Berkeley’s Attempt to Address the Homeless Problem

Berkeley has been attempting to address the problem of homelessness within its city boundaries, for quite some time.  This Berkeleyside article sums up the history of Berkeley’s homeless issue and the city’s attempt to come up with solutions for it.  As well, this Berkeleyside article explores more of the city’s work with homelessness over the years.

This study done by the Homeless Task Force on HOmelessness in Berkeley helps put into context the problem. Homeless Task Force study on Homelessness in Berkeley 2009

Note from page 3 of the study, 41% of homeless had serious mental illness and 40% were chronic substance abusers.

In recent years the problem of homelessness has increased dramatically in Berkeley as in other Bay Area cities, and around the nation.  In 2016, Jesse Arreguin, who ran on a campaign saying that homelessness was his first priority,  was elected Berkeley’s mayor.  In 2016, a group of homeless people calling themselves the “Poor Tour” or “First They Came for the Homeless” began setting up homeless camps in very prominent places, such as in public parks or on street medians, to draw attention to the problem, as well as to simply insist on taking for themselves what they felt the city was not doing enough to provide — decent shelter.  Arguably, when a city has not been designed with the homeless in mind (as is the case with most cities), there is really no “appropriate” place for a homeless encampment. However, the Poor Tour would choose some of the most inappropriate of places — such as in the middle of a street between two lanes of traffic.

FTC on street median
Hence the Poor Tour’s camps were subject to serial eviction, 17 times in all. This website documents those evictions.  In later 2016, the Poor Tour settled in at a camp at the Here/There sculpture on the Berkeley/Oakland city border, and was permitted to remain there for nearly a year.  Then, in October 2017, a woman was found dead in a tent at this camp, as related in this article and in this article.  Very soon after this, BART which owned the land the camp was set up upon, moved to evict the campers from this area.  As is now unfortunately too often the case with homeless camps, and with the Poor Tour camp in particular, the denizens of these camps are getting free legal representation, which means that any entity or agency’s attempt to remove them becomes more expensive and frought with difficulty.  Their attorney filed to prevent the eviction, and the federal judge granted a stay.  They were permitted to remain for another week.  They sued the city and BART, as stated in this article.  Eventually BART was allowed to evict the homeless encampment.  One wonders how any other result could have been possible — would BART have been forced to allow the camp to remain there for the next, oh, dozen years or the next century?  The judge in this case, however, ordered the city of Berkeley to submit a plan about how it would house “substantially all of its homeless” by November 28th 2017.

When this news was presented in an article on Berkeleyside, many of the astute commenters noted the problem here — why was Berkeley being asked by the judge to house substantially all of its homeless, while other cities in the county had far fewer or even no homeless people?  Why should this burden be placed on Berkeley? The judge in essence seemed to be making the same kind of unreasonable demand that the Poor Tour had made —   the judge seemed to demand shelter, for all of them, while the Poor Tour demanded free permanent housing for all — and apparently for everyone who happened to show up in the city demanding this.  The problem being highlighted by both the judge’s and the Poor Tour’s demands, in essence can be seen as a kind of bullying.  Apparently the nicest kid on the block gets the most bullying — Berkeley has been so very tolerant and supportive to its homeless population, that the thanks it gets comes in the form of an ever higher ratched up set of demands.

The fact that the homeless are in fact homeless, without residence, and the fact that some cities are overburdened with homeless while other cities have none…as well as the fact that the homeless can travel around– all will eventually point ever more strongly for a need to resolve these issues at a federal or at least state level.  No one city can be expected to provide for everyone who has a whim to go and plop down there and hold out their hand asking for help.  It’s been said several times, for instance, that it would be ridiculous to think that people have a right to just show up in Beverly Hills and demand free permanent housing, or threaten to extort the city to get that by making a nuisance of themselves if they aren’t given everything they want.  People deserve help and I believe everyone deserves adequate shelter, — in fact I think the point many make that “housing is a human right” is very well made.  However, even if housing is a human right, doesn’t mean indigent people have a right to dictate exactly what type of housing they will be given and where it will be.  The old saying  “beggars can’t be choosers” is quite relevant here, and this is the common sense being rejected by  many homeless and their advocates, who often are being quite choosy indeed — in particular by demanding housing in one of the areas with the most expensive housing in the nation.

I think we are in the very beginning stages of having to come to understand the need for federal/state organization of homeless services, nationally.  It will take more time as cities continue to observe the problem grow worse.  As well, I think we will have to accept that the housing that many will get, is going to be very basic and rudimentary. The equivalent of refugee camps is on the horizon, I think. One Berkeleyside commenter pointed to the United Nations Refugee Agency as an agency which should take up this task.

On November 28th the City of Berkeley submitted its response to the judge’s order, as described in this article.  Their 17 page response to the judge summarized the problem and the city’s response.  An article about Berkeley’s intentions for doing winter shelter for the homeless is here.

Their data about the homeless is peer reported — they relied upon statements made by the homeless themselves — which leaves this data open to question.  For instance the city states, ” Seventy six percent of people reported that they were last housed somewhere in Alameda County at the time they lost their housing; an additional 20% were housed somewhere else in California, while only 4% were last housed out of state.”


The city did pertinently note that its tolerance of the homeless and its degree of support of the homeless may factor into the reason why there are more homeless in Berkeley than in, for instance, Hayward or Fremont, or other Alameda county cities which have NO homeless people.

