Civil Rights Organizations Sue Mountain View Over RV Parking Ban

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Mountain View The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and Disability Rights Advocates joined with pro bono partners Hewlett Packard Enterprise and King & Spalding to file a lawsuit today against the City of Mountain View on behalf of Mountain View residents who live in RVs and oversized vehicles. The class-action lawsuit aims to strike down a law that effectively bans RV parking within city limits.

The suit was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of California by six plaintiffs on behalf of all persons who live in RVs and other oversized vehicles in the city. The lawsuit argues that the citywide RV parking ban is unconstitutional, inhumane, and disproportionately impacts people with disabilities, in violation of federal and state law.

“Silicon Valley is the highest-income region in the world. Yet, the income inequality and worsening housing crisis have pushed Mountain View residents to find alternative ways to stay housed,” said Michael Trujillo, Staff Attorney with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “Everyone should have the opportunity to live and feel safe in their own community, regardless of income level. RVs provide stability and shelter for people and families who otherwise would be homeless or displaced from their own community.”

All the plaintiffs have strong ties to Mountain View—whether they receive health care for chronic conditions, work in the city, or have children in the school district. Through health care, resources, family, and friends, RV residents often have a strong support network that otherwise would not exist if they left the area. They have all lived in the city for years, some up to decades.“I’ve lived in Mountain View for almost 20 years and have two kids who go to school here. This is my home,” said Celerina Navarro. “I was priced out of my apartment 6 years ago because of rent increases and I have lived in an RV since then. It’s hard to live every day knowing your home can be ticketed or towed. Every day you live in fear about your safety.”

The ban was established by an ordinance, Measure C, that prohibits “oversized vehicle” parking. Originally adopted by the City Council in October 2019, the ordinance was temporarily suspended after a successful referendum petition forced the ordinance to the ballot. Once it passed in November 2020, Mountain View moved swiftly to begin enforcing the ban by summer 2021. Once signage is posted on the affected streets, the law allows Mountain View Police to tow any vehicle parked in violation of the restrictions. According to the last count by the city of Mountain View in July 2020, there are 191 RVs on city streets and 54 RVs in safe parking lots.

The RV ban prohibits oversized vehicles that exceed 22 feet in length or 7 feet in width or 7 feet in height from parking on streets that are 40 feet or narrower, unless for activities like loading and unloading. In conjunction with an earlier ordinance, which banned parking on certain streets with bike lanes, almost 90% of the streets in Mountain View are unavailable to RV residents, essentially banishing RV residents from their community. Violating the RV ban could result in residents accruing fines and immediately losing their homes to towing.

“Our laws are a reflection of our society, which should protect vulnerable populations. Unfortunately, as a result of this RV ban, our clients in this lawsuit live in constant fear that their vehicular homes and most of their belongings will be seized and towed without any notice,” said Quyen Ta, a Partner of King & Spalding LLP. “The RV ban is illegal under the U.S. and California Constitutions and we are fighting this ban on behalf of our clients.”

The ban unfairly impacts people with disabilities, Spanish-speaking families, and people of color, all of whom already experience homelessness at disproportionate rates. The ban has already and will continue to destabilize their ability to maintain their health and employment. “Punitive measures are an ineffective and discriminatory intervention to homelessness,” said William Freeman, Senior Counsel of the ACLU. “Local officials should be accountable to spend money in a way that serves all members of our community in an efficient and equitable manner. This ban essentially punishes people for being too poor to afford housing.”

The Mountain View RV ban punishes residents for not having traditional homes or the financial ability to afford permanent housing in the City. The RV ban subjects Mountain View’s lowest income residents to the constant threat of excessive fees, seizure of their home, and banishment from their community. If enforced, the RV ban could subject residents to increasingly unsafe living conditions, either on the streets, in temporary shelters or in overcrowded housing.

Immediate solutions include not ticketing or towing any RVs that are used for shelter. Additionally, the City of Mountain View should develop sufficient permanent housing opportunities for every individual currently living in an RV in Mountain View that are accessible based on those individuals’ disability-related needs.

“Banning oversized vehicle parking citywide when the City has failed to build sufficient affordable housing will have the cruel effect of forcing more people to live outside, without any shelter at all,” said Nadia Aziz, Directing Attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “By filing this lawsuit, we hope to encourage the city to work with RV residents to find adequate long-term housing solutions.”

Read the complaint here.

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