After years of delays caused by a voter referendum, a lawsuit and a major undertaking to install thousands of signs, the city of Mountain View is finally set to enforce its RV parking restrictions starting Oct. 1.
The pair of ordinances, originally passed in 2019, prohibit oversized vehicles from parking on narrow streets and streets with bike lanes, but have yet to be enforced. Several plaintiffs, represented by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, challenged the parking rules in a federal lawsuit last year on grounds that they were unconstitutional.
Both ordinances, particularly the narrow streets ordinance, have been highly controversial, with critics noting that hundreds of homeless residents living in RVs could be exiled from the city under the restrictive rules. The city defines narrow streets as being 40 feet wide or less, a definition broad enough to include 470 of the city's 525 public streets.
Proponents say that public roadways are inappropriate places for the homeless to reside, and have resulted in public health hazards and reduced quality of life.
This week, the city announced that it has reached a tentative settlement agreement with plaintiffs on the case, paving the way for enforcement to begin next month. Over the course of September, city staff say they will be notifying people living in oversized vehicles about the tentative settlement and the need to steer clear of narrow streets and streets with bike lanes in order to avoid getting ticketed or towed.
Maps will also be distributed to people living in vehicles in order to help them find a lawful place to park oversized vehicles without running afoul of any of the city's parking ordinances. Maps are available on the city's website.
Along with ticketing RVs on restricted roads, the Mountain View Police Department will also be enforcing its 72-hour parking rules, which are effective citywide, according to a statement released Thursday, Sept. 1. Vehicles are considered in violation if they remain in place for three days straight without being moved. City officials say those who cannot move their vehicle will be connected with community-based organization that can assist with repairs and towing services.
Though the full details of the settlement have yet to be released, the city revealed in its statement that it is required to ensure at least 3 miles of public streets are still available for oversized vehicles to park over the next four years. These spaces will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and 72-hour rules still apply.
"We are happy with the tentative settlement and look forward to giving the community more information once we are able to," said Erin Neff of the Law Foundation in an email.
More options will be opening up for those residing in RVs. In May, the Mountain View City Council voted to ditch overnight parking restrictions on most streets where parking was prohibited between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., the majority of which are located in commercial and industrial areas.
City staff at the time found that overnight parking restrictions did not directly address traffic safety, and that traffic issues could be better resolved through red curbs and signs at specific problematic driveways and intersections. The updated ordinance lifting overnight restrictions went into effect on Aug. 30, and city staff began removing signs late last month.
The city has posted an FAQ with information on the RV parking ordinances, including the list of vehicles exempt from the rules. Large vehicles loading or unloading for residences or businesses, for example, can park for up to one hour on narrow streets, and transit buses can be parked for up to two hours.
The path to enforcement of the RV parking restrictions has been long. After the City Council voted to approve the rules in 2019, the narrow streets ordinance was immediately subject to a voter referendum and placed on the November 2020 ballot, where it succeeded with nearly 57% of the vote. Immediately after, city staff found it would take several months and nearly $1 million to fabricate and post more than 2,000 signs across the city to roll out the new law.
One month before sign installation was set to begin in August last year, the Law Foundation and other legal advocacy groups announced the lawsuit against Mountain View contesting both the narrow streets and bike lane ordinances. As both sides worked towards an agreement, the city voluntarily agreed multiple times to postpone enforcement.
In its statement Thursday, the city made clear that it did not abandon enforcement of its other parking rules, specifically laws prohibiting illegal dumping of waste or hazardous materials. The city held 19 clean-up days on streets with inhabited vehicles since September last year, hauling trash and cleaning up areas in public roadways.
"This is a challenging matter, as city staff may clean up a street or area in the public right of way one day and the same location may have trash again shortly thereafter," city officials said.
Anyone seeking to report a health and safety violation is asked to call the police department's main number at 650-903-6344.