The city wrote: ” The City of Berkeley provides significant support to homeless people, and the community is considered quite tolerant of the challenges associated with homelessness. Both of these are factors in Berkeley’s disproportionately large homeless population. Consider that the cities of Hayward and Fremont, both larger than Berkeley, have fewer than half as many homeless people. There are several Alameda County cities with no homeless people. “

Berkeley pointed out that it is the first city in Alameda County that developed a coordinated system to help the homeless, one which must, according to federal mandates made in conjunction with federal monies given for the cause, prioritize those with highest needs: “The Hub carries out a federal mandate to prioritize homeless resources for those with the highest need; in Berkeley, this means long term homeless people with a disability. The development of the Hub was informed by a series of community meetings
including discussions with homeless people in Berkeley. It is operated by a local nonprofit organization, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, with funding and guidance from the City of Berkeley. The Hub serves as Berkeley’s single point of entry for housing, shelter and supportive services, and strategically first serves those least able to help themselves. Since it opened nearly two years ago, 101 chronically homeless people – people living on the streets for more than a year and with a disability (often more than one) — have been permanently housed.

First they came at night

Additionally, the city summarized its plans to develop an affordable housing project at Berkeley Way which would combine low-cost housing with 89 studio apartments and a shelter with 32 shelter beds.  They described their plans to provide winter season shelter, and to develop two city properties (a warehouse on University Ave and the basement at City Hall) into shelters that could house 75 people each.

However the city also expressed its reluctance to devote energy, money or resources toward sanctioned encampments:   “City staff have been reluctant to pursue sanctioned
encampments precisely because they distract limited resources, staff time, and nonprofit capacity from the ultimate goal: actually ending people’s homelessness by getting them housed.”

As well, the city pointed out that creation of sanctioned camps would create legal liabilities for them:  .” Sanctioned tent encampments do not qualify for tort immunity as they do not meet “minimum public health and safety standards”

In particular, the tents would not qualify as meeting basic health and safety standards,  because “HCD advises that an “emergency sleeping cabin” as defined in Govt. Code § 8698.3(h) would meet minimum health and safety standards. Pursuant to Govt. Code § 8698.3(h), an emergency sleeping cabin must have all of the following features: (1) a “relocatable hard-sided structure….with a raised floor area of no less than 120 square feet…for two occupants and a minimum of 70 square feet of interior space for one occupant”; (2) “a minimum of 20 pounds per square foot live load roof structure”; (3) electrical power; (4) at least one interior light fixture; and (5) electrical heating that is GFCI-protected. (Govt. Code § 8698.1). Since outdoor tents have none of these features, a tent encampment would not meet the standards set forth in Govt. Code § 8698, and the City would therefore not be entitled to the immunity from tort liability provided by Govt. Code § 8698.1(a).”

There is potential for change in the latter, because beginning Jan 1 2018, a new government code comes into play which is designed to help cities develop shelter for the homeless in a timely way.  In this case the city would be permitted to develop its own health and safety standards,    and  “If HCD finds that the City’s proposed standards meet “minimum health and safety standards,” then landlord/tenant laws regarding habitability will not apply to any homeless shelters that are constructed pursuant to such standards.”

The city indicated that public parks were not permitted to be used to set up homeless encampments, because “The City may not use parks or open space in Berkeley for non-recreational purposes, including homeless encampments, without voter approval. In 1986, Berkeley voters approved Measure L, later codified as Chapter 6.42 of the Berkeley Municipal Code, which requires that all public parks, playgrounds, school yards and vacant public land being used as open space be “dedicated to permanent recreational use” by the City of Berkeley and “funded for recreational use.” BMC Chapter 6.42.010 and 6.42.020. ”  Hence, ” Accordingly, the City is precluded from establishing some or all of a park or open space area as a sanctioned homeless encampment without the approval of the voters. “

The city indicated too that the Berkeley Marina is off limits for use as a homeless encampment:  “City lands held in “Trust” at the Berkeley Marina may not be used for a homeless encampment pursuant to the Public Trust Doctrine The Berkeley Marina and waterfront are subject to the common law Public Trust Doctrine and the statutory limitations found in the statute granting these lands to the City of Berkeley in 1913, as amended. See Stats. 193, ch. 347, § 1 and Stats. 1962, ch. 55, § 1. The City of Berkeley’s statutory grant of its tidelands and submerged lands currently requires that such lands be “held in trust” for specified uses in which there is a general, statewide benefit, including wharves, docks, piers, commercial and industrial purposes, aviation facilities, transportation and utility facilities, public buildings, parks, playgrounds, marinas, restaurants and motels. Although courts have recognized that “trust” uses may evolve over time, they have found it to be essential that they be public, water-dependent uses that serve a statewide purpose. Purely municipal facilities such as libraries and hospitals have been held to not be of general statewide interest. Mallon v. City of Long Beach, 44 Cal.2d 199 (1955). By letter of April 18, 2017, the California State Lands Commission advised the City of its opinion that use of any portion of the Berkeley Marina and waterfront for a homeless encampment would be inconsistent with the City of Berkeley’s statutory grant and the Public Trust Doctrine.”

Actually even beyond the Public Trust Doctrine dictating use of Berkeley Marina lands, Berkeley itself has multiple municipal codes which prohibit several homeless–related activities which are now taking place at the Berkeley Marina, such as:

6.20.250 Vehicle or trailer parking in marina areas.

A.    Permission from the Harbormaster must be obtained prior to parking any vehicle, trailer or boat in the parking areas within the marina area for a period exceeding 72 consecutive hours. If permission is not requested or granted, the vehicle, trailer or boat may be cited and removed from the marina area at the owner’s expense.

B.    Any vehicle, trailer, or boat/trailer combination parked in restricted areas, in limited parking areas beyond the allowed time, or in driveways, walks, or breezeways, may be cited and removed from the marina at the owner’s expense.

