Special Berkeley City Council meeting votes against mayor’s proposal regarding vehicular residents

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Amanda Ramirez/File

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A special meeting involving Mayor Jesse Arreguín and five Berkeley City Council members was held Monday to vote on Arreguín’s proposal to stop the enforcement of laws prohibiting vehicle lodging and camping in the HS Lordships parking lot at the Berkeley Marina.

The motion did not pass — four council members voted in favor of the proposal, one voted against it, and one abstained, with three council members absent.

“(The law) is not defined,” said Councilmember Kate Harrison, who was in favor of the proposal. “I’m on the side of humanitarian.”

Some facts that had been presented at the meeting were unclear, according to Harrison. She added that there is no evidence that the crimes reported to the police that occurred at the marina were committed by the residents.

“Our entire region is in the midst of an affordability and housing crisis, which will require creative thinking to alleviate suffering,” Arreguín said in an email. “We need to have compassion and empathy for the less fortunate, many of whom simply have nowhere to go.”

Amber Whitson, a vehicular resident of the marina, attended the special meeting and said she was heartened that so many advocates came and spoke in favor for the vehicle community.

Although the City Council vote defeated the proposal, another proposal to allow the vehicular community to remain for one more week passed, Harrison said. A group launched by Arreguín on June 26 is looking for a new place for vehicular residents to reside.

“I am incredibly disappointed that we were not able to find a way for RV campers at HS Lordships to remain throughout the month but remain committed to finding a permanent location in the city – and elsewhere in Alameda County — for an RV park,” Arreguín said in an email.

According to Whitson, the vehicular community still needed to pay the parking fee for the Fourth of July celebrations in the Marina, but an anonymous donor paid the parking permit fee — worth about $1,100 — for the whole community.

Whitson said the best solution, for her, would be to find an area in the city where the members of the vehicular community can all move and live together.

“We’re happy to stay … because we don’t have anywhere else to go,” Whitson said. “They have a responsibility to give us space.”

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he dissented the proposal because it was illegal, adding that if residents should be allowed to live at the marina, the city must codify it with appropriate laws. Worthington also said a possible remedy would be to ask property owners if they are willing to allow vehicular residents to park in their driveways, backyards and other property.

“The idea was well-intended but problematic. The motion was defeated because it is unconstitutional, discriminatory and illegal, and I don’t want to be one of all three of it,” Worthington said.

Contact Jan Schuermann at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Jan_182.