News

Judge declines to block Mountain View's RV parking ban from taking effect

Homeless advocates filed lawsuit alleging 'irreparable harm' to unhoused people living in vehicles

Inhabited RVs lining Crisanto Avenue in Mountain View violate a new parking law, which legal advocates are seeking to overturn. Photo by Sammy Dallal

A U.S. district court judge declined to place an injunction on Mountain View's RV parking ban, allowing enforcement to proceed while the city battles a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the ordinances.

In a mixed ruling on Nov. 8, Judge Nathaneal Cousins found that the city's parking restrictions on oversized vehicles do not appear likely to cause immediate, irreparable harm to vehicle dwellers who have sought shelter in RVs. But the order also denies Mountain View's motion to dismiss the case in its entirety, arguing that multiple allegations in the lawsuit have enough merit to come before a jury.

The case, filed by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and other legal advocacy groups, centers on a pair of ordinances passed by the city that curtail where large vehicles can be parked. The laws prevent RVs from parking on streets with bike lanes and streets that are deemed "narrow," which accounts for 89% of Mountain View's streets.

Though billed as traffic safety measures, the controversial parking restrictions were crafted in response to a growing number of unhoused people living in RVs, leading to widespread complaints from residents. Opponents argued the restrictions were tantamount to a ban on the homeless.

Filed in July, the lawsuit cites a dozen allegations that the city's parking ban violates federal and state laws and ought to be overturned, and that it threatens to banish low-income residents from Mountain View who have sought shelter in their vehicles. Cousins ordered this week that many of those claims ought to be dismissed outright, including allegations that the parking restrictions create an invasion of privacy, violate constitutional rights to travel and discriminate against those with disabilities.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

But several allegations did stick. Cousins said there is enough evidence put forth by the Law Foundation to suggest that the traffic laws amount to "excessive fines" by the city, and that those harmed by the parking restrictions can't simply move their vehicles to a place where RVs are still allowed. There are few roads that allow oversized vehicles, and the city's safe parking program has been oversubscribed.

"The court must accept as true the plaintiff's allegations that the remaining streets and safe parking program do not provide enough parking to accommodate all of the vehicles affected by the OSV Ban," Cousins wrote. "Thus, plaintiffs sufficiently allege that they cannot avoid the towing costs by merely moving their vehicles."

Cousins let stand allegations that the city's RV parking ban violates Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful seizure by towing, noting that the city has a high bar of proof that a warrantless seizure falls within an exception to constitutional protections in a motion to dismiss. The city also still faces claims that the parking ban amounts to a state-created danger.

Throughout the 15-page ruling, Cousins noted that many of the problems cited by both the city's defense and the plaintiffs' legal representatives are speculative in nature. The city wants to crack down on RVs parking on narrow city streets in the name of traffic safety, but does not show evidence of increased danger to bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists on streets with oversized vehicles.

Similarly, Law Foundation attorneys argued last month that the parking ban posed an imminent threat to RV dwellers, who could have their makeshift homes towed. Cousins pointed out that the city has yet to ticket or tow a single RV in accordance with the new law, instead taking an education and outreach approach.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

"If the preliminary injunction is not issued, it is not clear that plaintiffs will suffer any cognizable harm," Cousins said in the ruling.

Erin Neff, a staff attorney at the Law Foundation, said in a statement Friday that she was encouraged by the court's decision not to dismiss the case, but that it is disappointing that Cousins stopped short of placing an injunction to put enforcement on pause. But that could change, depending on the city's actions, she said.

"(The court) did so only because the city had not yet ticketed or towed vehicles under the ban," she said. "We will continue to fight this unconstitutional RV ban and we will renew our request for relief from the court if the city begins enforcement."

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Judge declines to block Mountain View's RV parking ban from taking effect

Homeless advocates filed lawsuit alleging 'irreparable harm' to unhoused people living in vehicles

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Nov 12, 2021, 4:10 pm

A U.S. district court judge declined to place an injunction on Mountain View's RV parking ban, allowing enforcement to proceed while the city battles a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the ordinances.

