As I've written before, very few of Mountain View's motor home dwellers are chronic homeless, with mental health and substance abuse problems. The chronic homeless also deserve help, but we need to recognize that Mountain View's vehicle residents are here for the same reasons as the rest of us: jobs, school, family and weather. A majority are employed and/or go to school; others are retired. Many built our community, paying property taxes directly or indirectly until high rents drove them onto the streets.
The current version of the proposed ban, the "narrow streets" ordinance, would outlaw oversized vehicle parking, with narrow exceptions, in most of Mountain View. But on Sept. 24 the council majority approved the restrictions without knowing exactly which streets would be restricted. They don't know if motor homes will end up massing on other Mountain View streets. In fact, the proponents of the ban rewrote their motion the following week, in a highly irregular modification of council minutes, in conflict with the official recording of the Sept. 24 meeting. They hadn't realized what they were voting on.
Regardless of the footprint of the enacted ban, I believe this policy is intolerant. While site-specific restrictions — near driveways, for example — are necessary for traffic safety, a generic ban will be inhumane and unconstitutional if there's no place for people to go. While Mountain View's safe parking initiative is well-intentioned, it would provide only a fraction of the spaces needed — only 36 motor home spaces next summer. Indeed, by requiring every vehicle to leave by 9 a.m. every day, and by denying electrical service, it is designed to fail.
The real question is what kind of community do we want Mountain View to be. As far back as I can remember, Mountain View has treasured our diversity, not just cultural and ethnic, but socio-economic. I have heard many people say that they moved here so their children could grow up with kids from other backgrounds.
I don't have much hope that the pro-gentrification majority on the council will have second thoughts on Tuesday, but there is an alternative. Ordinances don't take legal effect for 30 days, and voters will have the opportunity to block implementation and place the ban on a 2020 ballot by collecting signatures of 10% of the city's voters on referendum petitions within those 30 days. The Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition, at mvhousingjustice.org, is making plans to circulate petitions immediately after final passage by the council.
Let's work together to help vehicle residents get off the streets without driving them out of town.
Lenny Siegel is a former Mountain View mayor and City Council member.
This story contains 597 words.
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