New data released by the city last month shows where RV dwellers are concentrated since the city began enforcing its oversized vehicle rules last October, a change that impacted the vehicle dwelling community in big ways, practically overnight.
But the new rules didn’t come without warning. The pair of ordinances were originally passed in 2019, prohibiting oversized vehicles from parking on narrow streets and streets with bike lanes, but enforcement was delayed – first by a voter referendum, and then a federal lawsuit.
Once the suit was settled in August last year, Mountain View announced that it would begin enforcing the rules on October 1. Per the settlement, the city is required to offer at least three miles of public roadway where RVs are allowed to park, and distribute maps to all RV residents showing where they can legally go.
Even so, many people living in RVs had to uproot and find a new place to park when the rules came into effect. Oversized vehicles were now prohibited from parking on streets like Crisanto Avenue and Continental Circle. Once lined bumper-to-bumper with RVs, these hotspots were suddenly abandoned.
City data shows that since the new rules came into effect, the overall number of inhabited vehicles in Mountain View has dropped by about 30%. But even before the city began enforcing the ordinances in October, the concentration of vehicle dwellers in various parts of the city was already starting to shift.
Comparing a count taken in January 2022 and August 2022, Crisanto Avenue went from 62 inhabited vehicles to 48, and Continental Circle dropped from 33 to 26 – indicating that people were starting to leave these areas even before they were required to.
Last month, the city released a third count taken in January 2023, offering insight into where people are parking with enforcement in full swing. According to the data, there are now zero inhabited vehicles parked on Crisanto and Continental.
Meanwhile, other parts of the city have seen a notable increase. The Leghorn Street area had just eight inhabited vehicles parked in January 2022, but 29 vehicles a year later. Casey Avenue went from hosting 12 vehicles to 23. And Ortega Avenue went from having practically zero inhabited vehicles last year, to seven this year.
Overall, the number of inhabited vehicles dropped significantly in the city, from 216 in January 2022, to 151 in January 2023. Click between the maps to see how RV locations in the city have shifted.
Where are the RVs going?
Days after enforcement began in October, residents living in vehicles told the Voice that the rules made them feel uncertain about the future. The day the city began imposing the RV rules, it also resumed enforcing parking rules that were relaxed during the pandemic, like the citywide 72-hour parking limit – meaning people living in RVs must move their homes every three days.
“We’ve been trying to find places to move and there wasn’t enough places for everybody,” RV resident Melissa Barbosa told the Voice at the time. “I drove around the few spots that were on that map, and there’s not very many.”
Dave Arnone, an advocate for the unhoused community who delivers meals to RV residents every week, believes there’s a combination of reasons why the number of inhabited vehicles is shrinking.
“I know of one man, an immigrant, who lived on Crisanto for a long time in an inoperable vehicle,” Arnone said. “When things came down on Crisanto, he couldn’t take the vehicle with him, and he is now going back and forth between living in the Sunnyvale shelter and living under a bridge.”
But the number of RVs on Mountain View streets is also going down because people are getting housed, Arnone said. He talked about one family who used to live in an RV in the Gemini Street area. They have since moved out of the county to be closer to family, and are living in an apartment, he said.
“I’ve probably seen more people get housed in the last few months than I’ve ever seen,” Arnone said.
City officials agree that there’s “no one reason for the decline in inhabited vehicles in Mountain View, like there is not one solution to homelessness,” Chief Communications Officer Lenka Wright said in a May 16 statement.
“The city will continue to strive for homelessness solutions and engage deeply with our partners that do this impactful work directly with individuals experiencing homelessness or unstable housing situations,” Wright added.