In a mixed ruling on Nov. 8, Judge Nathaneal Cousins found that the city's parking restrictions on oversized vehicles do not appear likely to cause immediate, irreparable harm to vehicle dwellers who have sought shelter in RVs. But the order also denies Mountain View's motion to dismiss the case in its entirety, arguing that multiple allegations in the lawsuit have enough merit to come before a jury.

The case, filed by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and other legal advocacy groups, centers on a pair of ordinances passed by the city that curtail where large vehicles can be parked. The laws prevent RVs from parking on streets with bike lanes and streets that are deemed "narrow," which accounts for 89% of Mountain View's streets.

Though billed as traffic safety measures, the controversial parking restrictions were crafted in response to a growing number of unhoused people living in RVs, leading to widespread complaints from residents. Opponents argued the restrictions were tantamount to a ban on the homeless.

Filed in July, the lawsuit cites a dozen allegations that the city's parking ban violates federal and state laws and ought to be overturned, and that it threatens to banish low-income residents from Mountain View who have sought shelter in their vehicles. Cousins ordered this week that many of those claims ought to be dismissed outright, including allegations that the parking restrictions create an invasion of privacy, violate constitutional rights to travel and discriminate against those with disabilities.

But several allegations did stick. Cousins said there is enough evidence put forth by the Law Foundation to suggest that the traffic laws amount to "excessive fines" by the city, and that those harmed by the parking restrictions can't simply move their vehicles to a place where RVs are still allowed. There are few roads that allow oversized vehicles, and the city's safe parking program has been oversubscribed.

"The court must accept as true the plaintiff's allegations that the remaining streets and safe parking program do not provide enough parking to accommodate all of the vehicles affected by the OSV Ban," Cousins wrote. "Thus, plaintiffs sufficiently allege that they cannot avoid the towing costs by merely moving their vehicles."

Cousins let stand allegations that the city's RV parking ban violates Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful seizure by towing, noting that the city has a high bar of proof that a warrantless seizure falls within an exception to constitutional protections in a motion to dismiss. The city also still faces claims that the parking ban amounts to a state-created danger.

Throughout the 15-page ruling, Cousins noted that many of the problems cited by both the city's defense and the plaintiffs' legal representatives are speculative in nature. The city wants to crack down on RVs parking on narrow city streets in the name of traffic safety, but does not show evidence of increased danger to bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists on streets with oversized vehicles.

Similarly, Law Foundation attorneys argued last month that the parking ban posed an imminent threat to RV dwellers, who could have their makeshift homes towed. Cousins pointed out that the city has yet to ticket or tow a single RV in accordance with the new law, instead taking an education and outreach approach.

"If the preliminary injunction is not issued, it is not clear that plaintiffs will suffer any cognizable harm," Cousins said in the ruling.

Erin Neff, a staff attorney at the Law Foundation, said in a statement Friday that she was encouraged by the court's decision not to dismiss the case, but that it is disappointing that Cousins stopped short of placing an injunction to put enforcement on pause. But that could change, depending on the city's actions, she said.

"(The court) did so only because the city had not yet ticketed or towed vehicles under the ban," she said. "We will continue to fight this unconstitutional RV ban and we will renew our request for relief from the court if the city begins enforcement."

Comments

Tal Shaya
Registered user
another community
on Nov 14, 2021 at 6:35 pm
Tal Shaya, another community
Registered user
on Nov 14, 2021 at 6:35 pm

What irreparable harm? By definition, these "homes" are mobile. Drive the car and go. If people can't find a public place to park their recreational vehicles, that is a sign it is an unwelcome practice everywhere. Why should Mountain View be the nation's homeless campsite? When you do this, you attract homeless from outside Mountain View!


Polomom
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Nov 15, 2021 at 1:16 pm
Polomom, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Nov 15, 2021 at 1:16 pm

Mr Cousins place of residence is in a community that has very strict rules for RV parking. Just saying...


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Nov 15, 2021 at 2:03 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Nov 15, 2021 at 2:03 pm

Thank you, Polomom, for making the parallels between RV ban proponents and Trump supporters so clear. Judge doesn't grant you everything you want, you'll attack the judge!

Disregarding the fact that, if this was about traffic safety like you all have tried to pretend, the City would have studied the issue and made some safety findings. Because the City failed to do that, there was no way for the judge to dismiss the case.


