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RVs line the street near the Home Depot in Oakland's Fruitvale Neighborhood.

RV dwellers can park on private property in residential areas under new ordinance

on November 16, 2021

Oakland City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday that allows people to park and occupy recreational vehicles, mobile homes, and manufactured homes on private property in residential areas, if the property owner permits.

The Construction Innovation And Expanded Housing Options ordinance was crafted to create more housing options for Oakland residents. It also updates zoning and blight restrictions, which previously made it illegal to reside in permanently parked RVs in residentially zoned districts. 

“As part of the multifaceted effort to help address the affordable housing crisis, we are looking at all kinds of innovative, creative, unusual ways to expand housing options for people who are both renters and private property owners,” Councilmember Dan Kalb said.

Kalb, who represents District 1 and co-sponsored the ordinance with Mayor Schaaf, believes that it will benefit private property owners by allowing them to rent mobile residences as an income stream. He said it also will create an affordable housing option for those priced out of traditional apartments. 

He said the ordinance also could benefit unhoused residents living in vehicles that can now be parked more safely on private property.

To meet the ordinance’s criteria, vehicles must be built on a chassis and have water access, heat and sewage management. They also must be placed at least 6 feet away from structures and other vehicles.

“We want to make sure people are living in a safe, healthy, situation,” Kalb said. “And if this helps create hundreds of more housing units for renters, that’s great.”

According to the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, construction costs in the Bay Area have risen 119% in the past decade. And a report from the Bay Area Equity Atlas shows that apartment rents in the city have increased 72%, while median incomes have stagnated since 2011. 

Needa Bee, founder of The Village In Oakland, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance and advocacy for unhoused people, believes the ordinance will serve only a small number of people living in their vehicles. 

“Anything that can happen to give [unhoused] people sanctuary and not be harassed and not be penalized is great,” Bee said. “I’m just really disappointed that the very first intervention they did for vehicle dwellers was to bring profit to private landowners.”

The ordinance has the potential to bring short-term rentals with quick turnover, which would benefit property owners but not address the lack of affordable housing.

“How do we know this isn’t going to become an Airbnb,” Bee said. “How do we know this isn’t going to be the thing to do in Oakland now, like ‘the urban camping experience?'”

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect in January.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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