C.    The use of any vehicle for the sole purpose of storage while parked in the marina area is prohibited.

D.    No person shall perform repairs to a motor vehicle anywhere in the marina except in an emergency.

E.    Use of all bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, roller blades, and motor-driven or sail-propelled vehicles, except wheelchairs for the disabled and City maintenance and police vehicles, is prohibited on any path, sidewalk, pier, dock, float or gangway in the marina, other than on paths so designated for their specific use. The use of any vehicle for eating or sleeping for over four hours per day while parked in the marina is prohibited. (Ord. 6925-NS § 1 (part), 2006: Ord. 6645-NS § 1, 2001)

6.20.255 Vehicle, trailer, heavy duty commercial and over-sized vehicle parking prohibited on public streets in the marina area.

It is unlawful for the operator of any vehicle to stop, stand, park, or leave standing such vehicle, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the direction of a police officer or other authorized officer, or traffic sign or signal, on Seawall Drive, Spinnaker Way, Marina Boulevard and University Avenue between Frontage Road and Seawall Drive.

A.    Heavy duty commercial or over-sized vehicles are prohibited from parking in the above areas at all times. For purposes of this section a heavy duty commercial or over-sized vehicle is a single vehicle or combination of vehicles, with a commercial license plate, having more than two axels; a single vehicle or combination of vehicles 25 feet or more in length regardless of type of license plate; or a trailer or semi-trailer with commercial license plate or trailer identification plate. Heavy duty commercial vehicle or trailer shall include, but shall not be limited to, truck tractor, semi-trailer, trailer, trailer bus, trailer coach, camp trailer, mobile home, gantry truck, dump truck, moving vans and pole or pipe dollies. Excluded are commercial pickup trucks, tour buses, school buses, public transit buses, and paratransit buses.

B.    All other vehicles and trailers not defined as heavy duty commercial or over-sized vehicles in subsection A above are prohibited from parking in the above areas between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. daily. (Ord. 6925-NS § 1 (part), 2006: Ord. 6803-NS § 1, 2004; Ord. 6711-NS § 1, 2002)

6.20.260 Overnight camping in marina land areas prohibited.

A.    Use of marina land areas for overnight camping or sleeping is prohibited.

B.    Use of campfires in the marina land areas other than in designated areas, without prior written permission of the Harbormaster, is prohibited. (Ord. 6925-NS § 1 (part), 2006: Ord. 6645-NS § 1, 2001)

This Berkeley Municipal Code info is found here:

See also this article about this


In sum, what I glean from reading these statements is that while the city is committed to making the homeless problem its number one priority, as many of us have anticipated, it faces very real limits in what is possible to do based on financial limitations as well as legal ones.  In fact, from what the city says here, many present time homeless camps may be illegally situated on city public land, and the public could sue the city to remove them.  The law is clear that this city owned public land cannot be used for homeless encampments.  By contrast, spaces under freeway ramps, owned by Caltrans or other agencies, or other land that does not belong to the city, may not fall under these rules.

In particular I find it ironic that some of the strongest prohibitions on homeless camping involve the area at the Berkeley Marina, which, as is shown in the article on the results of the Homeless Mapping project done on this site, is the area in Berkeley with the highest number of people living in vehicles.  Again, it seems to me that the public could  sue the city of Berkeley to follow the Public Trust Doctrine and return these lands to the public.

However, regardless whether the current homeless camps at or near public lands are technically illegal or not — the spirit of the laws here quoted reflect the deeper and broader issue of the city government’s general responsibility to protect public lands for the public to use.  And any homeless camp or vehicular housing on public lands or in public streets is a breach of the implied promise to the public, as these camps essentially involve a modern day type of homesteading — individuals are simply taking something that belongs to the public and converting it to private use.

In the response to the judge, the City indicated what it believed was within its power to do to tend to the homeless in the way that it deems most suitable — which is the “perfect” solution of housing them.  However, given that it is not possible to provide permanent housing for an ever increasing number of homeless people in Berkeley, and the city streets and parks are full of the result of this impossible quest, the city needs to face the practical problem of what to do about all those whom it cannot help, and who then become a problem increasingly present nearly on our doorstep.

Update as of January 22 2018:

Berkeley is proposing a new policy on encampments and objects on sidewalks, see here:


Berkeley Encampment and Sidewalk Policy 1-14-18

Update February 10 2018:

As of February 8 2018, the city of Berkeley dismantled the homeless encampment at the lawn at Old City Hall, which had quadrupled in size over the last 3 months from 10 tents in November 2017 to 39 tents (as counted by police who dismantled the camp) on Feb 8 2018. At this rate of growth, the camp would have been 160 tents by May 2018 and 500 tents by October 2018. This eviction notice was posted on Feb 7th, which indicates the Municipal Code sections which the camp was violating. THere is a law against setting up structures on City property.

City Hall FTC camp notice of eviction

City Hall FTC pg 2 camp notice of eviction

Not long after this removal of the camp, some of the campers moved to adjacent City Hall on Milvia Street and set up tents there. As shown in videos shared on the Facebook Page for the First They Came for the Homeless group, these were visited by the police and/or by city employees and told they could not camp there, and were provided with a list of places to go for shelter and/or services.

Berkeley’s Parks and Waterfront Commission has asked that City Council please enforce the no-camping law at the Berkeley Marina.

Parks and Waterfront Commission request no camping enforcement Feb 2018

The Parks Commission recommendation:

9. Marina and Parks Use. Action: Send a communication to Council requesting enforcement of the
Marina Ordinance BMC Section 6.20.260 – Overnight camping in marina land areas prohibited; and
BMC Section 6.32.060 – Park Hours – no public use of City parks between 10pm and 6am. *

This is the letter the Parks and Waterfront Commission has sent to Berkeley City Council,
Screenshot (3642)

This is the signage the Parks and Waterfront Commission recommends for use at the Berkeley Marina:
Screenshot (3641)

Update: as of April 4 2018, the city of Berkeley will no longer allow people to live in RVs at the Berkeley Marina, or actually anywhere in the city.  This Berkeleyside article presents this information.  They will start enforcing their regulation that prohibits parking RVs or Commerical (oversize) vehicles on the city streets between the hours of 2am and 5am.  This is a very welcome move as it provides great help to neighborhoods and any area of the city, preventing city streets from being turned into campgrounds. The fact that so many cities prohibit RVs or commerical size vehicles from parking on city streets overnight, clearly demonstrates that this is being recognized as the problem that it is.  Simply put, RVs and Commerical vehicles do not belong on city streets, and most definitely do not belong anywhere in residential neighborhoods, except on the property of those who own them, or perhaps on the street in front of the owner’s home if this does not present a problem for other residents.  As well, living in any type of vehicle is a phenomenon that most definitely does not belong on streets of residential neighborhoods, or really anywhere on public streets in the city. However, people with nowhere else to live or seek shelter should be allowed to live in their vehicles somewhere, but the places they live and park should be designated for that activity, not some random residential street.

The city did not prohibit all vehicle dwelling in the city, only the parking of RVs and commerical vehicles on city streets overnight.  But this new commitment by the city to enforce no RV or commerical parking helps with the worst of the problem, as the larger vehicles have a bigger and more overwhelming presence on city streets, and for this reason it’s right that so many cities have similar laws which prohibit these vehicles parking on city streets overnight without a special permit to do so.

UPDATE April 20 2018

The city is constructing its new “Pathways” project to shelter up to 50 homeless and help them into permanent housing.  This project is located in the 2nd street area, near one of the largest (and arguably the worst and most garbage-strewn) encampments in the city.  The city has also provided funds to keep open their winter shelter at the old Premier Cru building.

Berkeley is working on two new policies related to homeless camps and homeless people putting objects on public walkways and public lands.

These are articulated here:

Proposed Policies on Sidewalks and Encampments April 2018

Berkeley Proposed Sidewalk and Encampment policy 1 (2)
Berkeley Proposed Sidewalk and Encampment policy 2 (2)


Proposed Regulations for Sitting, Lying, Dogs and Objects on Public Walkways

This is long, so I include here a few highlights:

(1) The city will provide storage facilities for the homeless.  This is a much needed and very welcome project which could help eliminate the massing of unsightly debris piles on public sidewalks and in parks.
(2) It would be prohibited to place objects on sidewalks in residential neighbhorhoods.  This is a very welcome and sensible restriction, as homeless camping is particularly inappropriate in residential neighborhoods.
(3) Objects on sidewalks are limited to a 3 by 3 foot (9 sq ft) area, except at night 10pm to 7pm when homeless have a constitutional right to sleep in public places if they have nowhere else to go.

(4) The City gives itself permission to remove encampments based on several criteria.

THe fact that the FTCFTH group opposes these new policies, is a clue that they are good

policies.  FTCFTH dislike new proposed sidewalk regs (2)
What the IndyBay article says is true — the proposed regulations would make it more difficult for People’s Park dwellers to camp on sidewalks around People’s Park, which is in a residential area.  This is a GOOD thing, as anyone will understand who is aware of the amount of crime and nuisance that has long been associated with People’s Park.  Basically anything that the city can do to get the people out of there, who hang out at the park and make it a dangerous place, where people keep being arrested for things such as armed rapedrug dealing, drug dealing with robbery, strangers giving methamphetamine to childrensodomization of a sleeping person,  attempted robbery and assault,  deaths by overdose,  random beatingsstabbings, more stabbingsrobbery, assault, sexual assault, or sexual battery, the better. In July 2017, a “spate of crimes” at People’s Park sent 3 people to the hospital.  The place is exceptionally crime-ridden and is anything but a park for the people. It’s long been a park that attracts homeless and criminals.

Draft 4-17-18
1) Purposes:
The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that everyone has access to, free
passage through, and use and enjoyment of Sidewalks and Parklets in Berkeley.
2) Protection of Constitutional Rights:
These Regulations shall be applied in such a manner that does not deprive any
person of rights protected by the California or Federal Constitutions, including
freedom of expression.
3) Definitions:
a) BART Access Corridor is a Sidewalk, including a wide plaza area, on the same
side of the street as a BART Station entrance, within 120 feet of such entrance.
b) Sidewalk is defined as provided in BMC Section 9.49.020 (I).
[“Sidewalk” is that area of improved real property between any curb face and the
property line of adjoining real property.]
c) Parklet is an improved area within the dedicated public right-of-way with seating,
tables, landscaping and other amenities, being used temporarily for the
enjoyment and use of all citizens.
d) Objects include any item or thing, attended or unattended, but does not include
animals or persons.
e) Objects in Transit are Objects placed temporarily on a Sidewalk, for up to an
hour, in the actual course of receipt, removal or delivery, and include, but are not
limited to, goods, wares, merchandise, containers, and suitcases.
f) Authorized Objects are Objects the Berkeley Municipal Code specifically
permits on Sidewalks or in other public locations. [These include newspaper
racks, parking meters, bike racks, bus benches and shelters, mail boxes, etc.]
g) Path of Travel is an area that must be kept unobstructed for free passage, as
i) For Sidewalks which measure 14 feet or less in width, the Path of Travel is 6-
feet wide;
ii) For Sidewalks which measure greater than 14 feet in width, the Path of Travel
is 10-feet wide.

Draft 4-17-18
h) Commercial Districts are Districts designated on the City of Berkeley’s official
Zoning Map with a “C” prefix.
i) Residential Districts are Districts designated on the City of Berkeley’s official
Zoning Map with an “R” prefix.
j) Manufacturing Districts are Districts designated on the City of Berkeley’s
official Zoning Map with an “M” prefix.
4) Storage Facilities:
The City shall provide one or more public storage facilities to securely store personal
belongings in an area or areas with concentrations of unhoused individuals.
5) Information:
The City shall ensure that fliers, posters or other materials are available for
dissemination in Commercial Zones, informing the public of rules and regulations for
Sidewalks and Parklets. These materials may be produced by the City or by
community partners, and shall be periodically updated. The City may also post fixed
signage informing the public of these regulations.
6) Objects – Residential Districts:
a) Except for Authorized Objects and Objects in Transit, Objects are prohibited on
Sidewalks in Residential Districts.
7) Objects – Commercial and Manufacturing Districts:
a) Objects, other than Authorized Objects:
i) May not be placed in Parklets
ii) May not be placed in the Path of Travel
b) Other than Objects in Transit or Authorized Objects, Objects on Sidewalks shall
not expand beyond a 9-square foot footprint (measured as 3 x 3, 4 x 2.25, 9×1,
c) Objects on Sidewalks cannot obstruct traffic, pedestrian or other signs authorized
by law.
d) Other than Authorized Objects or Objects in Transit, no Objects shall be placed
on any Sidewalk directly in front of a building entrance, from the entrance face to
the edge of the Sidewalk, except between the hours of 10:00 pm and 7:00 am.
e) Other than Authorized Objects or Objects in Transit, no objects shall be placed
on any Sidewalk area three feet to either side of a building entrance, from the
building wall to the edge of the Sidewalk, except between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am.

Draft 4-17-18
f) Objects must not interfere with normal access to or use of Authorized Objects or
with wheelchair ramps, driveways, or crosswalks.
8) Sitting:
Sitting is allowed on all Sidewalks and in Parklets at all times, except in the Path of
9) Lying: Sleep is a fundamental human right and necessity, and Berkeley must provide space
for individuals to lie down at all times. Lying is permitted in all City of Berkeley Parks
during open hours, which are posted at each park.
Except in the case of a medical emergency, lying is prohibited:
i) In BART Access Corridors. The City shall post signage announcing
restrictions on lying in BART Access Corridors.
ii) On Sidewalks in all Residential and Mixed Use Residential (MUR) Districts;
iii)On Sidewalks in all Commercial Districts and in the Manufacturing (M), Mixed
Manufacturing (MM) and Mixed-Use Light Industrial Zones (MULI) between
the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m.
and 6:00 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. (Lying is permitted in these locations
from 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 6:00 p.m.
Sunday to 7:00 a.m. Monday.)
iv)Within the Path of Travel.
10)Cushioning Material: a) Cushioning Material for sitting or lying in compliance with this ordinance is limited
to pads, folded blankets, mats or other material providing insulation or cushioning
while an individual is seated or lying.
b) Cushioning Material shall not expand beyond what is reasonably needed while
seated or lying, and shall be removed when not in use.
c) When being used for sitting or lying in compliance with this ordinance,
Cushioning Material may exceed or be non-contiguous with the allowed 9 square
foot footprint for Objects, but must maintain the Path of Travel.
No more than two stationary dogs shall be permitted in any 10-foot area on
Commercial Sidewalks or in Parklets, except for guide dogs, signal dogs or service
dogs, as provided by state law. [Same as current]

Draft 4-17-18
Ensuring broad public access to and use of Sidewalks and Parklets is the purpose of
these regulations. Enforcement must support this purpose while minimizing the
potential for criminalization.
a) Objects and Cushioning Materials:
i) If, based on complaints, direct observation or referrals, City staff become
aware that Objects or Cushioning Materials are placed in a location or
manner in violation of these or other regulations, notice shall be provided
stating the City’s regulations and the corrective action requested. If Objects or
Cushioning Materials are unattended notice shall be posted on or directly
adjacent to such Objects or Cushioning Materials.
ii) Depending on the impacts of the violation, notice shall state whether
corrective action must be taken immediately, or may specify any time period,
up to 1 hour, for Objects or Cushioning Material to be moved and brought into
compliance with these regulations.
iii) Failure to comply with actions requested in the notice within the time period
specified will result in Objects or Cushioning Material being moved by the City
to either:
(1) Conform with the City’s regulations (moved out of the Path of Travel, for
example); or
(2) For later retrieval, according to the protocols for Storage of Unattended
Property specified in the City of Berkeley’s Administrative Regulation 10.1.
iv) If Objects have been in the same location for more than 3 days and other
applicable criteria, if any, are met, Berkeley’s Encampment Response Policy
may apply. [Encampment Response Policy will be concurrently adopted]
b) Sitting and Lying Down:
i) If, based on complaints, direct observation, or referrals, City staff become
aware that an individual is sitting in the Path of Travel or lying at a location or
time that is not permitted by these or other regulations, notice shall be
provided to such individual, stating the City’s regulations and the corrective
action requested.
ii) If the individual does not come into compliance after being provided with
notice and a reasonable opportunity to comply, a Citation may be issued.
iii) Violations shall be charged as infractions, and not as misdemeanors.
iv) Fines for an infraction charged under this Section shall not exceed $100.

