BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily Post Correspondent
The number of people living in vehicles in Mountain View nearly doubled in 2017, and one factor in the increase is that people are hearing about the services available to vehicle dwellers in the city, officials said.
Word even seems to be spreading via the internet, Mountain View Police Sgt. Wahed Magee told the City Council on March 6.
“It’s somehow getting out, even on the internet, that there’s great services through CSA and the city,” Magee said. “That’s one of the many reasons they state that they’re coming to town.”
CSA is the nonprofit Community Services Agency of Los Altos and Mountain View.
Magee’s comments were in response to questions from councilman John McAlister, who wanted to know how many of the people living in cars or recreational vehicles were city residents who had been displaced by high rents versus the number that have come to Mountain View from other areas. The city is working to obtain that information but doesn’t yet have figures.
Magee said when officers notice a new vehicle on the streets being used as a home, they’ll try to talk with the occupants to see what type of assistance they might need.
“It seems there are a large number that are not from Mountain View,” Magee said. In addition to being attracted to available services, Magee said, vehicle dwellers might be drawn to Mountain View to be near family or they might find the Bay Area location appealing. In addition, “It’s a beautiful town,” he said.
From 150 to 291 in less than a year
The city estimates that 250 to 300 people are living in vehicles. The police department tallied 150 vehicle dwellers in February, a number that grew to 291 in December.
The issue has generated mixed feelings in the community. On the one hand are those who are concerned about residents being displaced by the region’s housing crisis. But some Mountain View residents have complained about traffic hazards created by the oversized vehicles, which cluster on certain streets.
Sanitation is another issue when vehicles are used as homes. In the 12 months ending June 30, 2017, special street cleaning was conducted 14 times due to RV waste dumping incidents, according to the city. From July through December, special street cleaning was needed 10 times.
Mountain View launched a pilot program in which vehicle dwellers receive a voucher that they can use at a waste disposal station. The program is scheduled to run through April.
The pilot program is one piece of a 50-item work plan for tackling issues related to people living in vehicles. Other pieces of the work plan that have been completed include funding a portable restroom at Rengstorff Park and sharing in the cost of an outreach worker with CSA.
The council met on March 6 to discuss potential next steps. Council members voted 6-1 to give police more resources for towing vehicles when officers think it’s necessary. And more parking restrictions may be implemented where safety is an issue, the council agreed.