East Palo Alto approves safe RV parking pilot program

City leaders in East Palo Alto voted unanimously to approve a controversial pilot program that will house and support RV residents on city-owned property. The vacant lot sits on 1798 Bay Road. It is a first for Silicon Valley. 

"It's better than paying rent because rent is ridiculous right now," said Nick Rodriguez who lives in a RV.

"Anywhere in the Bay Area, you're not going to find anything less than $1,200 for a one bedroom if you are lucky."

Nick Rodriguez is among dozens of people living in RVs along Bay Road and Tara Street in East Palo Alto. He along with many others were evicted last November on Weeks Street after the city had to clean the area of hazardous waste clogging storm drains.

The city is now tackling the RV crisis with a first-of-its-kind "RV Safe Parking" one-year pilot program allowing up to 20 vehicles to park overnight and providing support services on city-owned land on Bay Road. Priority is given to seniors and veterans.

Paul Bains is with Project WeHope that will manage the program.

"This is a growing problem," said Pastor Bains. "We are trying to get a head of the problem of a systemic issue that's facing all communities particularly this region."

It's a short-term solution to the RV crisis but not everyone is on board. Many nearby residents and businesses are against it.
"I don't want it in my backyard. Period," said Lee Clemons of Lee's Backhoe Service. "Would you want it in your backyard or in your front yard?"

Clemons has owned Lee's Backhoe Service for more than 50 years. His property sits right next door to the proposed site. Among his concerns include land depreciation,
crime and blight.

"I don't want garbage out here," said Clemons. "If people start moving on here and bring  in garbage, have you been on Bay Road? You see the garbage they have out there,
the same thing will happen here."

City leaders said the RV residents will be screened and the area will have security guards. The ultimate goal is to move the RV dwellers off the streets and into transitional housing.

"This may not be best overall solution but it's better that anyone has offered out there," said Pastor Bains. 

The estimated cost is $300,000. The city will fund two thirds of it. Project WeHope will be raising the rest from donations. The hope is to have the program up and running by November.