyclists and pedestrians trying to navigate around large vehicles on tight roads.

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They also pointed to the city's robust safe parking program and big investments in emergency financial assistance to poke holes in the idea that Mountain View wants to banish homeless people.

The Law Foundation, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Disability Rights Advocates, are asking the judge on Oct. 20 to place an injunction on the RV parking ban, requesting that enforcement of the parking restrictions be held off until the case is settled.

The request asks that the city refrain from posting any signs that prohibit RV parking -- despite the fact that many signs have already been installed, and be prohibited from impounding and towing vehicles under the pair of ordinances.

Legal advocacy groups are asking for a temporary block on Mountain View's RV parking restrictions, which affect 83% of the city's streets. Photo by Magali Gauthier

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs, which include several vehicle residents, wrote in court filings that the parking restrictions threaten RV dwellers with immediate and irreparable harm by forcing them to either leave the city or be threatened with the loss of their home. They argue that the high cost of retrieving an impounded vehicle and fines imposed under the ordinance could amount to "financial ruin" for the affected families.

"For plaintiffs, the stakes are dire if enforcement of the oversized vehicle ban is not halted. The city, on the other hand, will suffer no harm from a preliminary injunction, which would suspend enforcement of laws that until very recently did not exist," attorneys said.

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At the same hearing, the court will take up the city's request that the judge dismiss the case. The city's argument hinges on the idea that the pair of ordinances are exclusively traffic safety measures, and that homeless residents living in RVs still have access to plenty of streets where oversized vehicles are still allowed.

The city's legal defense also cited numerous cases backing its claim that the $65 parking ticket is not excessive, and that towing costs -- as expensive as they may be -- are not considered an excessive fine exacted by the city.

"At issue here are two valid Ordinances passed by the City Council and the City's voters to improve traffic safety," attorneys said in the request to dismiss. "Their case should be dismissed in its entirety."

A hearing on both motions is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the San Jose federal courthouse.

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Judge to weigh in on Mountain View's RV parking ban next week

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 12, 2021, 12:12 pm

A federal court judge could soon decide the fate of Mountain View's ban on RV parking, addressing a legal challenge against the city's ordinances that clamp down on where oversized vehicles can be parked on public roadways.

Judge Nathanael Cousins is set to weigh in on the lawsuit, filed by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and other legal advocacy groups in July, on Oct. 20 in San Jose. The suit alleges that Mountain View sought to use parking restrictions as a means to oust homeless people from the city, violating the constitutional rights of those who are homeless and inviting discriminatory enforcement against vehicle dwellers.

One of the two laws, passed in 2019, prohibits RVs and other large vehicles from parking on streets that are 40 feet wide or narrower, which accounts for 83% of all the streets in Mountain View. The law was subject to a voter referendum last year and prevailed at the ballot box with nearly 57% of voter approval.

A second ordinance prohibits oversized vehicles from parking on streets with protected bike lanes, which went into effect in 2019 and was not challenged from the outset. The recent lawsuit is seeking to overturn both ordinances.

Defense attorneys for the city have emphatically denied that the ordinance was a means for shooing homeless residents out of the city, arguing that parking restrictions on oversized vehicles were necessary for public safety -- particularly for bicyclists and pedestrians trying to navigate around large vehicles on tight roads.

They also pointed to the city's robust safe parking program and big investments in emergency financial assistance to poke holes in the idea that Mountain View wants to banish homeless people.

The Law Foundation, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Disability Rights Advocates, are asking the judge on Oct. 20 to place an injunction on the RV parking ban, requesting that enforcement of the parking restrictions be held off until the case is settled.

The request asks that the city refrain from posting any signs that prohibit RV parking -- despite the fact that many signs have already been installed, and be prohibited from impounding and towing vehicles under the pair of ordinances.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs, which include several vehicle residents, wrote in court filings that the parking restrictions threaten RV dwellers with immediate and irreparable harm by forcing them to either leave the city or be threatened with the loss of their home. They argue that the high cost of retrieving an impounded vehicle and fines imposed under the ordinance could amount to "financial ruin" for the affected families.

"For plaintiffs, the stakes are dire if enforcement of the oversized vehicle ban is not halted. The city, on the other hand, will suffer no harm from a preliminary injunction, which would suspend enforcement of laws that until very recently did not exist," attorneys said.

At the same hearing, the court will take up the city's request that the judge dismiss the case. The city's argument hinges on the idea that the pair of ordinances are exclusively traffic safety measures, and that homeless residents living in RVs still have access to plenty of streets where oversized vehicles are still allowed.

The city's legal defense also cited numerous cases backing its claim that the $65 parking ticket is not excessive, and that towing costs -- as expensive as they may be -- are not considered an excessive fine exacted by the city.

"At issue here are two valid Ordinances passed by the City Council and the City's voters to improve traffic safety," attorneys said in the request to dismiss. "Their case should be dismissed in its entirety."

A hearing on both motions is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the San Jose federal courthouse.

Comments

Rouel - Urban Living
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2021 at 3:38 pm
Rouel - Urban Living, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2021 at 3:38 pm

In regards on the above ".... to the city's robust safe parking program and big investments in emergency financial assistance to poke holes in the idea that Mountain View wants to banish homeless people. ... "

I was in in the Safe Parking program, in a motorhome, and after more than one and half yrs, was asked to leave the Safe Parking Program because I would not Transition to Renting an Apartment. Therefore am back on the streets of my city, Mountain View.

