Berkeley City Council passed a resolution to provide up to 25 overnight residential vehicle, or RV, parking spots at designated city-owned parking lots at its Feb. 11 meeting.
This pilot safe RV parking program will last three months — with the potential for renewal — and will provide access to portable restroom facilities and a trash pickup, according to City Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani. Kesarwani added that this program will help the city identify vulnerable community members and “more effectively” connect them with city services.
“Just taking 20 people off the street at night will not solve the problem,” said City Councilmember Kate Harrison during the meeting. “I encourage all districts to explore locations, including issuing RPP (Residential Preferential Parking) permits to RV dwellers, to encourage dispersal.”
By focusing on citywide RV distribution, with an extensive focus on areas that employ a high concentration of RV dwellers, residential concerns and public health implications could be alleviated, according to City Councilmember Rigel Robinson.
According to city Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley “can’t do this alone” and a regional solution is warranted. He added that there is a state-owned Caltrans property in Albany that would be an ideal location for a regional RV parking site.
“We have to accept the reality that people living in RVs, living in vehicles, is the new norm,” Arreguín said during the meeting. “These are our friends and neighbors, and we cannot kick them out of our community.”
Abstaining from the safe RV resolution, City Councilmember Cheryl Davila said three months is not sufficient. Davila added that RV dwellers cluster together for their collective safety and community and that the relationship between RV dwellers and public health risks has not been specifically documented.
“It’s not easy to find affordable shelter. The RV is a solution for our unhoused residents to remain housed,” said RV resident and UC Berkeley alumna Yesica Prado during the public comment. “This policy doesn’t even address the actual needs for RV residents, which are water, electricity, pumping, trash pickup and more importantly, a safe place to park.”
The enforcement code that prohibits overnight parking from 2 to 5 a.m. will only be enforced in areas with a high concentration of RVs, according to Harrison. She also added that nothing should be implemented until there is an RV pump-out station, as it would foster a “safer and healthier” environment for all.
The city’s past attempts to detect a 24-hour RV parking site failed due to financial and legal reasons, according to the resolution. Kesarwani hopes that this pilot program, fabricated by the new concept of safe parking, works and will “inspire others to step up.”
“What we really need is much more income equality in the entire society, and we need more money for housing,” Harrison said during the meeting. “People are not going to just go away. We need to find permanent solutions.”