Item 39 Factsheet

Item # 39: Emergency Measures to Address Homelessness

What does Item # 39 do?

Item # 39 is a response to the growing homeless crisis on Berkeley streets. According to the most recent point-in-time homeless count in 2015, there are approximately 834 people homeless in Berkeley, a 23% increase over the number of homeless people estimated to live in Berkeley in 2009. 266 individuals (32%) were in shelters or transitional housing, 568 (68%) were unsheltered. The number of homeless people living on our streets has rising dramatically over the past year and is visible in our commercial districts, parks and in the manufacturing districts.

Despite over 834 homeless persons living on Berkeley streets, at peak winter months, there are roughly 200 shelter beds. In addition the city has a limited supply of housing subsidies for rapid rehousing, as well as transitional and permanent supportive housing units. The growth of encampments in the Downtown, in city parks and near the Gilman Freeway have created significant health and safety problems for homeless campers, neighboring businesses and residents, and for city staff. While unregulated camping has created problems for the safety and security of our community, with few viable alternatives, it will continue to remain a growing problem. All Berkeley citizens, housed and unhoused, share a desire to alleviate and resolve the homelessness crisis.

This item proposes a number of ideas to address the immediate crisis of our unsheltered homeless population, especially as we approach the winter holiday season. It also seeks to explore interim and long-term solutions to address homeless in Berkeley.

As Mayor of Berkeley, I am committed to developing solutions, local and regional, that will address the emergency situation on our streets to provide safe and secure places for people to rest, to develop long-term solutions to provide permanent supportive housing and to ensure the safety of our streets, parks and other public spaces for all residents.

I will be establishing three advisory committees to meet in the coming weeks to address major areas of policy development around homelessness: Preventing Homelessness/Housing Security; Emergency/Interim Measures; and Long-Term Solutions/Housing First.

What Item # 39 Does NOT Do?

  • DOES NOT give blanket permission for camping on public property throughout Berkeley.


  • DOES NOT establish a moratorium on any enforcement of unpermitted camping on public property.


  • DOES NOT result in sanctioned camp sites popping up near schools or near residential neighborhoods.


  • DOES NOT limit Berkeley Police Department’s power to enforce existing laws regarding objects obstructing sidewalks or problematic behavior.


  • DOES NOT result in an illegal appropriation of City funds. Youth Spirit Artworks and the Berkeley Drop-In Center, both went through the 2016-2017 Community Agency Allocation process, were evaluated by commissions, and were funded for Fiscal Year 2016, only to see their funding cut. This is despite enormous qualitative benefits they provide to the South Berkeley community and to our most vulnerable, including homeless youth.

What does Item # 39 actually propose?

  • Establishes a Council Ad-Hoc Subcommittee to work with the City Manager and city staff to explore emergency solutions to address the needs of our unsheltered homeless population. The Ad-Hoc Subcommittee will explore options for temporary shelter that have been implemented in other communities, and also explore the creation of a temporary Navigation Center.
  • The item also requests that the Ad-Hoc Subcommittee address the issue of unregulated camping throughout Berkeley, and explore options including, but not limited, to designating one location on public or private property for camping with sanitary and waste facilities on-site, services and outreach.
  • It asks the City Manager to develop a formal policy regarding the removal of encampments including requiring prior notice to campers, the offer of shelter or housing alternatives, and protocols regarding the removal, storage, and retrieval of personal property.
  • It directs the City Manager to implement interim regulations, until a new encampment policy is adopted, which require 48 hours’ notice to campers before removal, enforcement during daylight hours, and illegal activity by individuals will be enforced against the individual and not toward an entire group.

Amends Berkeley Municipal Code Section 14.48.170, rules regarding objects on sidewalks, to suspend future enforcement of the prior Council’s 2 square foot limit on objects. In addition the City Manager is directed to explore the creation of a storage program linked to existing service locations and providers.

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