When I read the Berkeley Law that you can’t sleep in a “house car” I was really curious as to what their definition of a house car was because… with the conversion van, I’m not really sure if it’s considered one.  My dad says it’s not because there isn’t a sink or a stove, but he doesn’t live in Berkeley, so what does he know about it?

So I was perusing the Berkeley Police department site, and that’s when I found out that there isn’t a law currently that stops people from sleeping in their cars.  That was a big relief for me, but it did seem that they would question people with “house cars.”  So I emailed them and asked – What exactly is considered a house car?

They got back to me and simply sent me a link to the law, which I’d already seen, and that was vague, and that prompted my question in the first place.  It says a car that is temporarily or permanently fitted for “habitation.”  My interpretation of that is that “habitation” isn’t just sleeping, so I’ll go with my Dad’s answer that no, the conversion van (it only has a bed) is NOT a house car.  However, in the police department’s response to me, they did give me a very useful piece of information.  They pointed to the law, then said, “But we aren’t really enforcing that right now due to the legal case last year.”

I don’t really know what legal case they are talking about, but I think it might be the case that was brought to the 9th circuit court – which determined that the Los Angeles law regarding people sleeping in their cars is unconstitutional.  I know that this ruling about Los Angeles caused the city of Palo Alto to reverse their practice of harassing people sleeping in cars.  I considered going to Palo Alto to park sometimes (about 40 miles and across a toll bridge from Berkeley), because I did live there for 5 years, and I like it there, and I knew about their policy of allowing people to sleep in cars before I went searching for the Berkeley laws.

However, it’s pretty clear to me, from observation, that Berkeley DOES seem to regulate the locations of “house cars.”  Since finally making my plan to move into my van, I’ve been very observant.  I moved to a 10 hour a day 4 day a week work schedule, and that puts me in the streets of Berkeley to get to work at 6:00 AM.  There is an area in Berkeley on the border of residential/industrial areas that is loaded with motor homes and other sleeping type vehicles at that hour.  Clearly they are allowed to sleep there, but… the area isn’t a place I’d want to be at night.  I’m single woman, and I’m not into taking too many chances… even if I do have a bohemian spirit.

That said, I also noticed many cars along residential streets in Albany, El Cerrito and Berkeley, with cracked open windows, blacked out back and side window areas etc… indicating that someone was sleeping in them, seemed to have been parked during the night.  They can’t possibly monitor all those cars, and I don’t even know the laws in El Cerrito and Albany.  But I lived in Albany for years, and the houses are so compact and close together, and many of them sectioned in to apartments, so no one really knows which cars belong to whom – and often only know their neighbors just barely by sight.  And on top of that, Albany is safe, and there is a 24 hour Safeway there.  I’m planning to park in Albany at least some of the time.  I do think the conversion van will be a little more noticeable to police though…. and Albany police have very little on their plates so this could be an issue, and could invite questioning, but if it happens, it’s easy enough to just drive over the city border into Berkeley.

I’m not concerned about Berkeley at all anymore, so one of my fears about moving into the van has been alleviated.  I need the law to remain unenforced for a good five years though – because that’s how much longer I think I’ll be working at my job.  After that… I’ll be on the road!

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