Menlo Park: Mayor, county supervisor to explore RV safe parking program | News | Almanac Online |


Menlo Park: Mayor, county supervisor to explore RV safe parking program

Alex Mulholland and Malik Hogan sweep the driveway near the RV where Mulholland lives with Arlena Bain, the homeowner's great-granddaughter, in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood. Bain says she hasn't yet been able to find a spot for the RV at nearby RV parks or safe parking locations. (Photo by Magali Gauthier/The Almanac.)

With much of the U.S. Geological Survey departing from its Menlo Park headquarters to Mountain View, the Menlo Park City Council has been talking about what can be done with the federally-owned property.

In the long term, council members have expressed interest in seeing affordable housing developed on the site. But in the meantime?

Maybe the secluded campus could be used to provide safe parking access for a growing number of people in the region who are living in RVs.

That's the idea Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller said he and San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum have just begun to discuss, and plan to bring in more stakeholders to explore.

While the USGS headquarters at 345 Middlefield Road hasn't been fully abandoned yet, Mueller said, "There's still plenty of ample parking on-site not being utilized."

The effort is very preliminary, both Mueller and Slocum emphasized, but they're definitely interested in exploring the concept. They plan to work with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to explore the idea, as the initiative would need an OK at the federal level to move forward.

Mueller said he'd be interested in partnering on such an initiative with Menlo Park-based homeless services provider LifeMoves, which operates a safe parking facility in San Jose.

Slocum said he's also working with staff to identify best practices for safe parking lots by studying others in Santa Clara and Oakland.

"There's more to it than just a parking lot," he said, noting that other safe parking sites offer wraparound services to support the households served there. In addition, he said, the county has identified a separate potential safe parking site at a county-owned parking lot near the U.S. 101/Woodside Road interchange in Redwood City and is working with the city of Redwood City to explore starting a safe parking program there.

In Slocum's district, which includes East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks and Menlo Park northeast of El Camino Real, as well as other unincorporated areas, the number of households living in RVs is growing significantly.

In a January count of the number of people experiencing homelessness countywide, the number of people living in RVs was up 127% from 2017, with a total of 494 people counted, compared with 218 in 2017. In Redwood City, there were 102 RVs counted and in East Palo Alto there were 53.

After the January count, the county followed up with a survey of 80 RV households. Many people living in RVs, the county reported, are working, lived in the county before moving into an RV, are living in an RV because of the high cost of housing, and are looking for other housing options.

Of the 80 RV households surveyed, 59% of respondents were employed, and 69% reported living in the county before they moved into their RV.

When asked why they lived in an RV, 54% reported it was because of the high cost of rent, while 13% said it was because of an eviction.

Even though 57% said they were looking for housing and saw the RV as a temporary housing situation, 64% said they'd been living in an RV for a year or more.

In addition, about 9% of RV households included children.

While signs of people sleeping on the street in RVs or other vehicles are unlikely to be visible in Menlo Park because of the city's long-standing overnight parking ban, it doesn't mean former Menlo Park households aren't living in vehicles: They just spend their nights outside city boundaries.

Toby Sanchez is one of those former Menlo Park residents displaced into vehicle living. He and his roommate had been long-term renters in the run-down Stanford Inn, before the owner converted the rooms into short-term Airbnb rentals and recently received approval to redevelop the site into commercial space, condos and a penthouse. When The Almanac checked in with him in August, he shared that he and his roommate had been sleeping in a car for months.

"We have jobs. At least we're working," he said. "We're still making it. We don't have a choice, really."

They go to neighboring cities like Redwood City and Mountain View, seek out areas where RVs are parked and try to blend in.

These areas are not hard to find, he added.

"People are sleeping in cars everywhere," he said. "We're homeless, not criminals."

Related story:

Young Menlo Park couple could face fines of $500 per day for living in driveway RV


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Like this comment
Posted by A Nightmare
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 22, 2019 at 6:59 am

If the City wants to partner with LifeMoves and create housing - permanent and emergency housing - at the USGS then I'm all for it. Allowing RV's to park there without support support services such as bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, waste disposal, and 24 hour security patrols is a nightmare. Considering that most of the RV's used for housing and parked on the streets are actually being RENTED by slumlords who are charging the occupants, there will be many greedy businessmen taking advantage of the "solution" proposed by Mueller. And if the City or a Non Profit were to provide the proper infrastructure necessary to accommodate an RV park at the USGS, why not just create low income housing there? Also, there is the need for emergency shelters in the area during natural disasters or other emergencies, war time or economic emergencies. My suggestion is to create an emergency shelter with all the necessary amenities and also build low income permanent housing on site at the USGS. The emergency shelter can be used by people on the wait list for permanent housing and could also be used by the community in times of emergency. But just opening up the parking lot and allowing RV's to park the there is not the way to address the current crisis and comes with a whole host of problems. I would be in favor with an RV park at the USGS only if all the amenities were provided, including security and that it was bundled with a package to provide permanent low income housing and related services. Otherwise the RV park will grow out of control and impact the surrounding neighborhood, because there IS a housing crisis that requires more than a bandaid approach.

