Berkeley City Council discusses search for safe RV parking site at meeting

Kavya Narendra Babu/Staff

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For the last time before it resumes in September, Berkeley City Council met Tuesday night to continue discussion on RV owners’ rights and parking restrictions within the city.

The meeting began with ceremonial procedures, including the presentation of a lifetime achievement award given to local ceramic artist Susan Duhan Felix. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín praised Felix for her role as an artist and advocate for the arts, as well as her work in creating more low-income and family housing in Berkeley. Arreguín proclaimed that July 2019 would be “Susan Felix Month” in the city of Berkeley. Felix was played music as she walked out of the City Council meeting.

Additionally, proclamations were given to a store called Empress Vintage, as well as to Kelly Hammargren and Christine Schwartz for their work in giving the community increased access to city events and meetings through sharing “activist’s calendars” and video streams, respectively. The meeting was adjourned in honor of Brian Gialketsis, a UC Berkeley graduate, along with the 20 individuals who have died on Berkeley streets this year.

Next, the meeting turned to a discussion of the ongoing legislation regarding RVs, which has been a prominent issue since the City Council passed an ordinance at the March 26 meeting that restricted RV parking on Berkeley streets overnight.

One proposal to grant two-week permits to RV owners was rejected quickly by council members. Arreguín said at the meeting that he felt it was “not appropriate to move forward with this proposal.”

The main item discussed involved allowing a three-month “grace period permit” as well as searching for a possible location for a three-month “safe RV parking” site, where people living in RVs could stay in their vehicles temporarily while searching for permanent housing. At the meeting, Arreguín said the council members hope this item will allow them to find an off-street site within the city that has important amenities for RV owners, such as sanitary facilities, security and service providers, as well as people to provide housing navigation.

“Ultimately, living in a vehicle is a temporary solution, and we want to ultimately connect people into permanent housing,” Arreguín said at the meeting.

While many speakers expressed some support for the plan during public comment, some had worries about the length of time available for RV owners, arguing that three months would not be enough time to find alternate, permanent housing.

Others talked more generally about the recent restrictions on RVs, saying the issue was dividing the community of RV dwellers and would leave more people in Berkeley unhoused.

For council members, the main focus of the discussion was on whether or not the Berkeley Waterfront was to remain a possible parking location for this program. The original proposal included the waterfront as a viable option for a parking location, but the alternate proposal discussed at this week’s meeting did not include the waterfront.

Councilmember Kate Harrison moved to add part of the original proposal to the newer, supplemental one — a motion that included the council requesting further information about the impacts of using the Berkeley Marina as a parking site. Councilmember Cheryl Davila seconded this motion.

“(I) don’t want to remove the Berkeley Waterfront as a possibility,” Harrison said at the meeting.

In the end, the council passed a motion to accept the second proposal, with an added condition that the council would ask the California State Lands Commission for more information on how the city could request to use the marina as a parking site. The final motion also included an amendment saying that if the council is unable to secure off-street locations, on-street locations will be considered.

Contact Ella Langenthal at [email protected].