Street Behavior and Safety FAQs

What types of street behavior are NOT allowed under current laws?

In commercial corridors between 7am and 10pm Monday - Saturday, and 10am - 6pm on Sunday:

○     No person shall lie upon a commercial sidewalk or upon any object on such sidewalk.

○     No more than two stationary dogs shall be permitted in any ten-foot area on a commercial sidewalk, except for guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dogs, as provided by state law.

○     It is unlawful for any person to solicit another in any public place at the times, locations and in the manner specified below:

■     1. In any manner which coerces, threatens, hounds, or intimidates the person solicited;

■     2. Within ten feet of any automatic teller machine in the City.

  • It is unlawful for any person to intentionally place or maintain anything or to assist in placing or maintaining anything in, on or at any driveway, entrance or exit of any church, hall, theater, place of public assembly, store, business, plant, industry, private residence or private property so as to prevent the free passage of persons or vehicles to or from the same.
  • It is unlawful for any person to place or cause to be placed anywhere upon any sidewalk or roadway, any object which obstructs, restricts, or prevents the use of any portion of such sidewalk Ordinances Regulating Sidewalks and Public Spaces
  • Unpermitted fires and barbecues are prohibited on public property, including City parks, facilities, streets, sidewalks, median strips, parking strips, and rights-of way
  • The following is prohibited:

○     Public consumption of alcohol/open containers

○     Public consumption/sale of controlled substances

○     Camping overnight in City Parks

 

What types of street behavior are permitted under current laws?

  • City law permits all people to be in parks with their property and sleep during park hours.
  • Free speech

If I see illegal street behavior, what should I do?

  • If you see any illegal behaviors, we would encourage you to report that to Berkeley Police by calling 510-981-5900 in a timely manner. Please try to distinguish details about the incident - where it specifically took place, what time, what the person looked like, etc. BPD uses incident reports to identify areas in need of more frequent patrolling.
  • District 8’s Area Coordinator, the Police Officer tasked with coordinating other departments/services, is Officer Nabozny, and she can be reached at 510-981-5778.
  • The City’s Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team can be reached at 510-981-5244.

What is the City doing to address the growing temporary encampments that have set up throughout Berkeley?

While these problems are city-wide, staff is currently focusing on the following areas as a high priority:

  • Willard Park
  • Parker and Shattuck intersection
  • Civic Center Park
  • Codornices Creek
  • Shattuck Cinemas
  • Ohlone Park
  • Gilman overpass
  • University overpass
  • Bank of America downtown
  • Library Commons
  • Aquatic Park
  • Marina, Nature Study Area
  • Vets Building
  • Behind Tile Shop off of Harrison between 9 and 10th
  • Gilman and Curtis- west side of BART tracks, southside
  • Illegal structure at 4th and Allston
  • Strawberry Creek
  • University and Milvia

 

Step 1. When an illegal situation is identified, staff from Mental Health, Police and the City Manager’s Office meets at the location to assess the situation in terms of environmental impact and human services needs. If homeless people are not present, but residual debris is, Public Works dispatches trucks and crews to remove the material consistent with the city policy on removing and storing unattended personal belongings. Belongings are sent to a transfer station and can be retrieved. 

If homeless individuals are present (it is not uncommon to already know who these individuals are), staff explains that the City is receiving complaints and they are potentially in violation of specific ordinances. Most common potential violations referenced are around lodging in public (PC 647e), blocking the Right of Way (ROW) (BMC 14.48), lying on the sidewalk (BMC 13.36), and consuming alcohol in public (BMC 13.36.070).  

The City provides a verbal warning noting that subsequent warnings will be in writing, followed by citations. Staff also requests individuals to look over their belongings and determine if they are ready and willing to discard any of their accumulations, and if so, Public Works will assist.

City staff explains why what they are doing might be problematic. Oftentimes, if the encampment is blocking the sidewalk and/or there are used syringes in the area, this creates a blockage for wheelchairs which may be forced into the street and traffic, and poses a public health safety issue in particular if there are children needing to pass on the sidewalk

Mental Health staff engages the individuals to determine eligibility for services, income assistance, housing and/or transportation if the individual expresses an interest in returning to a home location, which requires that there be a receiving party. Staff is also sensitive to the rights of our homeless and mentally ill community and makes multiple attempts to provide services and resources. 

Step 2: Staff returns several more times issuing additional verbal and sometimes written warnings, explaining that the next steps could result in citations. Staff again asks individuals to look over their belongings and determine if they are ready and willing to discard any of their accumulations. Staff sometimes needs to engage the same individuals multiple times before there is any expression or interest in getting help.  Mental Health staff spends a considerable amount of time building trust and establishing a relationship.  A positive outcome may be that the individual is actively in seeking services and is reducing the amount of accumulations.

Step 3: Staff returns and if there is no movement toward a resolution of the problem and serious violations or public health hazards still exist, citations may be issued.

Step 4: Staff returns and depending on the situation will either write an additional citation and/or make arrests. An arrest is the last resort after many efforts to engage and get that individual help.

 

Finally, in order to always make sure homeless rights are protected and to avoid legal claims and lawsuits from people who allege that city staff discarded extremely valuable possessions, City staff receive continuing education and trainings on the City’s Policies and Procedures for Removing Unattended Belongings.


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