News

‘Police isn’t the way you deal with this’: Mountain View residents express frustration over city’s RV response

An RV parked on Ortega Avenue in Mountain View on Oct. 6, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

When the city of Mountain View began enforcing its oversized vehicle rules at the beginning of October, “RVs started to appear on the street, and there were questions,” said Ortega Avenue homeowner Yakov Shkolnikov. But he and other residents say they still haven’t gotten adequate answers.

Ortega Avenue is one of the few streets in Mountain View where oversized vehicles are now legally allowed to park, though only for 72 hours at a time, per an agreement reached between the city of Mountain View and people living in their RVs. But according to Shkolnikov, “there was no announcement whatsoever that this was happening.”

“The city didn’t actually tell anybody that RVs are going to start parking on Ortega, or that it was part of the settlement,” he said.

After the city first passed its Narrow Streets and Bike Lane ordinances in 2019, which banned RVs from parking on any streets less than 40 feet wide or with a bike lane – the majority of streets in the city – the controversial decision ended up on the 2020 ballot as a referendum. Voters again affirmed the city’s decision, with 57% voting in support of the ban.

In response, RV dwellers took up a class action lawsuit against the city, stalling enforcement of the rules again until they reached a settlement earlier this year. The agreement guaranteed at least three miles of streets that RVs could park on in the city, and when enforcement began on Oct. 1, many RV dwellers were suddenly scrambling to find a new, legal place to park their homes. RV residents the Voice spoke to at the time said the new rules added a layer of stress and confusion to an already unstable living situation.

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Ortega is one of those streets where vehicles are allowed, and now residents like Shkolnikov are dealing with sewage left in bottles, noisy electrical generators and people cooking on the sidewalk, he said. But Shkolnikov and his neighbors don’t blame the RV dwellers.

“The anger I think is not against the residents of the RVs, and really the anger isn’t necessarily that RVs are parking on the street,” he said. “I think the anger is at the city for not notifying anybody, for not having any plan still, and just playing this game of saying, ‘Just call the police.’”

Mayor Lucas Ramirez told the Voice in an interview that if the city could go back in time, there are things that should have been done differently.

“If the council were still going to pursue the Narrow Streets Ordinance and if the community still were to vote on it, we would have measured the streets and made public this information prior to implementing these ordinances,” he said. “I think that would have given clarity to the public about where the RVs would ultimately end up.”

But Shkolnikov said he doesn’t mind his new neighbors – rather, he takes issue with what he sees as a lack of planning to ensure RV residents have the resources they need so they can live harmoniously with existing residents. Shkolnikov and his neighbors organized a virtual community meeting on Nov. 2, and invited both RV and home-owning residents to talk about their concerns with city officials.

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“Our request was actually quite simple: it was, what is the plan for the city?” Shkolnikov said. “We explicitly said, we actually don’t have a problem with the new residents, and I think that’s shared across the whole community. The question was, how are they going to get services such that they can actually survive and also not be a burden on the community?”

Many Ortega residents found the city’s response insufficient. Shkolnikov said the solutions offered during the meeting were to call the police when a vehicle has exceeded the 72-hour limit or request a bike lane so that RVs can no longer park there.

“We don’t want people to move every 72 hours,” Shkolnikov said. “We want good neighbors, and we don’t want rotating people because they’re getting pushed out by the 72 hour parking.”

Ortega residents like Shkolnikov want RV residents to have resources to help mitigate the negative impacts on surrounding residents.

“Put a place for people to go to the bathroom, so they don’t have to use bottles on the street,” Shkolnikov suggested. “Do a weekly trash pickup from that location so that RVs can put trash there. Provide them the ability to connect to electricity so they don’t have to run the generators.”

Since the Nov. 2 meeting between Ortega residents and city officials, Shkolnikov said he hasn’t heard any updates from the city on a plan to provide these types of resources on Ortega Avenue.