Draft 4-17-18
v) [Concept in development] The City may waive fines for an infraction charged
under this Section if the individual fined elects to access and receive specified
homeless services or to perform specified community service [program to be
determined]. For fines to be waived and the infraction to be cleared, written
verification of performance is required.
vi) If an individual has been inhabiting a specific Sidewalk location for more than
3 days and other applicable criteria, if any, are met, Berkeley’s Encampment
Response Policy may apply.
c) Dogs:
i) If more than two stationary dogs are within a ten-foot area on a Sidewalk in a
Commercial District or in a Parklet, notice shall be provided to the individual
or individuals in control of such dogs, stating the City’s regulations and the
corrective action requested.
ii) If an individual does not comply, after being provided with notice and a
reasonable opportunity, a Citation may be issued.
iii) Violations shall be charged as infractions, and not as misdemeanors.
iv) Fines for an infraction charged under this Section shall not exceed $100.


Proposed Encampment Policy

Draft 4/19/2018 1:00 am
Unfortunately, the City does not currently have the capacity to house all homeless
individuals in permanent housing or shelters. Encampments therefore will continue to
exist, born of the necessity to address basic human needs such as shelter, sleep and
community. This policy is designed to address health, safety and other conditions or
impacts of Encampments as humanely as possible.
1. Definitions
Objects: Objects include any item or thing, attended or unattended, but does not
include animals or persons. [Same as Sidewalks Policy]
One or more individuals or households:
1) Who have been inhabiting a public location for more than three consecutive days;
2) Who meet at least one of the following conditions:
a) Use temporary sheltering accommodations such as tents or improvised
structures that they leave at such public location;
b) Have accumulated Objects that they leave at such public location.
2. Encampment Response Options
Where an Encampment exists, the City Manager may respond by taking any of the
following actions:
1) If applicable, enforce the provisions of the City’s Regulations for Sitting, Lying,
Dogs and Objects on Sidewalks and in Parklets, pursuant to BMC Section X
2) Request Abatement of one or more conditions pursuant to this Section
3) Issue a Request to Move pursuant to this Section
4) Initiate Immediate Removal pursuant to this Section
Encampment Response shall not take the place of or in any way preclude normal
investigation and prosecution of suspected or actual unlawful activity. Such activity at
an Encampment shall be addressed through normal law enforcement procedures.
3. Proportionality of Response Actions
Response Actions shall be proportional to the totality of circumstances present at the
encampment, including the nature, severity, size, duration and other aspects of
encampment conditions or impacts.

Draft 4/19/2018 1:00 am
When determining the totality of circumstances at an Encampment, considerations may
include, but are not limited to:
1. The nature, duration and severity of health and safety concerns
2. Impacts or safety concerns related to the location, size or duration of the
3. The quantity, nature and condition of accumulated objects and belongings
4. The number and nature of complaints received through the City’s 311 system, or
in writing by City Staff or Council and Mayoral Offices
5. Proximity to schools, senior centers and youth facilities including playgrounds,
parks and sports fields
6. Impacts on businesses and on encampment and other residents
7. Environmental concerns
8. Potential for or actual harm to public infrastructure or private property
9. Criminal or other activity which poses a general threat to the safety of the
Encampment or to the broader community
10.Location in an area from which a prior Encampment has been subject to a
Request to Move or to Immediate Removal.
While conditions or impacts at an Encampment are often multifaceted, a single
condition or impact may form the basis for a Response Action.
3. Abatement Request Protocols
In keeping with the goal of proportionality between conditions or impacts and Response
Actions, the City may request Abatement of specific conditions or impacts.
Notice shall be provided stating the applicable laws or regulations that have been
violated and the Abatement action(s) requested.
Taking into account the severity of conditions or impacts, notice shall state whether
Abatement must take place immediately, or may specify any time period for Abatement,
up to 72 hours.
Notice shall include information on shelters, storage, housing resources, and other
services available. In addition, if possible given staffing, homeless outreach workers
should visit the Encampment to provide additional information and invite individuals to
access services.
Failure to Abate as requested may result in issuance of a Request to Move, or
Immediate Removal.

Draft 4/19/2018 1:00 am
4. Request to Move Protocols
A. A Request to Move may be issued when:
a. Written notice of a request to Abate has been delivered and such
Abatement has not taken place within the time period specified.
b. At the conclusion of a period of Sustained Outreach.
c. Taking into account the Proportionality of Response Actions, conditions or
impacts are significant enough to warrant a Request to Move.
B. Notice shall be provided stating the laws or regulations that have been violated
and the Request to Move, and must provide adequate time to move, preferably at
least 8 hours. No Request to Move may be issued after 5 pm or before 8 am, and
any time period specified for removal, if not expired at 5 pm, shall be tolled until 8
Notice shall include information on shelters, storage, housing resources, and other
services available. In addition, if possible given staffing, homeless outreach workers
should visit the Encampment to provide additional information and invite individuals to
access services.
Failure to Move within the specified timeframe may result in Immediate Removal.
5. Immediate Removal Protocols
Immediate Removal may be undertaken when:
1. The totality of health or safety conditions or other conditions and impacts are
severe enough to warrant Immediate Removal.
2. After a failure to Abate or Move in the manner or timeframe specified.
Immediate Removal requires no notice. Except in the case of extreme danger or
emergency, individuals shall be given a reasonable opportunity to remove their own
Objects during Immediate Removal, or such Objects may be removed and stored
according to Administrative Regulation 10.1. Copies of AR 10.1 shall be provided to
individuals present at the time of Removal and shall also be posted in the vicinity.

The city of Berkeley needs to realize that Berkeley is a destination for homeless persons and vagrants, people who want to do drugs and live in tents under freeways, as well as rent-avoiders who like to live in vehicles.  So the city should be pro-active in making the city less attractive to those who were not Berkeley residents who “just became homeless” but rather are people who became homeless somewhere else and came to Berkeley because Berkeley offers more handouts and goodies to homeless persons.

See these articles about people who were homeless elsewhere but came to “the Promised Land” of Berkeley to be homeless here:

This man came from the South Bay:

This woman came from Placerville:


The city of Berkeley is constructing a facility to provide shelter, temporary housing and services to the homeless population, in the area of 2nd Street at Cedar. This location is near one of, if not the largest homeless camp in the city of Berkeley, a camp that occupies several blocks of 2nd street in that area. This camp has been one of the largest camps, it has also been one of the camps that is most disturbing to view, as it’s full of debris and ramshackle tarp structures. Quite different from the comparatively neat and orderly camp on Adeline St at the Here/There Sculpture. As well, multiple businesses in this area have been negatively impacted for some time by this large camp, and some of the disturbing behavior associated with it.

This week, the city evicted these campers, along with 45 tons of garbage.

Homeless advocate and attorney Osha Neumann wrote to the city, regarding the eviction, pointing out that the city has not told the homeless where they can go. He shares the sad story of a woman who has lost the ability to walk, and who it is clear, will have a real hard time finding someplace else to go.

I agree that this is a very serious problem, people with nowhere to go…and there are few situations as sad as the elderly or disabled living on the streets. They must be our first priority in assigning shelter or housing space! But beyond what the city is able to do, again, I believe this is a national and state issue, not a city issue. The burden cannot be on the city of Berkeley, or any city, to provide housing for everyone who shows up in that city and needs housing. However, I do believe that the federal and/or state government can and should be providing shelter and then permanent housing for everyone who needs it. Imagine the power of the message if cities across the nation sent 10,000 or 50,000 homeless people to camp on the lawn at the nation’s capitol.

See continuation of Berkeley’s attempt to address the homeless problem, here:

An interesting side point to this issue of housing the homeless was presented by one of the Berkeleyside commenters.  A reader submitted the following information about some of the salaries enjoyed by city of Berkeley employees.  City employees enjoy these fat pay packages while Berkeley residents pay very high property taxes and the city frets about lack of funds for various projects, including those for the homeless:

Here are some City of Berkeley employee salaries and benefits. The list goes on forever. It seems that Berkeley’s public servants are more interested in serving themselves than serving those in need. Taxpayers let them get away with it even when it puts overwhelming pressure on the city’s budget. Last time I checked, you didn’t pursue a career in the public sector to make as much as a Google engineer (equal footing with tech salaries being a common justification, not that I condone these salaries either). With small cuts to these inflated compensations, the City would have enough money to house homeless people every winter. Clearly that is not their priority:

Name Job title Regular pay Overtime pay Other pay Total pay Total benefits Total pay & benefits
Berkeley, 2016 $112,182.00 $129,848.00 $71,355.00 $313,385.00 $74,964.00 $388,349.00
Bedwendolyn D Williams-Ridley CITY MANAGER
Berkeley, 2016 $257,692.00 $0.00 $5,914.00 $263,606.00 $109,139.00 $372,745.00
Berkeley, 2016 $184,193.00 $0.00 $39,477.00 $223,670.00 $135,742.00 $359,412.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,856.00 $59,776.00 $53,944.00 $247,576.00 $109,056.00 $356,632.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,855.00 $76,751.00 $36,677.00 $247,283.00 $103,491.00 $350,774.00
Berkeley, 2016 $116,071.00 $141,542.00 $18,622.00 $276,235.00 $72,984.00 $349,219.00
Lionell F Dozier Ii POLICE OFFICER
Berkeley, 2016 $115,229.00 $116,138.00 $29,856.00 $261,223.00 $87,419.00 $348,642.00
Andrew R Greenwood POLICE CAPTAIN
Berkeley, 2016 $188,465.00 $0.00 $24,470.00 $212,935.00 $130,299.00 $343,234.00
Berkeley, 2016 $116,071.00 $91,086.00 $36,364.00 $243,521.00 $90,700.00 $334,221.00
Berkeley, 2016 $165,220.00 $3,770.00 $31,084.00 $200,074.00 $122,064.00 $322,138.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,857.00 $78,178.00 $13,145.00 $225,180.00 $96,843.00 $322,023.00
Berkeley, 2016 $161,583.00 $24,230.00 $17,153.00 $202,966.00 $118,477.00 $321,443.00
Berkeley, 2016 $160,674.00 $23,392.00 $13,093.00 $197,159.00 $117,440.00 $314,599.00
Richard M Guzman FIRE CAPTAIN I
Berkeley, 2016 $134,466.00 $76,299.00 $23,800.00 $234,565.00 $79,202.00 $313,767.00
Michael K Meehan POLICE CHIEF
Berkeley, 2016 $184,966.00 $0.00 $20,619.00 $205,585.00 $107,105.00 $312,690.00
Berkeley, 2016 $160,674.00 $19,310.00 $19,070.00 $199,054.00 $110,470.00 $309,524.00
Berkeley, 2016 $160,675.00 $21,586.00 $14,592.00 $196,853.00 $112,423.00 $309,276.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,856.00 $48,708.00 $25,017.00 $207,581.00 $101,607.00 $309,188.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,856.00 $52,691.00 $20,855.00 $207,402.00 $100,897.00 $308,299.00
Berkeley, 2016 $160,675.00 $21,677.00 $15,562.00 $197,914.00 $110,299.00 $308,213.00
Berkeley, 2016 $144,158.00 $4,513.00 $28,897.00 $177,568.00 $121,844.00 $299,412.00
Gilbert K Dong Jr FIRE CHIEF
Berkeley, 2016 $220,990.00 $0.00 ($9,086.00) $211,904.00 $86,593.00 $298,497.00
Berkeley, 2016 $160,674.00 $9,204.00 $10,768.00 $180,646.00 $115,566.00 $296,212.00
Berkeley, 2016 $215,395.00 $0.00 $485.00 $215,880.00 $75,488.00 $291,368.00
Berkeley, 2016 $145,262.00 $27,799.00 $13,201.00 $186,262.00 $105,033.00 $291,295.00
Berkeley, 2016 $134,467.00 $87,236.00 $8,742.00 $230,445.00 $59,975.00 $290,420.00
Berkeley, 2016 $160,674.00 $10,541.00 $21,491.00 $192,706.00 $95,118.00 $287,824.00
Berkeley, 2016 $124,389.00 $68,597.00 $18,862.00 $211,848.00 $73,255.00 $285,103.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,855.00 $36,491.00 $11,714.00 $182,060.00 $99,177.00 $281,237.00
Anthony Hall Iii FIREFIGHTER
Berkeley, 2016 $104,376.00 $98,470.00 $9,357.00 $212,203.00 $68,438.00 $280,641.00
Berkeley, 2016 $105,028.00 $30,228.00 $43,683.00 $178,939.00 $101,308.00 $280,247.00
Berkeley, 2016 $184,239.00 $0.00 $6,107.00 $190,346.00 $89,453.00 $279,799.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,856.00 $60,111.00 $2,461.00 $196,428.00 $83,171.00 $279,599.00
Berkeley, 2016 $190,512.00 $0.00 ($1,461.00) $189,051.00 $89,197.00 $278,248.00
Berkeley, 2016 $133,855.00 $32,112.00 $14,071.00 $180,038.00 $95,840.00 $275,878.00
Berkeley, 2016 $196,811.00 $0.00 $4,529.00 $201,340.00 $74,209.00 $275,549.00
Berkeley, 2016 $203,465.00 $0.00 ($2,690.00) $200,775.00 $74,332.00 $275,107.00
Berkeley, 2016 $117,486.00 $64,005.00 $20,243.00 $201,734.00 $72,708.00 $274,442.00
Berkeley, 2016 $187,593.00 $0.00 $1,175.00 $188,768.00 $83,707.00 $272,475.00



