A coalition of legal interest groups announced Monday that they are suing the city of Mountain View for blocking an ordinance banning RVs and trailers from parking on most of the city’s streets, calling it an attempt to target homeless people who live in vehicles , expel.
The legal challenge, led by the Silicon Valley Law Foundation, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and Disability Rights Advocates, comes right as Mountain View is about to begin enforcing what is known as Narrow Road Regulations. The law would prohibit oversized vehicles like RVs from parking on streets 12 meters or less wide – about 83% of all streets in the city.
While the ordinance was written as a road safety measure, the coalition argues that the real intent of the law is to ban homeless people from living in their vehicles on public roads. Surveys have shown that there are more than 250 vehicles inhabited in Mountain View and that many people rely on cars and RVs for shelter. Once the no parking signs are up, those living in oversized vehicles will have to move or their vehicle will have to be towed.
“The RV ban enforced by Mountain View City Council seeks to ban RVs and the people living in them from city limits,” the group said in a statement. “The ban will spark an unconstitutional and inhumane campaign of fines and harassment that will put people into debt and endanger their ability to stay protected.”
The city council approved the 2019 Narrow Alley Ordinance, but it was quickly subjected to a referendum. The regulation appeared on the November 2020 vote as Measure C, where it was passed with almost 57% of the vote. In the run-up to the measure, it was clear that people on both sides of the issue realized that the motorhome ban was really about homelessness – not about road safety.
Attempts to openly ban life in vehicles, including a similar effort by the City of Palo Alto in 2013, have been legally challenged. A 2014 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Ninth District overturned a law in Los Angeles that sought to prevent the use of vehicles as living space, which was found to be unconstitutional and encouraged discriminatory enforcement against the homeless.
Lawyers said Mountain View’s law is especially harsh on people with disabilities and that many of those people live in RVs to stay close to family, local resources, and health care. Many live in RVs because they have lost access to affordable housing and cannot afford the high cost of living in the area.
“Just because you are homeless doesn’t mean you live outside of your home,” the group said in a statement. “People who live in their RVs need to stay in their town for the same reason as everyone else: to keep in touch with the community they grew up in, to get access to local resources and health care, to do their job keep and stay close to the schools their children attend. “
Civil rights lawyers had previously warned against taking legal action against the city over parking bans aimed at evicting homeless people from the city’s streets.
An event to announce the lawsuit is due to take place on Wednesday, July 14th at 11 a.m. in front of Mountain View City Hall and will be broadcast live on its Facebook page. Participants are asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing.