The city of Berkeley has followed through on a vow to kick out the RVs that have lined Marina Boulevard for months, prompting some to relocate to another nearby parking lot.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the city installed “k-rails” and signs requiring head-in parking along the stretch across from the DoubleTree Hotel, making it no longer possible for the large vehicles to stake out a spot there.
The city has said it’s received numerous health-and-safety complaints connected to the overnight campers. Over the course of several months, the city boosted security, increased trash collection and took other measures to address reported assaults, car break-ins and loose needles, but the problems persisted, said Matthai Chakko, Berkeley spokesman. Police first warned the RV inhabitants they could be towed in early April, then announced the k-rail plan earlier this month.
Some of the vehicle-dwellers have maintained that they keep to themselves and are not to blame for issues at the Marina. Several residents and advocates addressed the City Council at its meeting Tuesday night, criticizing what they called the inhumane treatment of the RV owners. They said some have kids, they can’t afford Berkeley’s extraordinary rents and, now, they have nowhere to go without getting hassled.
One woman told the Council she had “thrived” since moving to the Marina a couple months ago and has been able to find lots of work.
“I don’t think I would have been able to do that if I didn’t have a safe place to sleep at night and wake up and go,” she said.
Another speaker, Amber Whitson, who’s lived in her RV at the Marina for months and has previously spoken with Berkeleyside about the experience, begged the city to let the collection of campers park somewhere permanently.
There are currently city laws prohibiting parking in one spot for more than 72 hours, and prohibiting parking commercial vehicles or other large vehicles between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Whitson said the city could provide a site for RVs using emergency shelter rules.
“Berkeley’s clearing out of homeless encampments including our own, without offering any alternative place for the residents to go, is a blatant violation of our Eighth Amendment rights to freedom from cruel and unusual punishing from our government,” Whitson said to cheers in the room. “All that we ask for, in order to ensure that we have the most basic human amenities, is a parking lot with a single shower and a Porta Potty so that we may all have the ability to keep ourselves clean.”
Several of the campers have already moved to another spot at the Marina — the parking lot in front of Hs Lordships, the nearly 50-year-old restaurant slated to close this summer.
Chakko said the city only ended up towing one of the Marina Boulevard vehicles, which was abandoned in Berkeley by its Central Valley owner.
At the council meeting, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said he is working to find a spot for the campers.
“I am discussing with members of the council and will be talking with staff to develop a proposal to find a location where people can park their vehicles, and provide restrooms and other amenities, without people facing citation,” he said. “I want people to know we hear you and are working to find a solution.”