Mountain View declares shelter crisis, while also working to craft RV restrictions

Protestors gathered outside Mountain View City Hall Tuesday night as city leaders voted unanimously to declare a citywide shelter crisis, while also passing a motion to draft language to place restrictions on RV dwellers, telling them where they can park.

In a motion that passed 5-2, city staff will now draft an "Oversized Vehicle Parking" and "Prohibition Ordinance," draft a "Safe Parking Ordinance," streamlining the temporary use permit for churches and city-owned lots and add short-term rental assistance program review of guidelines to change qualifications.

Ahead of the vote, there was a rallying cry from RV dwellers and their supporters to city leaders, "Don't kick us out!" 

Among the protestors was Scott Rodvold, a disabled father who said a combination of his health, a divorce and financial hardship drove him and his 12-year-old son to live in a motorhome. 

“I had no choice,” said Rodvold. “It was either to live in my van or live in a park or live in the streets just right over here.”

At issue, the high cost of housing driving more people to live in vehicles on city streets.

According to Mountain View officials, as of December 2018, the city counted 290 inhabited vehicles of which 192 were RVs.  

In 2017, the city identified 291 vehicles, only 58 RVs.

Many RVs are concentrated near big parks with open space and access to restrooms. At Eagle Park, moving vans and RVs line Shoreline Boulevard. 

“We tried to create some off street parking, some safe parking, there's a little bit of that but not nearly enough for the hundreds of vehicles that are on our streets because the rents are too high,” said Former Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel.

Siegel supports the RV dwellers and said they have a right to be here. He discourages the council from clamping down.

“My hope is that they'll restrict themselves from only limiting parking by vehicle households where there's a problem,” said Siegel. 

Right now, people are allowed to park on the street for up to 72 hours after which they must relocate to a new spot at least 500 feet away.

Police issued 429 citations for 72-hour violations from July to December of last year. That number more than doubled from six months prior.

“There are the safety concerns, there are the sewage concerns, there's the look of the situation concerns,” said Homeowner Cary Smith of Mountain View. 

Smith lives by Eagle Park. He brings up quality of life concerns with compassion. He doesn't see RV dwellers as a problem but a symptom of the housing crisis caused by tech salaries and inflation.

“Our neighborhood is one of many throughout the county, throughout San Mateo County, throughout the state, it's a huge problem,” said Smith.