Oakland Public Works Committee Delays RV Parking Ban Vote

During a June 28 meeting, Oakland’s Public Works Committee unanimously voted to postpone considering an ordinance that, if passed, would ban RVs and trailers from parking on the vast majority of public streets in the city.

“All we’re looking for here is to respect residents, their children and families, to make sure they have a clean, safe environment and a clean route to school,” said District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo, who proposed the ordinance, during the meeting. “But we’re allowing people to park wherever they choose to and do whatever they do.”

With certain exceptions for commercial or governmental vehicles as well as some registered for disabled people to use, Gallo’s proposed ordinance would ban vehicles longer than 22 feet, or taller than 7 feet, or wider than 7 feet, from parking on any street that is 40 feet in width or narrower. According to Oakland’s Department of Public Transportation, the ordinance would prevent such parking on about 79% of Oakland’s streets.

Just as when Gallo first proposed the ordinance during a Public Works Committee meeting on March 22nd, he again faced pushback from local residents who felt it would criminalize and harm people experiencing homelessness and be ineffective at achieving its goals of creating cleaner safer streets. During the June 28 meeting, 17 of 19 public speakers spoke out against the ordinance, while no one spoke out in favor of it.

Timur Katsnelson, an intern with The East Bay Community Law Center, asked the committee to “consider what excessive fines and fees mean” to a person living in their vehicle who has it towed by the city. He cautioned that such towing would likely cause people to lose their homes and “the last remnants of their lives.”

Several speakers pointed out that the ordinance does not come with any added services or offer people other places to park, as all city sanctioned safe RV parking sites are already full.

“This is not public safety,” said Talya Husbands-Hankin of the homeless advocacy group Love & Justice in The Streets. “If the vast majority of streets become off limits to vehicle dwellers, where will people go?”

When Oakland’s Public Works Committee first considered Gallo’s proposal during the March 22nd meeting, the other committee members, Councilmember Loren Taylor, Sheng Thao and Dan Kalb, requested Gallo include a supplemental report to address how his proposal compares to similar ordinances in other cities, what resources would be needed to implement it, what info can be gathered about RVs and RV owners in Oakland, and where RVs could be relocated to. Three public speakers pointed out that Gallo included no such report when he reintroduced his proposal in the June 28 meeting.

“This proposed ordinance comes with no answers to previous questions, no supplemental reports, no solutions and no data backing it,” said Sasha Ellis, an Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid. “It cannot be voted on as is.”

Data from the 2022 Point in Time count, which many people consider undercounts homelessness, documents over 500 more people live in RVs and vehicles in Oakland than did in 2019. According the PIT count, vehicle dwellers now make up the majority of Oakland residents experiencing unsheltered homelessness. This data was released in mid-May, between the March 22nd meeting when Gallo originally proposed his ordinance, and the June 28 meeting when the Public Works Committee reconsidered it.

Joe DeVries, Oakland’s Director of Interdepartmental Operations, consulted with Gallo and the Public Works Committee during the June 28 meeting. DeVries called the newly released PIT count data related to vehicle dwellers as “a sobering fact we need to weave in” for Gallo’s proposal.

DeVries also referred to administrative changes that recently occurred or will occur soon that would pose challenges to implementing such new legislation. Oakland City Administrator Ed Reiskin appointed Daniel A. Cooper as the Oakland’s new Homelessness Administrator in mid-March. The city is also in the process of shifting responsibilities related to abandoned vehicles from its police department to its department of transportation. Ultimately, DeVries recommended the committee delay their vote.

On June 27, Oakland Homeless Advocacy Working Group sent the Public Works Committee a letter to address vehicle dwellers called “Recommendations for a Safe and Humane Curbside Parking Program.” One of these recommendations was to “identify and create adequate replacement sites.”

“Rather than close off its streets to resident vehicles,” the letter read, “the City must identify or create serviced sites where vehicle living can be ‘safely and humanely’ experienced.”

During the June 28 meeting, Public Works Committee member Sheng Thao said she wanted Gallo’s proposal to have both more information and more services.

“Having more information would be helpful,” Thao said, “but if the more information that we get is not inclusive of possible city sanctioned sites for RVs that would be problematic.”

DeVries recommended reconsidering Gallo’s proposal in the autumn, so that the city’s administration could do a “much more thorough analysis” of it. The Public Works Committee did not set an exact date to vote on the proposal but agreed to reconsider it pending them receiving more information about it from Gallo’s and the City Administration.

Notes: A similar version of this story is scheduled to be published soon by The Oakland Post and The Post News Group.

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