5 people like this
Posted by Earned my way out of poverty
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 22, 2019 at 7:38 am

These bleeding hearts won’t be happy until we’re all sleeping in tents right next to the bums on the street. That’s where “equality of outcome”—like being able to live in Menlo Park—leads.

Most people haven’t earned living here, but if you insist they must be able to anyway, this is the outcome you get. RV parks and tenements in what used to be a beautiful, pleasant place to live.

Can’t wait to see how we’re forced to prop to their self-esteem so they feel “welcome” in a place they haven’t earned the ability to live for themselves.

Like this comment
Posted by Permanent?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2019 at 7:48 am

My understanding is it wouldn’t be permanent but only until the new development projects we brought forward.

Like this comment
Posted by Permanent?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2019 at 7:49 am

My understanding is it wouldn’t be permanent but only until the new development projects were brought forward.

2 people like this
Posted by A Nightmare
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:52 am

Bah humbug! Turn the USGS into child workhouses and open debtors prison camps. Punish the poor.

1 person likes this
Posted by A Nightmare
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 22, 2019 at 11:27 am

Not permanent but it would still take YEARS before any new low income housing is ready, and in the meantime would create a mess without the proper infrastructure in place to support what is essentially a mobile home park at the USGS. You want immediate solution, then the City could just eliminate the restrictions on RV parking in driveways. Just until the housing crisis is solved, so it wouldn’t be permanent ;)

8 people like this
Posted by Permanent?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2019 at 12:01 pm

So you are saying a professional homeless services nonprofit provider like LifeMoves, as well the City and County whose mission includes health and human services, as well as the Federal Government who owns the land, wouldn’t make sure proper amenities were provided?

Hard to imagine that wouldn’t be in any plan developed.

3 people like this
Posted by Frances Griffin
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 22, 2019 at 12:07 pm

I support doing whatever we can to support people who are being priced out of their homes. It is known as economic eviction. Moving away is not a solution if it makes it impossible to earn a living and takes you away from whatever support network you have that helps you cope.
Support services to an RV parking lot are a great idea and allowing RV's in driveways seems reasonable as well given the present situation. I would hope that there would be some rules to go along with that. When my neighbors let their relatives park in their driveway, the only issue I had was that they were smokers and I got their second hand smoke. Ugh.
The concept of slumlords renting RV's is a new one and it seems worth city time to check into it so we have the relevant facts.
Many homeless people are working hard and providing needed services and it is worth some time and money to make humane allowances in a time of crisis. I do hold all city councils responsible for allowing run-away development of office space without the corresponding housing. Facebook, Google, Apple and Stanford have a lot to answer for but the city councils let them overbuild.

2 people like this
Posted by A Nightmare
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 22, 2019 at 3:49 pm

I'm saying that to set up a RV Park on Federal Land and in conjunction with City and Non Profit like Life Moves is going to take a LONG time. Simple solution is to rescind the Menlo Park law restricting the parking of RV's in driveways. And put the efforts into providing actual emergency SHELTER and long term low income housing - be it at the USGS or elsewhere. But if Mueller wants to solve the immediate problem of RV dwellers not being able to park in driveways, then just change the City Ordinance. Problem solved. Waiting to coordinate with the Feds will take years.

1 person likes this
Posted by MPresident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 22, 2019 at 10:46 pm

All of this will take a very vey very long time. I hope this heartfelt effort from the mayor does not deter Ms. Hilarios and MPPD from clearing our neighborhood as in the case of the earlier Almanac article Web Link Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Flummoxed
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 23, 2019 at 6:03 am

I’m a longtime Menlo Park property owner and I really don’t see the point of this driveway parking ban. In general, I’m skeptical as to whether a parked RV materially reduces the value of neighboring properties, but I seriously can’t imagine it damaging the value of *Menlo Park* properties at this point in time. The simplest thing to do would be to let people live. Impose a moratorium on driveway parking enforcement until more affordable units can be built.

1 person likes this
Posted by Bolderdash
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 23, 2019 at 6:57 am

I read the article @MPresident. Mayor Mueller did not deter the police department from enforcing the overnight parking ban in the Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, nor any neighborhood. In the article you refer to the Mayor asked for one extension to move an RV parked in a driveway, during the holiday season. That request was denied. That’s hardly deterrence.

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