East Palo Alto city leaders and social workers are moving forward with a plan conceived nearly a year ago to find a safe place for homeless RV dwellers to live. The city will become one of the first cities in the Bay Area to establish a safe parking site for RVs, a significant step toward addressing the increasing population of workers priced out of Bay Area apartments and living in vehicles along city streets, reported the Paradise Post.
East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica said the program is aimed at keeping working families safe. “They’re workers. Every day they get up and go to work,” he said. “They just decided they would rather buy an RV than pay this incredibly high rent.”
A handful of other Bay Area cities have begun to address safe parking for the population of service workers, students and elderly residents living in vehicles: Union City established a safe-parking program for people in cars and trucks two years ago, Mountain View and Santa Clara County teamed up this year on a pilot program to provide overnight shelter for RV owners in parking lots, and San Jose is studying new city codes for residents who live in vehicles.
Although no recent census of RV dwellers has been conducted, social workers and residents in some cities report a growing, and highly visible, population caused by escalating Bay Area rents and home prices. In East Palo Alto, rents have increased 26 percent since January 2015, according to RentCafe.
East Palo Alto has struggled with the issue during the past year. The city evicted about 50 residents parked along Weeks Street in November after inspectors found leaking sewage from some vehicles and neighbors complained of trash and unsanitary conditions.
In July, the City Council approved a $320,000 program to upgrade a city-owned parking lot in the 1700 block of Bay Road and a contract with local nonprofit Project WeHope to fund a year-long RV parking pilot.
The city and nonprofit expect the safe harbor to open in November. It will be limited to residents with working, licensed and insured RVs. The parking lot, near the Project WeHope offices, will be open every night between 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.