Growing number of people living in RVs on Palo Alto city streets

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A growing number of people are living in RVs and other vehicles on city streets across the Bay Area, and police are aware of the long line of them parked along the El Camino in Palo Alto.

But there’s not much the city can do about it.

On any given day or night, there may be as many as 100 RVs, pick-up trucks, and other camping vehicles parked along the El Camino near Stanford University and a few dozen more on side streets.

Police have followed up on hundreds of complaints, issued citations, and even towed some vehicles, but there is only so much they can do, says Capt. Zach Perron.

“In the vast majority of cases, the RVs parked along the El Camino are actually complying with state laws, which say that no vehicle can be parked in a single location without moving for more than 72 consecutive hours.”

To get around the law, an RV has to only drive around the block and can legally return to virtually the same spot. A similar problem exists in nearby East Palo Alto where a city-sponsored off-street parking program will be launched this month.

As in other communities, the situation is not simply the result of homelessness.

Police say they have encountered nurses, construction workers, and others who work in the city but can’t afford to live there.

“In some cases that I am personally aware of, people actually have day jobs in one of our surrounding communities and own homes in the Central Valley, but don’t want to spend 5-to-6 hours commuting every day,” Perron said.

Perron says Palo Alto’s relatively low crime may also be a factor, attracting people who might not feel safe parking elsewhere.

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