Mountain View, California — home to Google — is struggling with an affordable housing crunch. Hundreds of residents have resorted to living in RVs to escape skyrocketing living expenses in the city, sandwiched between San Francisco and San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Now, the Mountain View City Council is debating whether to ban people from parking their RVs and other oversized vehicles overnight.
Residents voiced criticism earlier this month during a raucous, nine-hour city council meeting after the ban was first proposed by some city staffers. In a 6-1 vote, city council members decided to hold back on implementing the ordinance — for now — but said they plan to draft a new ordinance in order to solidify the ban's language.
That proposal will be considered in September.
In a statement, the Mountain View Vehicle Residents Group says the new draft could include a 24-hour ban on street parking. "We will continue to stand steadfast against a ban of any kind, including the ban newly suggested by the City Council," the group's statement says.
Mayor Lisa Matichak tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson that she's concerned about public safety and health — and remains adamant that there are "lots of different choices" for current RV dwellers.
She says she hopes prohibiting overnight parking will encourage people to engage with the city's case workers to move into "more stable housing."
"There are some people also living in the oversized vehicles by choice and they do have other options that they can move into immediately," she says.
Matichak says the aim of the ban is to improve visibility for bicyclists and pedestrians, and to address human waste and garbage piling up in city streets.
A nine-page letter from the American Civil Liberties Union condemned Mountain View's proposal to ban RVs from overnight street parking, calling it unconstitutional.
"We are deeply concerned that the city is passing such a measure in the midst of an unprecedented regional housing crisis in a city where there are no emergency shelters and the city has fallen so far behind its regional housing needs allocation for housing for low-income families," the letter says.
Matichak says the parking regulations are constitutional.
"We do have authority to address parking regulations and that's what we were doing," she says.
One of Matichak's proposed solutions is to identify additional parking lots that could accommodate RV parking. She is also encouraging "major employers to open up their parking lots for their employees who might be living in vehicles."
"I'm talking about any corporation that is in Mountain View," she says. "If all employers did this, it would be great."
Google plans to devote $1 billion to tackle the housing crisis in the Bay Area, NPR reports. Google's CEO says the housing development project should result in 15,000 new homes to accommodate all income levels. However, those in dire need of affordable housing can expect to wait nearly a decade to see the project completed.
Matichak says she views Google's actions as a partnership with the city and is eager to get the plans rolling.
"As soon as they submit plans that are conforming with the precise plans that we've created we can get going on building those homes," she says.
This segment aired on June 20, 2019.