3 thoughts on “Berkeley’s Attempt to Address the Homeless Problem”

  1. The differentiation that you make between “the public” and “the homeless” is incorrect, at best.

    The idea that “the homeless” are NOT part of “the public” is part of the mindset that creates the same NIMBY attitudes that prevent anyone from building the housing (or even building the homeless shelters) that would help to initiate the process that would be necessary to begin to resolve the issue of homelessness for many people.


  2. I re-read this article and I’m not seeing that I stated/uggested that homeless were not part of the general public. That said, when discussing many subjects pertaining to homelessness, there is a need to distinguish housed residents from people who are homeless or living in vehicles. As well, there is a need to distinguish among different kinds/causes of homelessness.

    It’s easy to be dismissive of people who want to protect their neighborhoods, calling them “NIMBYs” — for instance if they would oppose homeless shelters in their neighborhood. Yet the facts are, that the overwhelming number of neighborhoods and communities do not want either homeless people or homeless shelters in their neighborhoods. Denying that bald truth will get no one anywhere.

    When people say that they dont’ want homeless shelters in their neighborhood, this means that they dont’ want 100 to 200 people dropped down into their community, who have a 10-20 times higher rate of substance abuse and a 10 times higher rate of serious mental illness, than the population at large. Neighborhoods don’t want a huge influx of people with serious problems, who will very likely create problems in their communities. This is not to say these homeless dont’ deserve homes, but it means, we can’t keep looking at this problem in a simplistic way, as though the primary obstacle to solving the homeless problem is unwelcoming neighbors. No, the primary problems in solving homelessness are the very serious (often debilitating) problems that not all but a great many homeless people have.

    It should be clear that one of the main purposes of my website is to reject simplistic and disingenuous views that (1)the only social issue attending the “homeless” is that they lack a home, and that (2) we can easily solve homelessness by just giving everyone a home who asks for one.

    Many of the articles I write here are intended to show that the lack of a home is not always but very frequently a result of substance abuse, serious mental illness, criminal behavior, or other serious dysfunctionality. Again, look at the study the City of Berkeley did where they found that 40% of homeless had problems with substance abuse and 40% had serious mental illness.

    The population as a whole has only 2% with serious substance abuse — see here

    And the population as a whole has only 4% with serious mental illness

    This means that those who are homeless have 10 to 20 times the rate of substance abuse as the general public as a whole, and 10 times the rate of serious mental illness as the general public as a whole. I’d like to see a study about the rate of criminal behavior/convictions among the homeless, as I think this would also be significantly higher among the homeless than the population at large.

    This is why it’s disingenuous to talk of “the homeless” as though they are just like everyone else and will fit into neighborhoods just like everyone else. Some homeless certainly are like everyone else — perhaps they became homeless through tragic circumstances, a job loss or disability. But a great many are homeless because have serious problems with substance abuse, mental illness, criminal behavior — and the point I’m trying to make here which cannot be made too strongly, is that you cannot ignore these serious issues when trying to find solutions for homelessness.

    Liked by 1 person

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