Berkeley City Council members will discuss and possibly approve a resolution that would allow people living in recreational vehicles, or RVs, to stay overnight in safe, city-owned parking lots at their Feb. 11 meeting.
There are currently six proposed city-owned parking lots that could hold a total of 25 RVs within three months. Some of those include the West Berkeley Senior Center parking lot, the parking lot behind City Hall, the South Berkeley Senior Center parking lot and the Berkeley Animal Shelter parking lot, according to the City Council agenda.
“My interest is to try to find a way to spread the RVs around the city to ensure that we have the sharing of responsibilities for our neighbors who are forced to live in vehicles,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison. “You can’t have all people in one place — there are issues with local businesses, trash issues, parking issues, etc. We’re looking for a solution.”
The resolution was first proposed by Berkeley City Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani, with Harrison, City Councilmember Sophie Hahn and Mayor Jesse Arreguín later adding themselves to the resolution. According to Harrison, a lengthy search for 24-hour safe parking lots in Berkeley failed, leading to the new resolution.
Kesarwani recently revised the resolution to include prioritizing waste removal, health, electrical and outreach services, especially in areas with the highest concentration of RVs, according to Harrison.
Harrison added that those who qualify for RV parking in the city’s overnight lots must meet certain criteria such as having children enrolled in school, attending school themselves, having jobs in Berkeley or having previously lived in permanent housing within the last 10 years.
“I see this in a much bigger way, having to do with poverty, income inequality, lack of taxation of the well-off in our society,” Harrison said. “It’s a tough balancing act.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order tasking state agencies to compile lists of vacant properties and surplus land available for homeless housing by Jan. 31. Harrison confirmed that the city of Berkeley has yet to submit a list.
Andrea Henson, lead organizer for the “Where do we go?” campaign, said there are more than 100 people within Berkeley’s homeless community living in RVs. RV parking issues in Berkeley are an “extension” of a larger problem, especially when taking into consideration people with disabilities or limited income, according to Henson.
“Once you get an RV, you’re always in fear of losing your home because the cities are so strict about where you can park,” Henson said. “I don’t think any one resolution put forth by City Council is the answer. I think we need lots of solutions, and we have to be innovative and we need to bring the folks that are most affected to the table so we can truly understand their reality.”