Parking lot solution for Mountain View's RV dwellers

The acute cost of Bay Area housing has led some people to live in RVs parked on the street. The lifestyle is more pronounced in Mountain View. City officials say upwards of 300 RVs are parked all over the city.

“I think anybody in the city can see that there is a growing homeless population here in the city of Mountain View,” said Brian Leong, a pastor at Lord’s Grace Christian Church.

Nowhere is this more evident than the 1900 block of Crisanto Avenue. Sandwiched between Rengstorff Park and Caltrain tracks, a line of RVs as far as the eye can see.

Five-year mobile home resident “Scotty” says he started out in a van, and upgraded to a 32-foot Bounder RV three years ago. The appeal? In-between the noisy passing trains every few minutes, he says he has all the creature comforts of a home but, freedom from exorbitant rents.

“I can leave right now if I don’t like something. I can just go start it up and go somewhere else,” he said.

The problem for many Mountain View residents is that the RVs don’t leave and are an eyesore to them, in an area where homes average $1.5 million.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor president Joe Simitian started working on a solution three years ago.

“Can we all partner with one another to do what we can? And by partnering with one another, get a little bit more done than any one of could do by ourselves,” said Simitian.

The meeting of minds has led to empty parking lots, like the one at Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church, which starting July 2 will house a handful of RVs. It’s called the  “Lots of Love Safe Parking Program.”

“They’ll get a designated space in a parking lot, from seven o’clock in the evening until seven o’clock in the morning. That permit will last for a month. And then every month they’ll meet with a case manager from the Community Services Agency,” said pastor Leong, who will oversee the program.

The long-term goal is to transition the roughly 600 RV residents into permanent housing.

“People need a place to go. You can’t just move them down the street. Then they’re just still on the street,” said Tom Myers, whose Community Services Agency will screen would-be applicants and then help them find permanent housing.

Two other churches in addition to Saint Timothy’s are poised to sign-on to the program. And other cities, such as San Jose, are looking at changing existing laws so they can take similar steps.

“If we think this is a successful project that we can make work, then we’re absolutely interested in expanding it,” said San Jose Housing Department director Jacky Morales-Ferrand.

Scotty says he’d be interested in pulling out of the so-called “garden block,” and into a safe spot that welcomes RV residents.

“Because I like living here in Mountain View. I do,” said Scotty.

All applicants are screened to see if they’ll be a fit and are interested in permanent housing. If the pilot goes well, they hope to grow it to about 20 RVs in three church lots by the end of the decade.