Mountain View plans to convert VTA parking lot into parking spot for homeless

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- For years, the city of Mountain View has been trying to find ways to deal with people living on city streets. In March they voted to ban RVs from parking on city roads, but the city also committed to finding solutions.

"The challenge is, this is a high-cost place to live, and we have folks who are making the decision to live in a vehicle," explains Mayor Lisa Matichak. "Folks who live in their car, they drive to work, but they want a safe place to come back to."

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That place could be a VTA parking lot at the corner of East Evelyn Avenue and Pioneer Way. When the VA closed the lightrail station there at few years ago, the lot became available.

On Tuesday, the city voted to lease the lot from the VTA to build affordable housing, but it'll take about two years for the project to get going. In the short term, the city wants to use the lot as part of their safe parking program.

One man, who only wanted to be identified as Alberto, currently lives out of his van and parked at the lot. He says even if it is a temporary solution, it can really help the hundreds who are currently living out of the cars and RVs on Mountain View streets. Most important for him is that is would be a safe place to sleep at night.

"Yes, safety! What if they were your kids?" says an emotional Alberto.

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Under the proposal, people can park at the lot between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. The city would set up amenities, like portable toilets. Those who park there would have to register with the city and work with a caseworker in finding permanent housing.

But just across the street from the parking lot are businesses who oppose it.

"I just think it'd be too big of a task for them to handle, and control," says Mike Yarnell, owner of Yarnell's Service Center.

His auto repair shop has been operating at Pioneer Way for more than 30 years.

He says he is sympathetic to the growing homeless problem in his city. But he believes, even if monitored, there will be problems.

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He says speaks from experience about what happens when homeless people are allowed to camp out in the area.

"We used to have mobile homes that were parking every now-and-then on this street. And we would have feces in the gutter, trash being left behind. It's not something this part of Mountain View needs," says Yarnell.

The plan is months from being finalized. The mayor says they will only allow up to 20 or so vehicles to park at the lot due to health and safety concerns.

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