As residents of San Francisco battle it out over various proposals to address homelessness and a dearth of affordable housing in the city, our neighbors to the south are engaged in a debate of their own that might share a little something with ours. The Chronicle reports that in Mountain View, a city more associated with tech giant Google than poverty, the number of individuals living in RVs on the street has appeared to balloon in the last few years, leading homeowners to push back.
“These mobile homes have got to go,” Chris Keller told the Mountain View City Council last week according to the Chronicle's coverage, expressing his concern over safety and a loss of parking. But for those living in the estimated 126 vehicles on Mountain View streets that double as shelter, Mountain View is their home — they just can't afford to rent or buy one that doesn't have four wheels.
“Everybody recognizes that the problem is skyrocketing rents,” Councilman Lenny Siegel observes to the Chron. “In the long run, the solution isn’t expanding the showers and the kitchens, which we are doing, but figuring out how to solve the housing crisis.”
Siegel is referring to the $196,000 the city has set aside to provide RV dwellers with showers and portable bathrooms, which not all vehicles have — a short-term response to symptoms of the affordable housing crisis in Mountain View, not a solution to the problem itself. But what would such a solution be? Census data picked over by the paper might suggest one: Mountain View added 17,921 jobs between 2012 and 2015. As for housing units? During that same time, only 779 were added. This discrepancy is such a problem that even those with jobs — think employees of Google — have been known to live out of their cars.
Job growth that outpaces housing is a problem not unique to Mountain View. This August, a Palo Alto planning commissioner very publicly resigned from her role, saying she could no longer afford to live in the city and that Palo Alto officials had failed their constituents with regard to housing. But unlike Palo Alto and other neighboring cities, Mountain View somewhat tolerates residents living in cars — which for Keller is the problem. He told the Chronicle that the city's plan to help offset liability insurance for organizations that will accept RV campers "is a very homeless-oriented proposal, but for those of us who are homeowners who have invested our entire savings into our homes onto that block, it’s insufficient.”