Berkeley encampment residents on Harrison and Eighth St. in West Berkeley have received preliminary guidelines from Peter Radu, assistant to the Berkeley city manager, in an effort to mitigate health and road hazards.
The “Good Neighbor Guidelines” is a document draft with five general guidelines requesting that residents throw away trash, keep belongings off of the road, avoid building potentially dangerous structures, limit the presence of flammable materials and remain on one side of the street.
“We are trying to find a better way to work with the residents and the advocates that are associated with those encampments to better manage those conditions so long as they don’t have other options,” Radu said.
The guidelines were developed in collaboration with encampment residents and advocates after receiving input from several community meetings, according to Radu.
Although the draft has been sent to encampment residents, Radu stressed that they are not official policy. Before moving forward with implementing them, Radu said he and his team will present them to a “homeless panel of experts” in October to receive feedback, and ultimately the city council will be responsible for any policy changes.
“In a robust discussion around something like this, especially when we’re asking for compromise … Everybody’s gonna need to meet in the middle here,” Radu said.
Lisa Teague, a member of the People’s Park community, said they believe these guidelines are a positive step in the right direction as they demonstrate communication and an acknowledgement of the issue’s importance.
Numerous residents lost their belongings the last time encampments on Harrison and Eighth St. were cleared out in Oct. 2022 according to encampment resident Alhondro Myers.
Teague said Radu and his team’s actions were heavily scrutinized following the October sweep, and they believe this collaborative effort could be Radu’s attempt at trying a more amenable approach.
“I think these are all really positive steps. And if it can avoid another debacle like the one in October on Eighth and Harrison, that’s a really positive, positive thing,” Teague said.
Selana “Sissy” Williams, an encampment resident on Eighth and Harrison St., said she believes the guidelines are “fair” and “reasonable.”
Williams noted that having clean and safe living and road conditions are for the betterment of unhoused and housed residents alike.
“How would you feel if it was your loved one who needed an ambulance and they couldn’t get through because there’s trash blocking the road? We can’t have that,” Williams said.
Williams said she and her neighbors often find themselves clearing out the roadway and reminding their neighbors to take out their trash and leave debris out of the road, although they aren’t always successful.
Ultimately, Radu noted that the draft makes it clear that consistent failure to adhere to the guidelines could result in city intervention such as a deep clean or another encampment closure.