The city of Berkeley has started distributing official legal notices to members of the homeless population who keep their belongings on the street in violation of municipal code.
This move marks a further step toward enforcement of the sidewalk ordinance — a policy passed by the Berkeley City Council in October that prohibits the homeless from keeping more than 9 square feet of objects on city streets. According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, 20 such notices were given to homeless people at 11 different sites in Downtown Berkeley, predominantly around Shattuck Avenue.
Chakko stressed that no one has been given a citation for violating the sidewalk ordinance yet but that the city would follow up to make sure everyone remains in compliance.
The ordinance prohibits people from keeping any furniture or belongings that exceed 9 feet in area on city sidewalks. Keeping objects in residential districts, near BART stations, bus stops, bike racks and parking meters is also prohibited.
Beyond informing homeless residents of their violation of the law, the notice advises them on which items can be placed in temporary storage and which are “subject to disposal if left on public property unattended.” Bedding and sleeping bags, as well as shopping carts, are among the items not allowed in city storage.
According to Chakko, to increase awareness of the new policy, city staff has been going to every encampment in Berkeley and handing out fliers containing details of the policy. Chakko added that the city also made sure to educate its homeless outreach team and other community agencies about the provisions of the sidewalk ordinance.
Residents at encampments such as “Here There” in South Berkeley received these informational fliers earlier this week.
“This is something that takes time,” Chakko said. “Our goal is to get people to voluntarily comply. To do that, you have to have conversations.”
Staff writer Brandon Yung contributed to this report.