The Mountain View City Council is poised to extend the city’s safe parking programs for another year at its upcoming meeting, but questions loom about the long term viability of the program, given plans to develop two of the three existing sites into affordable housing.
The city’s three safe parking sites – Shoreline Lot B, Evelyn, and Terra Bella – give people experiencing homelessness and living out of their vehicles a place to safely park 24 hours a day, seven days a week. City staff recommends that the council take action to extend the program until June 30, 2023. The safe parking program lots have a capacity of up to 101 parking spaces, according to the staff report, and serve 130 to 150 individuals on average.
“The City has been instrumental in securing three lots for the provision of safe parking at Shoreline Amphitheatre Lot B, which is owned by the City but leased to Live Nation, during the concert season; Evelyn Avenue, which is leased from the Valley Transit Agency (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency); and Terra Bella Avenue, which is leased from Terra Bella II, LLC (an Alta Housing company),” the staff report states.
Mountain View Mayor Lucas Ramirez said while the council intends to extend these programs through June 2023, questions remain over what comes next.
The Evelyn Avenue safe parking site “will be redeveloped into affordable housing,... the intended use of that property,” Ramirez told the Voice ahead of the meeting. “So eventually we will have to find either a replacement lot or some other way of winding down safe parking there.”
Alta Housing, which owns the Terra Bella lot, also intends to eventually develop affordable housing, “so similarly, we will need to think about where the folks living there ultimately will go,” Ramirez added.
The mayor said there’s no intention of development for the Shoreline Amphitheatre lot, though the program there is contingent on the continued support of Live Nation, the entertainment company that owns the amphitheater.
During past discussions, council members have raised questions about if and how the parking program could be expanded.
According to the staff report, the city has exhausted the measures that “could be easily taken” to expand the program. But there are still some possibilities to consider, such as renegotiating contract terms with Live Nation for additional space at the Shoreline lot or considering a possible redesign of the Evelyn lot to increase capacity.
“If it is of interest to the Council, given the magnitude of staff and funding resources that would be required, a project to explore expansion of safe parking spaces could be considered as part of the next biannual Council work plan process, which will commence in February 2023,” the staff report states.
Despite the program’s success, there are still a number of individuals living out of vehicles parked on the street rather than in a safe parking lot. According to city counts taken in January 2022, there were 135 RVs, 18 passenger vehicles, and 63 other vehicles that showed signs of being lived in, for a total of 216 vehicles. Compared to previous counts, the proportion of “other” vehicles went up and “passenger” vehicles went down, “suggesting a rising trend in the use of such (other) vehicles (e.g. unhitched trailers, vans) for this purpose,” the January count report stated.
From 2017 to 2020, the count of vehicles in the public right-of-way ranged from 250 to 300 vehicles on average, with the highest count in July 2020 with 320 vehicles, city Chief Communications Officer Lenka Wright told the Voice.
"Overall, the trend for lived-in vehicles has remained fairly consistent although there has been a modest decrease in the number of vehicles," Wright said.