Berkeley Marina vehicular community holds press conference with demands to city

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David Rodriguez/Staff

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Residents and allies of the vehicular community at the Berkeley Marina held a press conference Monday to demand access to basic needs facilities and call for an end to the city’s order to move or risk losing their homes.

Several speakers gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center about 12:30 p.m., including City Councilmember Cheryl Davila and Osha Neumann, a supervising attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center, according to Yesica Prado, a Berkeley Marina vehicular resident. On Monday, vehicular residents received notices that their vehicles may be towed at any time, and then Tuesday morning they received administrative citations of $100 per vehicle, according to Prado.

“There’s plenty of people in our community who are still at work and don’t know they have received administrative citations yet,” said Amber Whitson, a Berkeley Marina vehicular resident.

After the community received courtesy notices to vacate the HS Lordships lot by July 2 — where they had been parked since Memorial Day —  Mayor Jesse Arreguín called an emergency meeting that resulted in a seven-day reprieve for the residents, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

On Sunday night, vehicular community members returned to the marina. According to Chakko, administrative citations were issued for the 12 vehicles that were present as of Tuesday morning.

According to Chakko, the land occupied by the vehicular community is not only governed by the city of Berkeley but also by various agencies, including the California State Lands Commission, which has stated that the land cannot be used for an encampment.

“It is the law beyond what the city is able to control,” Chakko said.

Chakko said the city’s homelessness system needs to treat everyone equally based on need, regardless of whether they own a vehicle. He added that the members of the Berkeley Marina vehicular community are “just as entitled” to the city’s homelessness services as anyone else.

The city has received reports of assault, threats and defecation as well as complaints from concerned parents of “parking lots filled with needles,” according to Chakko. He added that all of these complaints were attributed to members of the vehicular community and have been addressed by the city.

“There will always be complaints. … If there’s an assault near an apartment, the police go to that apartment. If they can find some probable cause, they will cite or evict that person,” said Neumann, who supports the vehicular community. “They won’t evict everyone in that apartment building. That’s what Berkeley is doing.”

While the city has tried various tactics, such as increasing security, rekeying locks, holding community meetings and speaking with Berkeley Marina residents, the vehicular community has “reached an untenable point,” said Chakko.

Whitson said that while there are numerous places Berkeley residents can legally live on the sidewalk, the same is not true for those living in vehicles. She added that many of the vehicular community members do not have plans for if their homes are towed.

“We really don’t know. There’s so much uncertainty. It’s hard to say,” Whitson said. “I guess we keep risking our asses until they do right or we lose our homes.”

Contact Matthew Lo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @matthewlo_dc.