After returning home from a long day of work on a recent evening, Edgar Lopez set up his folding chair outside his RV on Mountain View’s Crisanto Avenue and caught up with his wife and daughter making dinner in their new home.
Lopez, 57, who works construction in Palo Alto and has lived in Mountain View for nearly 30 years, said he bought the RV about three months ago when his rent rose so high he couldn’t afford it anymore.
“It’s bad, really, really bad,” Lopez said about the pricey Bay Area rental market. “We just couldn’t pay it anymore.”
Lopez and his family are among the hundreds of individuals living in RVs and campers on the streets of Mountain View who would inevitably be displaced if the city moves forward with a proposed ban of oversized vehicles on city streets.
On Tuesday, the council is set to consider banning oversized vehicles on streets 40 feet wide or less — the typical width of residential streets — and on streets with bicycle lanes starting in January. The proposed ordinance would effectively push RVs and campers away from residential areas and onto industrial and commercial streets, which are generally wider.
Earlier this summer, the council had been considering an overnight ban on oversized vehicles — those measuring more than 7 feet high, 7 feet wide and 22 feet in length — from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. every night on all city streets starting Jan. 1, 2020. But the latest staff report is recommending a total ban on most residential streets and streets with bike lanes.
“Residential streets typically do not have painted centerlines, which requires vehicles to cross over the center of the street when passing oversized vehicles in order to maintain a comfortable distance. This presents safety concerns when bicycles or other vehicles are traveling in the opposite direction,” the staff report states, acknowledging complaints by residents who say the RVS not only block bike lanes but create blind spots for other drivers.
Lopez’ daughter, Vilma, is a senior at Mountain View High School. If the council enacts the proposed ban in residential areas and the family is forced to move farther away, Lopez said he’s worried about how Vilma will get to school each day.
But beyond his own family, Lopez is concerned about how the ban will affect the other individuals and families who are living in the two dozen vehicles parked on Crisanto Avenue.
Under the city’s current regulations, RV and campers must be moved every three days. In order to comply with the rule, Lopez not only moves his own RV but helps at least five others on the block move their vehicles as well.
“Many of them don’t have their license and don’t know how to drive,” Lopez explained. “For those people, some of them with five kids, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I won’t be able to help them anymore.”
Lopez, like most of those living in RVs and campers, said he doesn’t understand why the city council is considering the ban.
“We’ve got the train on one side and the park on the other,” he said. “We don’t make any noise, and we don’t bother people.”
In recent weeks, opponents of the city’s proposed overnight ban of oversized vehicles have stepped up their fight.
In a letter sent to the city on Sept. 5, attorneys with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the American Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights Advocates said an overnight ban would have the same effect as a total ban, and threatened legal action.
“The message the proposed overnight parking ban would send is one of exclusion,” they wrote in the letter. “It would pronounce that Mountain View is not open to all – it is only open to the wealthy. It would force people to leave Mountain View, the place these residents rightfully call home and where their families, churches, schools, and workplaces are.”
It is unclear, however, the ACLU will respond to the new proposal.
The city council and staff members discussed the letter in behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny before a council meeting on Sept. 17. Since the council did not acknowledge the letter publicly after the closed-door session, it is unclear if the letter led city staff to change the proposed ordinance.
Mountain View Mayor Lisa Matichak, who has been outspoken in her her support for a complete ban as opposed to an overnight ban, could not immediately be reached Friday about the city staff’s latest proposal.
The city is also establishing a safe parking program, to accommodate some of the residents who will inevitably be displaced.
Most safe parking programs launched in recent years across the Bay Area provide residents with access to restrooms, portable showers or laundry services and connect them with caseworkers to help them secure permanent housing.
The city plans to offer about 80 parking spaces to vehicle dwellers by the end of the year, but half of those are on temporary lots that will close by March 2020.
With more than 200 Mountain View residents living in RVs, many will not have the opportunity to take part in the program.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the city council is also expected to make some more concrete decisions on how it’s safe parking program will be run.
Residents can send feedback in advance of Tuesday’s meeting for staff and council review through written statements to the City Clerk at P.O. Box 7540, Mountain View, CA 94039-7540 or email City.Council@mountainview.gov