So, it seems that the Safe Parking Program is more about transitioning vehicle urban dwelling (living in vehicles / Motorhomes) to rent appartments, than to really providing Safe Parking to move vehicle dwellers off the streets of our city, Mountain View.

One hand, providing Safe Parking Lots for vehicle dwellers is a great idea. On the other hand, expecting residents transitioning to Renting an Apartment, is not realistic. Why ? -- the economic conditions that have pushed people to urban living, have not been reversed, and likely never will. City Councils are still on the trajectory to support continuing the economic conditions that push people to urban living. Even though trying to ban urban vehicle dwelling (parking on city streets) without addressing the economic conditions.
We really need more Safe Parking Lots, without unrealistic expectations. All cities should have them. It is a new type of neighborhood. ... Buy, if you cannot, then Rent, if you cannot, then Safe Parking Lots !!


Ok
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 12, 2021 at 5:10 pm
Ok, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2021 at 5:10 pm

If you are working in Mountain View, requesting a proper wages that allows to rent an apartment in a place within a reasonable commute is a way to go. But for some reason people request a right to live in a vehicle in downtown of Mountain View.


Wouter Suverkropp
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Oct 12, 2021 at 8:01 pm
Wouter Suverkropp, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2021 at 8:01 pm

Are there *any* records of a bicyclist or pedestrian being hurt by a parked oversized vehicle?

If the argument is that it's a vehicle safety issue, surely there's a record of the incidents that prompted this broad law.


Local
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Oct 12, 2021 at 10:50 pm
Local, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2021 at 10:50 pm

Mountain View has done more than surrounding cities, and yet we are the ones being sued? That's outrageous. We have the Safe Parking lots, free consultation with Community Services Agency, free food, the sewage from Safe Parking Lots is removed for free, showers are freely available, and there is police protection. To sue Mountain View - and NOT sue Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, etc. (cities that have done nothing for the vehicle dwellers and even PROHIBIT them totally) is clearly inconsistent - and inconsistency in the law is a real red flag. I hope the Judge sees all Mountain View has done to better the lives of those living in vehicles. Many of the RVs are junk RVs dumped on our streets by out of town landlords - paying no property tax - and making clear profit off Mountain View. Not everyone can live where they want, just because they want to live there - it's a hard truth. But Mountain View has gone much farther than surrounding cities.
This lawsuit is harassment and very misdirected against the one city that has tried to help!


Old Steve
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Oct 13, 2021 at 8:43 am
Old Steve, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2021 at 8:43 am

We started down this path when we agreed to become downtown google. Rent Control did too little and came too late. Perhaps if the ordinance gets dumped, we can sort out how to serve members of our community without unduly attracting similarly displaced folks from other communities. We could have just decided to beef up enforcement of the City's pre-existing 72 hour street parking ordinance, and used code enforcement to control the junker RV's. Probably several years worth, instead of $1M signing project and a pile of legal fees. Safe Lots took a long time to stand up, meanwhile things got worse. Greed has always been good in Silicon Valley, still is apparently.


MyOpinion
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 15, 2021 at 6:59 am
MyOpinion, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 6:59 am

@local. Well said, this city has done more than any other city for these people. The goal is to move people into stable housing, if, like Rouel, they do not want to do that they need to leave.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 15, 2021 at 7:24 am
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 7:24 am

MyOpinion, I thought the goal of this was traffic safety. That's what the city is arguing in court! You should let the court know if you think otherwise.


JustAWorkingStiff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:40 pm
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 2:40 pm

A car swerved around an RV and was coming at me head on in my lane.
I quickly pulled over and let that vehicle pass.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:01 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 4:01 pm

It's shocking that someone like JustAWorkingStiff feels it's acceptable to make up stories in order to justify this (since council could never substantiate their alleged traffic safety purpose with actual data), but at least they're on-message! MyOpinion, as long as you're willing to lie a little, you should learn from them.


Stiv O
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2021 at 2:24 pm
Stiv O, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2021 at 2:24 pm

I am a registered volunteer Disaster Services worker. My van has been configured for use as an emergency Ham Radio Packet Communications station. I live in a townhouse community and the van will not fit in our garage. I had been parking on the street, but now that is illegal. I am having to park my van along a major roadway 1/2 mile from our house, and it is highly at risk for damage or vandalism. I am not living in the van, so I cannot join the "safe parking" program and parking that far away is a problem. The further I have to park from the house, the less access I have to it in an emergency. The city has no provisions to allow an exception for these circumstances.
In all fairness, I understand the problem the city is trying to solve, but lying about their motivations for the law seems to be a bad pretext for governance.


lan
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Oct 16, 2021 at 4:41 pm
lan, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Oct 16, 2021 at 4:41 pm

The city's lax enforcement of parking during COVID has caused so many problems. Some dude is running his business out of his trailer parked right in front of our property, and the MVPD refused to ticket or tow, only now they can't tow because the guy put a lock on his wheel. Calling and calling and calling MVPD to complain about this guy's double parking, blocking our driveway, and all of frickin vehicles he has in addition to his office trailer has come to nothing. And we have junk cars on the street that haven't moved in a very long while. Yes, it looks like blight.

But, okay, so I need extra storage, guess I too can get a storage unit and plop on the street. No problem.


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