City Chief Communications Officer Lenka Wright said community service officers “continue to conduct outreach to individuals living in vehicles to help encourage compliance not just on Ortega Avenue but throughout the city.”

Ramirez said he’s heard from both people who are concerned about having RV parking capacity on their streets, and those who are concerned about the increase in enforcement.

“What I’ve shared with each group is, there are people in the community who have the exact opposite opinion that you have, and council is struggling mightily to try and balance these polarizing and opposite opinions,” he said.

Ramirez added that the city is working to find “a long-term solution to this challenge.”

“People should have a better, safer, more stable environment to live in than a vehicle on public right of way,” he said. “... Many people who are living in RVs on the street are doing so because right now, they don’t really have a viable alternative.”

But in the meantime, Shkolnikov said he’s not satisfied with the solutions the city has offered for residents.

“What do we do if we don’t want to call the police if there’s an issue with an RV?” he said. “Because during the meeting, that’s the phone number that was given to us. … I think that’s a lot of people’s concerns: they don’t want to call the police on RV residents because police isn’t the way you deal with this."

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Malea Martin
Malea Martin covers the city hall beat in Mountain View. Before joining the Mountain View Voice in 2022, she covered local politics and education for New Times San Luis Obispo, a weekly newspaper on the Central Coast of California. Read more >>

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‘Police isn’t the way you deal with this’: Mountain View residents express frustration over city’s RV response

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Nov 21, 2022, 11:58 am

When the city of Mountain View began enforcing its oversized vehicle rules at the beginning of October, “RVs started to appear on the street, and there were questions,” said Ortega Avenue homeowner Yakov Shkolnikov. But he and other residents say they still haven’t gotten adequate answers.

Ortega Avenue is one of the few streets in Mountain View where oversized vehicles are now legally allowed to park, though only for 72 hours at a time, per an agreement reached between the city of Mountain View and people living in their RVs. But according to Shkolnikov, “there was no announcement whatsoever that this was happening.”

“The city didn’t actually tell anybody that RVs are going to start parking on Ortega, or that it was part of the settlement,” he said.

After the city first passed its Narrow Streets and Bike Lane ordinances in 2019, which banned RVs from parking on any streets less than 40 feet wide or with a bike lane – the majority of streets in the city – the controversial decision ended up on the 2020 ballot as a referendum. Voters again affirmed the city’s decision, with 57% voting in support of the ban.

In response, RV dwellers took up a class action lawsuit against the city, stalling enforcement of the rules again until they reached a settlement earlier this year. The agreement guaranteed at least three miles of streets that RVs could park on in the city, and when enforcement began on Oct. 1, many RV dwellers were suddenly scrambling to find a new, legal place to park their homes. RV residents the Voice spoke to at the time said the new rules added a layer of stress and confusion to an already unstable living situation.

Ortega is one of those streets where vehicles are allowed, and now residents like Shkolnikov are dealing with sewage left in bottles, noisy electrical generators and people cooking on the sidewalk, he said. But Shkolnikov and his neighbors don’t blame the RV dwellers.

“The anger I think is not against the residents of the RVs, and really the anger isn’t necessarily that RVs are parking on the street,” he said. “I think the anger is at the city for not notifying anybody, for not having any plan still, and just playing this game of saying, ‘Just call the police.’”

Mayor Lucas Ramirez told the Voice in an interview that if the city could go back in time, there are things that should have been done differently.

“If the council were still going to pursue the Narrow Streets Ordinance and if the community still were to vote on it, we would have measured the streets and made public this information prior to implementing these ordinances,” he said. “I think that would have given clarity to the public about where the RVs would ultimately end up.”

But Shkolnikov said he doesn’t mind his new neighbors – rather, he takes issue with what he sees as a lack of planning to ensure RV residents have the resources they need so they can live harmoniously with existing residents. Shkolnikov and his neighbors organized a virtual community meeting on Nov. 2, and invited both RV and home-owning residents to talk about their concerns with city officials.

