Mountain View is asking for a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit against its RV parking ban. The city argues that the restrictions on parking are not an attempt to expel low-income residents who live in cars along most streets, a report said.
Legal advocates filed a lawsuit last month alleging that the city’s parking ban, also known as the narrow streets ordinance, is designed to oust homeless people who have taken shelter in RVs and other oversized vehicles. The group’s lawyers called the parking bans unconstitutional, and morally wrong, claiming that they threaten the health and well-being of those who have been displaced due to the local housing crisis.
This controversial ordinance prohibits large vehicles from parking on streets less than 40 feet wide. It is responsible for 83% of all Mountain View streets. A similar ordinance that was in effect last year and affecting streets with bicycle lanes is also being challenged.
The city fired its opening salvo in the court battle last week, requesting the district court judge to dismiss all of the alleged violations. The defense attorneys argued that the parking ban doesn’t target low-income residents, but is solely focused on safety. They also argued that the city has done more to help those who live in vehicles because they lack stable housing.
“What the plaintiffs’ complaints make clear is that this litigation is intended to secure a right indefinitely locate their over-sized vehicles on their preferred roadways regardless of any dangers it may pose for other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists in their immediate vicinity,” attorney Margaret Prinzing stated in the motion.
The defense of the city argues that parking ordinances don’t limit parking in the way described in the lawsuit and that many vehicle dwellers live in vehicles and vans that are not subject to the prohibition. The defense also pointed out that 11% are more than 40 feet wide and don’t have bike lanes. This gives them 54 streets that would allow them to stay in Mountain View. The motion stated that the ordinances were fair and dispelled the notion that parking restrictions would have a greater impact on low-income residents.
“The ordinances cannot be said not to target low-income persons. According to court filings, they target “oversized vehicles”.
The city’s main argument is that the ordinances were passed for public safety. They are specifically designed to protect pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers on streets where large vehicles park on the sides of the road. The city denies that restrictions were passed to move homeless people off residential streets. Staff reports repeatedly cited safety concerns as the reason.
Staff reports do not include traffic safety data, but rather refer to complaints from the general public about reduced bicycle safety and crowded streets, as well as limited parking. General concerns regarding vehicle dwellers were also raised, including garbage, leaking sewerage, and noise from generators. The city was accused of not having properly assessed whether the large vehicles were a public safety concern. This claim was dismissed by the city as wrong and irrelevant.
Although the legal defense attempts to distance the RV parking restrictions from Mountain View’s growing homeless crisis, the events leading up to the ordinances show that they are closely intertwined. Officials from the city repeatedly described their homelessness response as a multi-pronged approach that included a boost in social service, safe parking spaces, and finally enforcing parking regulations to remove inhabited cars from troubled streets.
The city was arguably legislating on thin ice, with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sending a letter warning that such ordinances would be subject to legal challenge. The lawsuit was filed last month by both groups.
Although the defense of the city tries to separate the issue of traffic safety and homelessness, the motion shows that the city cares about the needs of those living in cars. It points to the city’s large safe parking program, homeless prevention, and rental assistance services, as well as upwards of $28 million invested by Mountain View in housing for those who are homeless or at imminent risk of losing their home.
Officials from the city have not yet provided a date for when the narrow streets ordinance would take effect. They also did not say whether the lawsuit changed the schedule. Enforcement of the ordinance hinges on the installation of thousands of “no parking” signs, at an estimated cost of $980,000. These signs will be installed first north of Central Expressway, and then west of Shoreline Boulevard. This area covers the Monta Loma neighborhood and Rex Manor, the report added.