A portion of Crisanto Avenue has been cleared of parked vehicles to make way for construction at Rengstorff Park, forcing inhabited RVs -- some of which have been there for years -- to relocate.
Mountain View has started work on replacing the pool at Rengstorff Park, which requires construction vehicle access along Crisanto Avenue. City officials say a portion of Crisanto approaching Rengstorff Avenue must be clear of vehicles through Sept. 30 in order to carry out the work.
Crisanto Avenue for years been lined with unhoused residents living in a mix of cars, vans and RVs parked along the full length of the roadway, and emblematic of the region's growing homelessness problem. Data from 2019 shows the number of unhoused residents living in vehicles more than doubled in Santa Clara County in just two years.
In direct response to the spike in inhabited vehicles, the City Council voted in 2019 to prohibit oversized vehicle parking on streets that are 40 feet wide or narrower. The ordinance is the subject of a legal battle and has yet to be enforced, which is why many vehicles have yet to vacate Crisanto Avenue.
Though the street has turned into a de facto neighborhood on wheels, the city must clear out a portion of the roadway for reasons unrelated to the narrow streets ordinance, according to Lenka Wright, Mountain View's public information officer. Trucks are going to be hauling debris and construction materials along Crisanto over the next several months, and there needs to be adequate room to handle truck traffic. At the same time, PG&E is working to cap off natural gas lines to the existing pool building before demolition can begin.
The city left notices on vehicles on April 29 and again on May 13, making clear that they had to relocate by May 15. Though they were given more than two weeks to move, it still felt like a short turnaround for those who had lived there for as long as six years, said resident Janet Werkman.
"It was very disruptive (for them) to have to move so suddenly," Werkman said in an email. "We tried to direct them to other streets wider than 40 feet without parking restrictions, but some of them met with hostility from neighbors."
In interviews with Telemundo aired earlier this month, vehicle residents said they didn't know where to relocate during construction, while others said they couldn't move their RVs. In some cases, vehicles used for habitation are in disrepair and inoperable, or are rented out and cannot be moved by the tenants.
As of the May 15 deadline, most were able to get out of the way. Of the roughly 20 vehicles parked in the area, all but one had moved as of May 18, Wright said.
Last year, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley filed a lawsuit against Mountain View claiming that the city's far-reaching oversized vehicle parking ban was illegal, violating the rights of the unhoused who had taken refuge in RVs parked on public roadways. Both parties agreed on a stay of litigation until July 4, which, under court order, requires that the city will not enforce the parking restrictions until then.
What took place on Crisanto this month, however, is enforcement of an entirely different section of the municipal code related to emergency parking restrictions due to construction. And while outside groups informed vehicle residents they didn't have to move until July 5, the city made no assurances to those on Crisanto Avenue or elsewhere.
The Law Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.
Expansion of RV parking ban
On Tuesday, May 24, the Mountain View City Council will consider voting to expand the scope of the oversized vehicle parking ban to include more streets, after city staff discovered that the original ordinance failed to account for all narrow streets across Mountain View.
If approved, 37 additional street segments would be added to the vast network of roadways on which RVs and other large vehicles can not be parked during any hours of the day. The most notable addition is Continental Circle, which has long been a hub for RV inhabitants to park alongside State Route 85.
City officials say the contractor hired to measure the roads used a mobile laser scanner to report street widths accurately – down to 5 millimeters – to collect data on each of the streets, but that the process wasn't flawless. The survey was conducted in a short amount of time, streets change widths and, in the specific case of Continental, the contractor erred in measuring the distance from one curb to the other.
Walker Drive off of North Whisman Road was also previously measured within one inch of qualifying for the parking prohibitions, but is now believed to be included.
Though less extensive and less controversial, the ordinance prohibiting oversized vehicle parking on streets with bike lanes is also up for revision, with additional street segments adjacent to Class II bike lanes getting added to the list. That includes Montecito Avenue as it approaches Shoreline Boulevard, parts of Calderon Avenue and the short dead-end Macon Avenue off of La Avenida Street.
The package of changes to Mountain View's parking rules is a mixed bag, however, with a fresh new proposal to remove overnight vehicle restrictions on numerous streets – mostly in industrial areas – that could end up accommodating RV residents.
City officials say that restrictions banning parking from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. are, for the most part, no longer serving a purpose in addressing traffic safety. In cases where streets are narrow, the new oversized vehicle parking bans are doing a better job at keeping roadway users safe. For streets wider than 40 feet, other mitigations can be put in place to maintain sight-line visibility.
The idea didn't go over well for property owners on the streets with overnight vehicle restrictions. Of the 57 people asked for feedback, 48 were opposed or raised serious concerns about the proposal. Many worried about long-term inhabited vehicles and all the problems they could potentially bring, including garbage, sewage, property damage, criminal activity and the potential to scare off future tenants. Despite the icy reception, the city is still recommending removal of the signs.
"While staff is cognizant that overnight parking on city streets can present challenges and concerns for some property owners fronting these streets, none of the concerns raised in the outreach differentiated those streets from other streets in the city wider than 40 feet where overnight parking is allowed," according to the staff report.
The city's suggested approach, which the council will consider, involves lifting the overnight parking ban in mostly industrial areas of the city, and that the restrictions will remain in place in residential areas and locations that are considered sensitive ecological or habitat areas. That means residential parts of Cuesta Drive, Pamela Drive, View Street, Wyandotte Street and San Antonio Circle will keep their overnight restrictions, as well as the habitat-facing Terminal Boulevard near the San Francisco Bay.
It's unclear how the proposed changes would affect the ongoing lawsuit between the Law Foundation and the city. In the past, the city's legal defense has argued those living in vehicles still have plenty of places to park in the city even with the full rollout of the narrow streets and bike lane ordinances, and that the only risk they face is losing a preferred parking spot.