Mountain View's controversial RV parking ban won't be enforced through July 4, following an agreement between the city and legal advocacy groups that have sued to overturn the ordinances.
The stay of litigation, filed March 30, puts on hold enforcement of the city's expansive restrictions on oversized vehicle parking. Large vehicles including RVs are prohibited from being parked on narrow streets and streets with bike lanes, but police have yet to ticket or tow any vehicles under the pair of laws.
The ordinances faced a legal challenge in July last year, when the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and other groups filed a suit against the city claiming the parking prohibitions were a blatant attempt to oust the unhoused from the city. City data shows hundreds of RVs and cars are occupied by homeless residents using their vehicles as makeshift homes, and plaintiffs in the case say the parking restrictions threaten their well-being and could force them out of the area.
City officials have released a survey on inhabited vehicles in January 2022, showing a lower but still persistent number of RVs and passenger vehicles used as homes. The map counts a total of 216 vehicles, which includes 135 RVs.
In January, the city agreed on a stay of litigation that essentially put the ordinances on pause, meaning cops would not issue any citations or tow any oversized vehicles for violations of the parking restrictions. The stay was set to expire on April 5, but the order this week extended that period to July 4.
The order states that both sides have engaged in "ongoing informal settlement discussions," with a full-day settlement conference already set for April 20. The latest 90-day stay means the entire case schedule has been pushed back, with the trial date now set for June 2023.
The city released a brief statement Friday that it is "pleased" with the progress in ongoing settlement discussions, and that the stay on litigation provides additional time to try to reach an agreement.
As of February, Mountain View has posted "No Parking" signs across the entire city, including areas with a high concentration of inhabited RVs. To avoid confusion and inform the public about the postponed enforcement, the Law Foundation has put out a bilingual flyer letting vehicle dwellers know their rights.
The flyer tells residents that the signs do not mean they will be ticketed or towed -- even if police officers ask them to move -- but that they could be held responsible for violating laws unrelated to the oversized vehicle parking ban. The flyer goes on to advocate for careful monitoring of police activity.
"If it is safe to do so, please use your cell phone to take photos and video of police activity related to the oversized vehicles, including any conversations you have with police or any interactions you see with police," according to the flyer.
The recent stay of litigation adds to what has now been a yearslong delay in rolling out the oversized vehicle parking restrictions. The Mountain View City Council passed the two ordinances -- one for narrow streets and one for streets with bike lanes -- in September 2019. The bike lane prohibitions went through without a hitch, but the more controversial narrow streets ordinance was immediately subject to a voter referendum.
The ordinance, which included a large majority of city streets, came before voters in November 2020 and passed with nearly 57% of the vote. Those who defended the law during the election say Mountain View has done more than its fair share to help unhoused people, and that city streets are an inappropriate place for unhoused people to live. The ordinance itself is written tightly as a traffic safety measure and makes no mention of homelessness.
The legal challenge came in July 2021 shortly before the city sought to install the first set of parking signs.
The city would be in violation of the stay in the event that it issues citations, tows vehicles or "harasses" the occupants of oversized vehicles with the threat of an arrest, ticket or tow for running afoul of the oversized vehicle ordinances, according to the court order. Plaintiffs would also have a "good cause" reason to lift the stay if they can prove that RV inhabitants were forced to relocate from Mountain View because there were no legal overnight parking spaces available, including spaces in the city's safe parking lots.