“Our request was actually quite simple: it was, what is the plan for the city?” Shkolnikov said. “We explicitly said, we actually don’t have a problem with the new residents, and I think that’s shared across the whole community. The question was, how are they going to get services such that they can actually survive and also not be a burden on the community?”

Many Ortega residents found the city’s response insufficient. Shkolnikov said the solutions offered during the meeting were to call the police when a vehicle has exceeded the 72-hour limit or request a bike lane so that RVs can no longer park there.

“We don’t want people to move every 72 hours,” Shkolnikov said. “We want good neighbors, and we don’t want rotating people because they’re getting pushed out by the 72 hour parking.”

Ortega residents like Shkolnikov want RV residents to have resources to help mitigate the negative impacts on surrounding residents.

“Put a place for people to go to the bathroom, so they don’t have to use bottles on the street,” Shkolnikov suggested. “Do a weekly trash pickup from that location so that RVs can put trash there. Provide them the ability to connect to electricity so they don’t have to run the generators.”

Since the Nov. 2 meeting between Ortega residents and city officials, Shkolnikov said he hasn’t heard any updates from the city on a plan to provide these types of resources on Ortega Avenue.

City Chief Communications Officer Lenka Wright said community service officers “continue to conduct outreach to individuals living in vehicles to help encourage compliance not just on Ortega Avenue but throughout the city.”

Ramirez said he’s heard from both people who are concerned about having RV parking capacity on their streets, and those who are concerned about the increase in enforcement.

“What I’ve shared with each group is, there are people in the community who have the exact opposite opinion that you have, and council is struggling mightily to try and balance these polarizing and opposite opinions,” he said.

Ramirez added that the city is working to find “a long-term solution to this challenge.”

“People should have a better, safer, more stable environment to live in than a vehicle on public right of way,” he said. “... Many people who are living in RVs on the street are doing so because right now, they don’t really have a viable alternative.”

But in the meantime, Shkolnikov said he’s not satisfied with the solutions the city has offered for residents.

“What do we do if we don’t want to call the police if there’s an issue with an RV?” he said. “Because during the meeting, that’s the phone number that was given to us. … I think that’s a lot of people’s concerns: they don’t want to call the police on RV residents because police isn’t the way you deal with this."

Comments

SalsaMusic
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:22 pm
SalsaMusic, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:22 pm

Mr Shkolnikov wants streets my taxes funded for parking and driving to become residential plots of land. Next he’ll want to have them reside in our parks. Giving public land away to squatters is a slippery slope. America has a strong history of property rights. If you don’t own it, you can only use it how the property owner says you can use it.


SalsaMusic
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:23 pm
SalsaMusic, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:23 pm

Also, a blatantly one-sided view of the situation. Poor balanced reporting by this reporter. Surely there is a Mountain View resident who does not want this on Ortega.


Otto Maddox
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:30 pm
Otto Maddox, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:30 pm

If this group of residents wants to supply toilets and trash disposal they are free to set it up and fund it.

Not sure where these toilets would go.. maybe in one of their yards?

To me living in an RV means living =IN= the RV. Your human waste stays in the tanks. You don't chain a generator to the bumper and run it on the street. You don't set up a BBQ on the sidewalk and cook dinner. You take your trash with you when you move every 72 hours.

I saw the mess left behind on Crisanto. No thanks.


JustAWorkingStiff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:40 pm
JustAWorkingStiff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:40 pm

