ACLU, Regulation Basis of Silicon Valley sue Mountain View over “unconstitutional and inhumane” RV ban

Calling Mountain View’s RV and oversized vehicle parking ban “unconstitutional” and “inhuman”, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the city on Wednesday just days before the first “no parking” signs were posted across much of the city .

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is filed by six plaintiffs on behalf of all people living in RVs and other oversized vehicles in the city. The plaintiffs are part of a growing group of people in places like Pacifica, Palo Alto, and Berkeley who have chosen to live in roadside RVs, many of which are outside of their familiar home, amid an affordability crisis.

On Wednesday, nearly three dozen people gathered outside Mountain View City Hall – many of them held signs with messages like “Housing is a human right” and “End the ban” – to protest the city’s motorhome ban and support the lawsuit, which also argues that the ban “disproportionately affects people with disabilities,” which is in violation of federal and state law.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – JULY 8: Recreational vehicles are parked along Gemini Avenue in Mountain View, California on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Mountain View residents recently voted to ban RVs and oversized vehicles from on-street parking in most parts of the city. (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group)

In addition to the Northern California ACLU, plaintiffs in the Mountain View case are represented by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Disability Rights Advocates, and pro bono partners King and Spalding.

Speaking to the crowd and the press, Michael Trujillo, a personnel attorney for the Silicon Valley Law Foundation, said on Wednesday that RVs offer stability and protection to people and families who would otherwise be homeless or displaced from their community.

“Silicon Valley is the highest income region in the world,” said Trujillo. “Still, income inequality and the worsening housing crisis have pushed Mountain View residents to find alternative ways to find shelter. Everyone should have the opportunity to live in their own community and feel safe, regardless of their income level. “

Over the past decade, more and more people have chosen to live in mobile homes on the city streets instead of leaving their hometowns. According to the city’s last census in July 2020, there are around 191 RVs parked on the street and 54 RVs in secure parking spaces. It is not known whether the RV population has increased since the coronavirus pandemic began.

In 2019, after years of complaints from some Mountain View residents, the city council passed an ordinance banning oversized vehicles and RVs on 444 of the city’s 525 streets. With the support of the city’s fair housing advocates, the ordinance was temporarily suspended after a successful petition enforced the ordinance as Measure C in November 2020.

On July 11, 2017, RVs and other trucks and cars are parked along Crisanto Avenue along Rengstorff Park in Mountain View. RVs are an increasing choice for the working poor in the Santa Clara Valley as rents and mortgages have skyrocketed over the past few years. (Daily news file)

With around 57% of the vote, the residents of Mountain View passed the voting measure in November, and in just a few weeks, Mountain View swiftly endeavored to enforce the ban by the summer of 2021. The first no-parking signs are due to be posted here a month ago in the northwest of the city for nearly $ 1 million, and residents are afraid of being evicted.

Although the RV ban bans oversized vehicles on 83% of the city’s streets, another ban on parking oversized vehicles on streets with bike lanes will result in approximately 90% of Mountain View’s streets being inaccessible to RVs. The lawsuit said Mountain View issued the ban “on the pretext of ‘road safety’ to evict needy populations” after years of enforcing parking laws targeting vehicle residents in the city.

The lawsuit states that between 2015 and 2016 only 69 summons were issued to people who did not move their vehicle after 72 hours, but more than 328 from 2016 to 2017. In addition, from 2015 to 2019 746 motorhomes were towed away and used for a. confiscates a wide variety of parking violations, and typically costing over $ 1,000 to recover a towed vehicle.

Celerina Navarro, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who has lived in Mountain View for nearly 20 years and has two children attending the city’s schools, had her vehicle towed in 2018 and paid $ 1,200 to pick it up. She said Wednesday that “it’s hard to know every day that your house can be ticketed or towed.”

“This is my home,” she said. “I was struck from my apartment six years ago because of rent increases and have been living in a mobile home ever since. You live in fear for your safety every day. “

Bill Freeman, senior counsel at ACLU in Northern California, said in an interview on Wednesday that his office has been in regular contact with the city about the ban since May 2019. He said the team of law firms sent a cease and desist letter to the mayor and city council in June 2021, urging the city not to enforce the ban. The city responded by letter June 18, Freeman said, declining to go along with the ACLU’s demands.

A man drives past a row of motor homes that are home to people in Mountain View, California. Apartments across the street start at over $ 3,000 a month. (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez) (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The city issued a statement on Wednesday saying it is currently evaluating the lawsuit and has “no further comment on the lawsuit itself.” The statement said that “an oversized vehicle on a narrow lane, due to its size, can intrude into the vehicle’s lane, increasing the risk of collisions for automobiles and bicycles, and making emergency and critical service more difficult to safely navigate vehicles on the road . “

The city, so the statement said, will continue to have “diverse contacts” and provide information about affordable housing and safe parking programs in the city.

“The Northern California ACLU is regionally involved in this issue,” said Freeman. “The problem of banning RV residents from communities – practically the entire city of Mountain View – is unacceptable. People who live in RVs live in constant fear, so that kind of fear really affects their lives. “

From Chico to Santa Cruz, Freeman said the ACLU has seen communities “that feel they can solve their own problems by pushing uninhabited people to the nearest town,” and they are fighting against unconstitutional laws banning RVs or homelessness criminalize. In March, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of RV residents and civil rights activists against the city of Pacifica, which was fighting for the right to park their homes on the city streets.

He believes that a widespread solution for the spread of mobile homes needs to be found.

“Every community has its own unique characteristics, but what they all have in common is the idea that we just don’t interact with or want to see people who live in RVs,” Freeman said. “Litigation is the least likely alternative to solving problems, but if politicians and officials fail to comply with the Constitution, we will take action.”

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