Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks.

Sunnyvale City Council Approves Policies to Support Mobilehome Residents 

After years of advocacy by mobilehome residents in Sunnyvale, this Tuesday the Sunnyvale City Council took action to provide rent stabilization to the city’s estimated 11,000 mobilehome tenants. The council’s action is a compromise between mobilehome residents and mobilehome park owners, who negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that caps annual rent increases, the total amount that rent can be increased when a current tenant moves out, and the amount that the park owners can charge residents for park-wide improvements. The Council also instructed city staff to begin developing a Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) that would hold parks owners accountable in case they do not enforce the new MOU.

This is a major breakthrough for Sunnyvale mobilehome residents and park owners. While councilmembers raised some concerns about the enforcement of the MOU and the forthcoming RSO, the Council’s actions have set the groundwork for important protections for mobilehome residents, who are disproportionately lower income and/or on fixed incomes in comparison to the average Sunnyvale resident.

SV@Home strongly supported the Council’s actions to provide much-needed protections to mobilehome residents in Sunnyvale. We have been supporters of the city’s prioritization of this effort since Sunnyvale first took it on last year as part of its overarching Housing Strategy. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with mobilehome residents and housing advocates in Sunnyvale to ensure that these new policies are enforced and help protect mobilehome tenants. Major thanks and kudos to the Sunnyvale City Council and City staff for all of their hard work, as well as the mobilehome residents and park owners for reaching a compromise that benefits everyone.

Santa Clara City Council Moves Forward with Major Downzone to El Camino Real, Undermining Mixed Use Vision including Housing, Transit, and Retail

Also this Tuesday, the Santa Clara City Council again discussed the El Camino Real Specific Plan, which the council had rejected in June in favor of a plan that included fewer new housing units. City planning staff brought the plan back for further consideration, providing the council with an outline of the costs and impacts of the new council vision and requesting direction on next steps.  

The council had directed that building heights throughout the plan area be no more than two- to four-stories, upending the multi-year community planning process that envisioned higher density development. City staff presented a compromise that included significantly less housing than in the original plan, but that salvaged key portions of plan’s broader outlines for a mixed-use corridor.  The hope going into last week’s meeting was that the council hadn’t fully appreciated the impact and costs of their decision, but as the discussion continued it became clear that a majority did understand and that their intent was to kill the plan. The council rejected the staff’s compromise proposal and held firm on the low density recommendation.

Staff analysis showed that under the council’s proposed restrictions, the number of new housing units would be decreased by 63%, resulting in an estimated 2,290 new homes, roughly 800 of which were expected to be affordable to low and moderate income.  Because the residential component of the plan was what enabled the new commercial and retail vision for the corridor, the projected commercial development will decrease by 77%, and mixed-use spaces will require side by side residential and commercial uses rather than housing over retail.  The new direction will require a “downzoning” from current allowable uses under General Plan for all of the parcels on El Camino Real, triggering a requirement under SB 330 that this capacity be moved to another part of the city. The council action will also trigger the need to redo the Environmental Impact Review at a cost of over $200,000, which will be paid out of the city’s general fund.  There are three affordable developments in various stages of development along the corridor, and it remains to be seen whether they will still be able to move forward.

SV@Home has been committed to this planning process since its inception, and submitted a letter expressing our concern along with a coalition of local residents and organizations.  El Camino Real is the most transit-rich corridor in the City of Santa Clara. It has been identified in every major planning document as a key area for planned mixed-residential development. It is currently the primary east/west gateway to the Caltrain/BART Station Area, and as originally proposed would be uniquely planned to facilitate multi-modal access to that station for significant numbers of working people. Planning for a more coherent mixed-use El Camino Real, with medium density market and affordable residential uses supporting concentrated commercial redevelopment, and sustainable transportation, has always been the plan. This recent Council action has essentially killed the long term vision of the future of the ECR corridor.

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley files suit against Mountain View’s RV ban

Yesterday, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley announced at a press conference that it is suing the City of Mountain View for its actions to ban recreational vehicles from parking on narrow streets and streets with bike lanes, effectively making RV parking off limits in much of the city. This action comes as the city announced earlier this month that it will begin installing signs to enable enforcement of a 2019 ordinance that limits large vehicles, like RVs, from parking throughout the city. Implementation of the RV ban was delayed when local housing and homelessness advocates placed an ultimately unsuccessful referendum (Measure C) on the 2020 ballot, challenging the ordinance. 

RVs and trucks are a major source of shelter for people living without a home in Santa Clara County, and often allow people to maintain jobs and stable connections to local schools. The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley announced its lawsuit, filed with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, with the legal argument that the narrow street ordinance effectively bans RVs from parking on Mountain View streets without providing options for shelter. If the lawsuit prevails, the RV Residents will be required to find alternate locations or continue to move from place to place to avoid citation.