Berkeley City Council reconsiders RV restrictions amid public pushback

Ireland Wager/Staff

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The Berkeley City Council revisited the issue of recreational vehicles, or RVs, in the city at its regular meeting Tuesday, adopting a second reading of the ordinance that clarified that the ban would not go into effect until after the creation of an RV permitting program.

The vote came after a decision made by the City Council earlier this month, which banned RVs from parking on Berkeley streets for “extended periods of time.” As part of Tuesday’s vote, the council also decided to create a one-time process for obtaining permits to legally park RVs on streets.

Many speakers that presented for public comment on the ordinance urged the council members to vote no on the recommendation. Many, including Co-Executive of East Bay For Everyone Darrell Owens, also urged postponement of a vote to develop a better, more permanent solution to the RV situation, which many cited as an important living space for those who cannot afford Bay Area rent.

“The problems with a proposal like this is there really is no time for digestion,” Owens said.

Speakers — including Jason Wilson, a member of Youth Spirit Artworks — pointed out that the 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. parking ban is targeted at RV dwellers as that time period is when people are most likely asleep in their vehicles.

The meeting was at times interrupted by protests, causing the council to go into short recesses. One such interruption even led Mayor Jesse Arreguín to threaten to clear the room.

In addition to the protests, several members of the audience had also heckled some of the speakers. Arreguín had to call for order several times in order for discussion to continue.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn placed blame on the top 1,000 grossing companies in the Bay Area for helping create a housing crisis in the Bay Area in the first place. She called upon them to “step up” and take responsibility for the well-being of communities in the Bay Area.

“You have a huge role in creating this crisis,” Hahn said in what she called a public appeal to the large Bay Area companies. “I know you didn’t mean to, but you did. You are profiting from the workers you bring here wildly.”

Councilmember Cheryl Davila said the meeting was poorly executed, citing the lack of copies of the proposed changes available to the public and the heavy presence of police at the meeting. She also claimed that the ordinance contradicts the EveryOne Home Plan — an effort to end homelessness in Alameda County — which the City Council had passed March 12.

Councilmember Kate Harrison had submitted a proposal for conversation on the RV issue to be continued at the next meeting, but her motion to do so failed. In the end, the City Council voted in favor of the second reading of the ordinance, with only Councilmembers Davila, Rigel Robinson and Harrison voting no.

“We need to listen … to the number of the people in the room who begged us not to do this tonight,” Davila said. “This is not the right thing to do. We can do better.”

The missing middle report, originally scheduled for discussion Tuesday, was postponed until April 23.

Contact Leon Chen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.