Berkeley to open first Safe Parking lot, leaves some residents displaced

Photo of a parking lot
Jackie Samsell/Staff
The Berkeley City Council announced Wednesday the opening of a Safe Parking lot, which grants the safe parking space for 40 RVs for a time period of 11 months.

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Berkeley opened the city’s first Safe Parking lot Wednesday as part of the Horizon Transitional Village to provide 40 secure parking spots for those living in RVs and other large vehicles for 11 months.

The lot will not provide parking spots for families with children, smaller vehicles that do not meet the size restrictions or inoperable vehicles. This leaves vehicle residents who do not qualify for Safe Parking shelter with few options, according to Friends on Wheels organizer Yesica Prado.

According to a press release from the National Lawyers Guild, families who will be displaced will be directed to a family shelter bed, while others will return to the streets and continue to grapple with parking restrictions.

“The safe parking lot is pretty exclusive,” Prado said. “It’s not going to really prioritize people who are in really great need, which is people who live in smaller vehicles like cars and vans and then families.”

The lot’s residents will be required to go back into the streets after an 11-month parking space lease. This does not accommodate for most of the 161 RVs and 157 cars and vans serving as homes for residents, according to the press release.

Vehicle residents who don’t get parking slots will be subject to towing and will have to abide by parking restrictions starting Oct. 7.

On Wednesday, four-hour parking spots were enforced as a trial parking restriction for the streets of the district, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani. The Berkeley City Council also established a vehicle weight restriction in the area, banning vehicles weighing over three tons, the press release added.

“It’s kind of unfair to use this social program for parking enforcement. If anything, it just throws people back into chaos because they now have to look every three days for a place to be,” Prado said. “If you’re not providing help for our neighbors who are living in vehicles, at least let us help ourselves.”

Prado said she would prefer the city provide a map marking safe streets with unrestricted parking and provide trash and repair services for vehicles. Instead of removing vehicle residents from the streets, Prado noted she would like to see changes that would help these residents find housing if they need it.

Prado added that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for vehicle residents to access amenities such as showers, but a temporary break from parking restrictions gave many in the community “reprieve” from worrying about losing their vehicle.

“People are going to be losing their homes and the only asset they have in their names is their vehicles,” Prado said. “If they’ve already gone through the process of eviction, that’s already traumatizing enough, and then when they come to the streets there’s all this other harassment.”

Contact Emma Taila and Lauren Cho at [email protected].