Advocates upset over recent Palo Alto RV tow warnings, mayor not sure why

Advocates upset over recent Palo Alto RV tow warnings. Photo Credit: Canva
By Wesley Severson - Published on March 12, 2021.

Since 2018, the city of Palo Alto has been enforcing stringent parking restrictions on people living in motorhomes and vans on El Camino Real. But this week the debate has resurfaced and, according to the Mercury News, Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois is not sure why.

The warnings ask the owners to move their vehicles or risk being towed and according to people who live along the road the notices have been increasing in frequency. Most of the people who live in their vehicles willingly move them to other locations a few blocks away to avoid being towed and to avoid possible confrontations with police. In those cases usually, no vehicles are towed.

But According to Mercury News, local activists showed up to the Palo Alto City Council meeting this week to express frustration over the latest round of notices. The warnings state that the vehicles are violating a city ordinance that prohibits abandoned vehicles on a roadway. 

One resident at the city council meeting, Kevin Ma, pointed out that the law isn’t really doing what it was meant to do. "The intent of these laws was to address abandoned vehicles, not to play musical parking spots with people already on the edges of our community. This is displacement during a pandemic," said Ma while he pushed the council to put enact a moratorium on the tow warnings until a long-term fix was in place.

The Mercury News spoke to Palo Alto Mayor Tom DuBois who said he was confused by the timing of this recent outcry from the advocates. DuBois says 450 tow warnings have been issued this year. 16 vehicles ended up being ticketed and only 3 have been towed. “The police generally don’t tow but most of the time they go and there’s no one there, and they come back multiple times, they have to comply with the law. It doesn’t appear anything has changed, I’m not sure of the sudden concern,” DuBois said.

But not everyone is in support of the people who live along El Camino Real, especially the business owners who operate nearby. Many of them have signed a petition asking the city to enforce the parking rules. They say the RVs and vans create unsafe conditions for Palo Alto residents who can’t use the sidewalks they pay for in taxes because of trash and human waste.

Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka spoke to the Mercury News saying he also believes It’s dangerous. “RVs are what they are because you can move them around. You can park somewhere for three days and then move it. It’s public property meant for the public to be able to use to move around.” 

So far, it doesn’t appear any changes are in the works.

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