BERKELEY — Protests aside, the Berkeley City Council stood firm Tuesday night on its earlier decision to ban RV dwellers from parking overnight on city streets, a move that will force about 200 people who can’t afford the region’s high rents to move their vehicles elsewhere in about six months or obtain temporary permits then.
The council’s vote, taken near midnight following hours of public testimony, appeased some west side business owners and residents who have complained about the RVs taking up parking spaces, dumping trash and causing sanitation problems.
The ordinance will automatically take effect in two weeks, but the City County decided violators won't face fines until June 1 to allow a grace period to give remaining RV tenants time to find a place to legally park their motor homes.
Mayor Jesse Arreguin and council members Rashi Kesarwani, Ben Bartlett, Sophie Hahn, Susan Wengraf and Lori Droste voted to adopt the ordinance, which prohibits parking oversize vehicles, including campers and RVs on city streets from 2 to 5 a.m. The same council members voted to first approve the ordinance Feb. 28. Council members Cheryl Davila, Rigel Robinson and Kate Harrison dissented.
The ordinance extends citywide a ban that prohibits RVs from parking on residential streets any longer than for "the expeditious loading and unloading of passengers or property."
Berkeley votes to ban RVs from parking on city streets
The council also directed staff to develop a permit system that would allow some people to legally park their vehicles for up to three months. Families with children in Berkeley schools, college students and people who have had a Berkeley address within the past 10 years will get first crack at those permits.
City staff has six months to create the permit system before the city begins to enforce the ban, unless the RVs pose health and safety issues, in which case police can issue tickets.
Rents have soared so high across the Bay Area that thousands of people have opted to move into their vehicles. In response, Oakland, San Francisco, Mountain View and other cities, unable to cope with the influx of large vehicles on city streets, have enacted similar bans.
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Real estate listing website Zillow estimates the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley as of February was $2,914 a month, up 61 percent from 2014, when the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment was estimated to be $1,805.
Matthew Cox, 30, and his 7-year-old daughter Chanelle are among the Berkeley RV dwellers who will have to get a permit or find a new city to park their rig. Cox, a Berkeley native, lived in Vallejo before returning to Berkeley to enroll his kids in its schools, he said at the meeting.
The Gazette reports the Colorado Springs City Council voted on Tuesday to pass an ordinance that will bar RVs from parking downtown.
“The best place for my kids to get an education is right here in Berkeley. I moved from Vallejo — in a house — to come up here in an RV for my kids to have an education,” Cox said. “You cannot take me and my family away from these RVs in Berkeley. I will literally die before you do so.”
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Cox held his daughter up to the microphone, where in a timid voice she told council members, “My name is Chanelle and I live in an RV and I live in Berkeley. I want to stay here,” she said.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting, held at the Berkeley Unified School District board room, was packed. Though most of those attending opposed the ban, a group of around 10 west Berkeley business owners and residents spoke in support of it. Their remarks drew boos and heckling by the ban’s opponents.
Many of the city’s RV dwellers settled near Eighth and Harrison streets after getting booted from the HS Lordships Restaurant parking lot at the Berkeley Marina last summer. The city fenced off the 300-space public parking lot after the restaurant closed to make repairs and lease the building. The restaurant is still vacant, and the parking lot has remained fenced off.
The ordinance bans RV parking on city streets between 2 and 5 a.m., but the city will start a program to give permits to allow some RVs to park overnight temporarily.
Steven Donaldson, founder of west Berkeley marketing agency RadiantBrands, said he and other business owners “don’t want to be punitive” but believe some rules should be in place so that west Berkeley doesn’t bear the brunt of the city’s RV dwellers.
“We do have problems with waste, human waste, garbage and trash, and we need to resolve this because it’s really impacting our businesses,” Donaldson said.
Those against the ban say people living in RVs do it because they have to and passing this measure will basically kick those people out of the city
Other who spoke on behalf of the ban complained about a dearth of parking because of the RVs and quarrels with RV dwellers. Some business owners and residents, however, said they have a positive relationship with RV dwellers and don’t have a problem with them parking near their homes and businesses.
The meeting got heated at times and there were dozens of people who spoke during the public comment period. The vote came down at midnight.
Before the vote, council member Sophie Hahn voiced a broader perspective on the issue. She blamed the situation on an “overheated job creation market that has no regard for housing.”
Hahn called on tech companies and other major employers to assume more responsibility for their effect on the housing market.
“I am making a public appeal to Apple, Google, and the top 1,000 grossing companies in the Bay Area. You have a huge role in creating this crisis. I know you didn’t mean to but you did; you are profiting from the workers you bring here wildly,” Hahn said. “My ask, and this is a genuine ask, is step up. My door is open.”
Berkeleyside’s live tweets from Tuesday’s City Council meeting on RV regulations and more