Public Comment

An Idea for Berkeley Hiding in Plain Sight

Carol Denney
Sunday September 09, 2018 - 05:09:00 PM

It is no secret that some police officers sleep in their vehicles behind old City Hall or in their vehicles on nearby streets. It's more convenient than dealing with the traffic congestion from their homes in other cities. And there's plenty of room in the parking lot behind old City Hall. It's not strictly legal, but you know how it is in this town. How much anybody cares depends on who complains about whom.

Let's be sensible. Let's have at least one small area behind old City Hall set up for short-term stays for anyone who needs it. It is hypocritical that the police are doing this but treating anyone else who does it as criminal. Vehicle and tent sweeps without tent and vehicle alternatives are deeply unfair, especially considering the recent Martin v. City of Boise decision, which dives into deep detail about self-reporting shelters' honest gauntlet of requirements, inconveniences, and simple unavailability if, for instance, you don't get there in time to sign up during seasonally changing hours. What is characterized by our city manager and city council as "availability" is often, as described in Boise, a cruel facade unnavigable by disabled or homeless people .

Each district of the city should be obligated to find a similarly accessible setting and arrange for sanitary facilities, so that each district can play a role in addressing this simple necessity. Sleeping in doorways isn't just unfair to people forced to do so- it's entirely avoidable in a city with our wealth and imagination. Districts which have successful experiments can assist other districts, create partnerships as needed until we have working interim arrangements during this obvious housing crisis. 

The necessity of addressing our housing crisis, which hits police officers, students, and, well, everybody, is not going away. The Mayor and the Berkeley City Council are poised to implore the police force to crackdown on even sitting in the renovated BART plaza at their opening City Council meeting this Thursday, September 13, 2018, 6:00 pm. Instead, they could agree that the BART plaza should be open to everyone, and that each district should work cooperatively to harbor creative living arrangements until more permanent solutions are available.