The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the California town of Mountain View, located in Silicon Valley, after the town voted for a measure to ban RVs from the majority of the town’s streets for safety reasons, but the ACLU says the measure in unconstitutional– ‘Fox News at Night’ host Shannon Bream and her expert legal panel debated the case on Thursday night.
The first “No Parking” signs are set to go up this month on the city’s streets for what the town says are safety reasons. However, the ACLU’s lawsuit claims that the new measure is “inhumane” to the homeless population and those whose only housing option is an RV.
Mountain View plans to defend the ordinance, saying that it is seeking to balance quality of life with public safety.
“When I first looked at this subject matter, I was saying to myself, ‘Of course the city can do this’, but I recently just got done handling a case myself where you can’t go after a protected class and clearly people are socially and economically disadvantaged, or the disabled who this disproportionately affects are a disabled class” Attorney Bob Bianchi pointed out.
“What was interesting…I went to the record of the city council and what they were saying and what they were saying had nothing to do with traffic safety, which would be a legitimate government interest. Rather, they were just trying to get them out of there,” Bianchi explained.
The attorney pointed out that the original law the town wanted to pass was to prevent RV parking on the street from 2 o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the morning– when traffic was light or nonexistent.
“That’s what we call under the law, pretext. It looks facially neutral, it looks like there’s a legitimate reason for it, but really behind the scenes is trying to go after a protected class that are protected by law and the American Disabilities Act,” he continued.
Bianchi predicted that the city would face challenges as a result and the ACLU made that same point in their presentation of Exhibit B in the case.
“The Oversized Vehicle Ban is unconstitutional under federal and California law because it violates the inalienable rights of vulnerable individuals who have been forced to seek shelter in RV’s in order to remain in the City and access medical care, schools, employment, and other resources available to them in their community,” the ACLU argues.
“The city is likely again going to argue here that this is for safety reasons and it’s also going to rely on its’ defense here on the initiatives that it’s put in place; and that’s public facilities for these individuals, low-income housing which they are continuing to develop, and also eight safe parking lots that they put in place including an amphitheater parking lot where these individuals can go and actually park there instead,” Attorney Sarah Gounder predicted.
Bianchi said that while some of the safety arguments are legitimate, the other pretextual reasons for the ordinance and the city council’s record prove that the law was not designed for traffic safety.
“They want to show them ‘tough love’ and they were doing everything that they could to make sure they couldn’t be on the street. Not for safety reasons, they just didn’t want them there,” Bianchi asserted.
He equivocated the city’s reasoning behind closed doors versus their public explanation of the law to “putting lipstick on the pig”.
Gounder doubled down on her expectations that the city will rely heavily on its’ public initiatives in its defense.
In November, 57% of Mountain View voters approved the ballot measure making RV parking illegal according to The Mercury News. If upheld, RVs and oversized vehicles can’t park on 444 of the city’s 525 streets.
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