1. 57% of MV residents voted for the Oversized vehicle ordinance in city wide vote
2. Safe Parking offers parking, garbage, sewage, social services
a) This offer was communicated *years* in advance, and it you don't
comply, then the LE option kicks in.
b) Let's be clear: You need a clear budget for these things. You can't just
have unlimited resources for to anybody that shows up. MV has done more
than most cities.
3. I have very little trust in the competence of our Activist-owned city government leadership.
a) Zero announcements to the people on Ortega street.
b) Yet we spend hundreds of thousands of $$ on street signs
c) But why do the people on Ortega Street (and other streets) have to bear
the burden for the entire city *without their consent*
d) One-sided reporting; the reporter should have interviewed somebody
on Ortega street who objects
4. Back to the lack of competence of our Activist City Government
a) If they wanted to really help, the would have made a solid proposal
for 2000 RVs in the city, and clearly state how much it would cost to support
said 2000 RVs: Water, Sewage, Garbage, Power, social services. And clearly communicate how much each family in MV would have to spend. So each family can make a decision: A new backpack for my kid, or spend that Tax money on RVs.

Instead it was a free for all: Unlimited amount of RVs, from Anywhere, to Park Anywhere with no consideration for support services or communicating how much this will cost families so they can make an overt decision. And no consent from the people who live on the streets that the RVs would take over. This is sloppy governance.


Waldo
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:45 pm
Waldo, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:45 pm

But according to Shkolnikov, “there was no announcement whatsoever that this was happening.” Oh contraire...
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link (Ortega is shown on this May 2022 map as NOT a narrow street).


MV neighbor
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2022 at 3:58 pm
MV neighbor, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 3:58 pm

I am really taken aback at how one-sided this story is..as several others have commented, surely there are residents on this street who are not happy with RV’s permanently parked in front of their houses, with generators running all the time. The suggestions the man interviewed offered reminded me of how the then city council approached the issue back in 2017, make ok to park your RV permanently on a public road..have someone clean the waste tanks, collect the garbage and things like drive-by showers and laundry facilities. That coupled with the directive of the then council to stop enforcement of the 72 hour rule with respect to RVs led to an out of control situation and ultimately voter approval of the narrow streets measure. And that council never got around to setting up the safe parking lots, which was only done after they were replaced. Clearly, we need alternatives such as more safe parking lots but not measures to enable people to park permanently on city streets.


Concerned
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2022 at 4:01 pm
Concerned, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 4:01 pm

The city needs to enforce the laws and not just put the monkey on the backs of the residents to call infractions in. Many have buckets of sewage under their RV's, loud generators belching noxious fumes, no fire extinguisher, tax, insurance and are generally not roadworthy. Many have chosen not to get on the Safe Parking list so why are they still here? Also several of the County Parks have RV hookups and hot showers and are empty during during the winter, while the county pushes Mountain View to do more. Since the elections are over has the city backed off enforcement?


Nora S.
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Nov 21, 2022 at 4:11 pm
Nora S., Rex Manor
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 4:11 pm

Great article! I like how this highlights what the ordinance has done: far from eliminating homelessness in Mountain View, it has squeezed all of the city's RVs onto a few streets, thus concentrating them into a small area and turning it from a shared responsibility to one borne by just a few residents. This seems rather regressive and selfish. I share Shkolnikov's frustration with the city, which has failed to provide solutions.


Free Speech
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Nov 21, 2022 at 4:15 pm
Free Speech, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 4:15 pm

Once again, this city council and their staff have failed to take the appropriate steps to end this longstanding nuisance. Let's be honest and stop all this virtue signalling. No-one who owns their house or pays rent wants an RV parked outside their home on a semi-permanent basis. Yes, we would all like to live without paying rent or utility bills but if you want to be paid Bay Area salaries, you have to pay Bay Area cost of living too.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Nov 21, 2022 at 5:28 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 5:28 pm

While the complete list of affected and excluded streets was not known when Council initially passed the Narrow Streets ordinance -shame on them for voting for a fill-in-the-blanks ordinance-, it was known by the time of the election in 2020.
Ballpark cost of signage ($1M+) was also known by then. Council deserves some blame for not clearly communicating before the election.
That said, the lawsuit and the settlement didn't change the fact that Ortega was never a Narrow Street. List of narrow streets have been published for a while, signs up for over a year. Not sure how people could be surprised to see oversized vehicles move to Ortega when enforcement resumed after a 2 years pandemic/lawsuit delay.