James Thurber
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Nov 15, 2021 at 3:30 pm
James Thurber, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Nov 15, 2021 at 3:30 pm

I'm in stark disagreement with the City Council on this one. These folks are (mostly) gainfully employed, have children attending schools, and simply can not afford the (atrocious) rents charged in this area.

My permitting the RV's to remain you cut down on commuting and pollution. I bicycle down Crisanto Ave every day on my way to work and I've never had a single issue. Although most of the "homes" are a bit worn out the area around them is kept clean and neat. There are families living there - with children - with teens - with elders. They are as much a part of our community as the ultra wealthy employed by Google and other Mountain View employers.

Perhaps, and I'm truly not being cynical, perhaps Mountain View should enact a law that says only wealthy people can live here - and list a minimum income to ensure that only the rich represent this community. How about that City Council?


Johnny Yuma
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Nov 15, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Johnny Yuma, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Nov 15, 2021 at 4:00 pm

“Oversized vehicles do not appear likely to cause immediate, irreparable harm to vehicle dwellers who have sought shelter in RVs?” Really??? It would appear that Cousins has not faced any hardships in his life.


Otto Maddox
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Nov 15, 2021 at 4:22 pm
Otto Maddox, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Nov 15, 2021 at 4:22 pm

Does that mean we'll finally see some action on this?

Those RV's are an eyesore. Junk stored underneath, on top. Looks like a junkyard sometimes.

The people voted, time to go! I'm sick of hearing about how people can't afford housing in Mountain View.

I can't afford a house in Atherton. Do I blame Atherton? I'd love to live in Atherton.


JustAWorkingStiff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:00 am
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:00 am

A car crossed into my lane (on-coming traffic) as it was going around an RV.
I quickly pulled over into a parking spot.
So we don't have a collision.
I write this for those who deny that RVs pose a traffic issue.
They do.


Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:51 am
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:51 am

See, folks, JustAWorkingStiff knows how to do this. Make up stories about "traffic safety" rather than talking about how much you dislike having poor people around you. Message discipline!


JustAWorkingStiff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:21 pm
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:21 pm

Sorry Randy, but what I re-counted is a factual and true incident.
It is a simple, clear description of what happened
Because there are people which claim that RVs pose no traffic issue.

This claim that RVs pose no traffic issues is false.

Randy, you need to focus. Instead of attacking people who post here,
or mixing it up with other issues. This post was purely focused on
a true incident where an RV posed a direct traffic issue. And this is a core issue in the pending lawsuit.

I noticed you attacking polomom. At least you are consistent. Your behavior it to attack and seek to put down people who post things which you disagree with.
People have legitimate issues with the RVs. And it is very poor manners to attack people with which you have disagreements.




Randy Guelph
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:33 pm
Randy Guelph, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:33 pm

Which street did this occur on? Did you call the cops on the person driving on the wrong side of the road?

Do you have similar concerns about the poor manners of Polomom, who is attacking the judge in this case?


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:34 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:34 pm

I live on a street that was 'recently signed'. I have a well running old RV. So if I INTENTIONALLY PARK my oldie - on the newly 'signed' street - there will be NO ENFORCEMENT! Fine, and if I get a ticket I can join with Lenny and friends to be the TEST CASE! How sweet that would be.

Poor RVers are people too. Some are residents with school kids.

peace & love

(the optics of my corner - even a 7 foot high 'allowed' vehicle blocks views of the side street traffic when it is parked as-close-as-allowed to the STOP sign.)


Jon B
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:55 pm
Jon B, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:55 pm

Has an actual survey been done to verify where RV dwellers work, beyond reporters asking people, “do you work here?”? Because most of the vans and RVs I see in my neighborhood rarely, if ever, move. Not sure if they even can.


Jon B
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:55 pm
Jon B, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 2:55 pm

[Duplicate post removed.]


Rouel - Urban Living
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2021 at 4:15 pm
Rouel - Urban Living, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2021 at 4:15 pm

Motorhomes are legal vehicles, and are approved by our state, and pay yearly fees to register them, and use public streets. It can be said that motorhomes are not the cause of traffic issues, and it is, that the city designed and built streets that are not safe for legal motorhome vehicles, and therefore, the city needs to fix every streets that has been defined as not safe, or causes issues for use by all legal vehicles !!


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.