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Parking changes could evict homeless from 3rd Street

The city is trying to boot the homeless from a stretch of road under a freeway that has for years served as a refuge for those with nowhere to go.

The area – both sides of 3rd Street, between W and X Streets – currently has no parking restrictions, and vehicles park there for lengthy periods of time, according to the city. There are 59 spaces along the section of 3rd Street – which is covered by freeways – and the police department has received multiple complaints of homeless people living in their cars, "creating an unsafe environment," according to a staff report.

But it’s not so simple, said one homeless man who wished to remain nameless, as he feared harassment from the city. "They’re trying to move homeless people out of the area," said the man, who was fixing a woman’s car on a recent afternoon. "Where are we gonna go?"

On Thursday afternoon, the area hosted a mixed batch of vehicles and their owners, from those who work nearby and park there during the day, to the working poor who can’t afford a downtown rental, and at least two RVs. There was litter strewn on the side of the road, and graffiti spray-painted on the concrete freeway overpass supports. It’s a free place to park – and even to sleep if one can stand the constant rumblings of the traffic above – but not for much longer.

The city is hoping to nip that parking free-for-all in the bud, if you will, and restrict the parking availability to two hours, enforced Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This item is among many other parking-related matters on the city council’s consent calendar for its Jan. 3 meeting. Other parking changes include creating angled spaces along V Street, regulating free parking spaces near the Crocker Art Museum, and extending the parking time limit along a stretch of 4th Street.

These parking requests are pretty routine, said City Spokeswoman Linda Tucker, and are often made at the behest of the public or businesses. “The reason we restrict parking or put in meters is to encourage turnover of parking,” she said.

But restricting parking times will hurt everyone – the homeless, students, those who work nearby – as it will open the area to thieves, the homeless man said. There are nine people who live in their vehicle and park along 3rd Street regularly, the man said, and the city restricting parking is just kicking them while they’re down. "They can barely afford their cars," he said.

Other changes to parking include the following:

• The city wants to change the currently parallel parking spaces along the north side of V Street, between 3rd and 4th Streets, to be angled spaces. This will create three more spaces (there are currently 11) and cost about $8,000. The request for this came from residents, property and business owners in the surrounding neighborhoods, according to the city. 

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