MyOpinion
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:15 pm
MyOpinion, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:15 pm

The City Council does not care, 3 incumbents were swept into their 2nd term, due to the apathy of Mountain View Voters, we COULD have had at least ONE new council member, granted a newbie, but at least someone not part of the 'system'. Hicks did not even vote for Measure C, she is like a broken record talking about Safe Parking, we HAVE safe parking, clearly not enough to house EVERY homeless person in the SF Bay area but significantly more than other surrounding cities. If an RV 'dweller' refuses to apply for safe parking due to ANY reason, they should be moved on and the streets of Mountain View should be designated for residents whether they own or rent. At least one venture-backed startup has LEFT Mountain View, as their employees do not feel safe working late hours running the gauntlet of decrepit RV's out side their office. The city has washed their hands of this, any code enforcement is left up to the residents to NOTIFY the city, the City should be proactively patrolling these streets on a DAILY basis, not leaving it up to residents, we ALREADY pay taxes for these services, now we have to provide that service too? I have had it with Mountain View, meanwhile, Lenny Siegel who lives on a lovely OMV RV-free street started this, his silence is deafening.


Seth Neumann
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:44 pm
Seth Neumann, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:44 pm

this is clearly costing the tax paying home owners and (thru their rent as a pass along) renters. Has the city done anything to try to recover the costs of cleaning up after these RVs by going after the owners? I understand that many of them are rented out by "entrepreneurs."


MyOpinion
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:44 pm
MyOpinion, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:44 pm

I attended the meeting about Ortega, people DO NOT want RV's parked in front of their residences, To support unregulated street camping with no fresh water, no power, and no way to process human waste in the name of compassion is disingenuous.


concerned
Registered user
The Crossings
on Nov 22, 2022 at 12:08 am
concerned, The Crossings
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2022 at 12:08 am

Do not want RVs on Ortega to have the safety of kids


Scott
Registered user
Cuernavaca
on Nov 22, 2022 at 4:43 am
Scott, Cuernavaca
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2022 at 4:43 am

I’m disappointed in the imbalance that MV Voice has covered this issue throughout the years. This article is especially bias. I want to support local news with the subscription fee but not if the coverage continues like this.


ivg
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:22 am
ivg, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:22 am

The people who told us 2 years ago how great the "narrow streets" ordinance was have finally realized that it's not a solution.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:54 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:54 am

@ivg, agree. Yet many commenters seem to direct their ire towards the council members who were against that ordinance. Go figure.


Homeless RV Dweller
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 24, 2022 at 11:35 am
Homeless RV Dweller, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 24, 2022 at 11:35 am

Providing the RV is operational, there are other neighborhoods in MV where one can park their RV. Just don't stay there all day and night as it will eventually attract attention.

The Cuesta Park neighborhood and the Grant Road Shopping Center provide excellent venues for itinerant RVs and the residents tend to look the other way providing there are no public disturbances.

I park in the neighborhood at night and move my RV by 6am to the shopping center. No problems.


Marc Jensen
Registered user
Whisman Station
on Nov 25, 2022 at 1:49 pm
Marc Jensen, Whisman Station
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Some RV people park in the neighborhood and keep a low profile.

As long as they park in front of someone else's house we have no problem with their presence.

Not everyone can afford to rent or own a home.


Richard
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2022 at 3:54 pm
Richard, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 25, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Yes, as one lawyer friend protested, "this current law is an extremely blunt instrument!" Poorly designed and poorly implemented, meant to solve one problem, it actually produces many more, as evidenced by this article and the ensuing discussion.

This is a very serious problem, as many towns and cities face the growing challenge of homelessness. This is a societal/systemic problem, and the only way to really address it is to begin to have a serious societal conversation. E.g why is this happening, and how do we address the root problems that are the cause?

How about initiating this conversation in our High Schools as a real-world current challenge as an experimental first step, perhaps in a Government class?


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