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.