Safe Parking Strategy

Safe Parking Strategy Photo

The Next Step in Addressing Homelessness in Fremont

The opening of the City of Fremont’s new Housing Navigation Center in September 2020 was a significant step forward in addressing homelessness in the Fremont community. Now that the Navigation Center is operational and at capacity, the City is prioritizing the development of programs that serve a different portion of the homeless population: people living in vehicles.
According to the 2019 Alameda County Point-in-Time Count, approximately 50% of Fremont’s unsheltered homeless population—about 238 individuals—is currently living in a recreational vehicle (RV) or passenger car. The total number of people living in vehicles in Fremont increased by 266% between 2017 and 2019. The number of persons residing in RVs increased by 450%, while the number of persons residing in cars or vans increased by 144%.
Fremont Homeless Data
While many forces are driving these trends, one major factor is the rapid increase in rental housing costs which has forced many low-income wage earners out of the housing market. Recent surveys by City staff found that approximately 70% of those living in vehicles in Fremont also last had a permanent home address in Fremont.

Safe Parking: A Crisis Response

The idea of “safe parking” is to provide people living in their vehicles with a designated place to park that is secure and provides access to health and safety amenities. Some amenities that are commonly provided in safe parking areas include: water, sewage disposable, waste collection, power hook-ups, security, restrooms, access to showers and laundry, assistance with vehicle repair and licensing, and health and housing assistance. 
Amenities Commonly Provided in Safe Parking Areas
Safe parking is a crisis response to recent increases in vehicular homelessness. Safe parking lots are not intended to be a permanent housing solution for those experiencing homelessness; rather, safe parking is intended to offer stability so that program participants can work towards finding reliable and safe permanent housing.

In order to develop a Safe Parking Strategy for Fremont, City staff has researched program models and conducted outreach to stakeholders. Staff spoke with the operators of safe parking programs around the Bay Area to better understand how different sites in the region are organized and operated. A summary of some safe parking programs that staff has researched is available in this Safe Parking Success Stories Handout.

Safe Parking Strategy

On February 16, 2021, City staff presented their proposed Safe Parking Strategy to the Fremont City Council. The proposed Strategy consists of three programs to provide designated secure parking areas in Fremont for unhoused people living in their vehicles:
Safe Parking Program 1
1. A private host site program to allow faith-based sites to provide safe parking. Modeled by the Faith-Based Temporary Shelters permit process that the Council adopted in 2018, staff proposes to develop a partnership with faith-based organizations to allow a limited number of operable vehicles to park within these organizations’ existing parking lots. Each host site would need to receive a permit through the Community Development Department demonstrating that they meet development and operational standards. The program would be limited to operable RVs and cars. Participants living in vehicles would need to go through a screening process and be assigned to a specific host site. All host sites would commit to offering safe parking seven nights a week to reduce the movement required by people living in their cars and develop stronger relationships between safe parking participants and host organizations.
Safe Parking Program 2
2. A sanctioned parking program that provides services where people are currently parked. Staff proposes temporarily designating certain existing areas in Fremont as “sanctioned safe parking areas." This could include re-striping existing on-street parking spaces within industrial or commercial areas, converting excess City right-of-way into parking areas, designating some parking spaces within City parks, or using undeveloped, underutilized, or other lands as determined to be appropriate by the Council. The City would provide basic amenities, including restrooms, hand-washing stations, and dumpsters at these sites. People living in vehicles would be given a permit to park in these areas. All participants would be required to sign a "good neighbor agreement" requiring them to abide by certain standards (no hoarding, place garbage in dumpster, etc.). The sanctioned safe parking areas would aim to attract people away from more dangerous and/or difficult-to-manage encampment areas to minimize impacts on neighbors and the environment and to make it easier for the City to provide services to those living in vehicles.
Safe Parking Program 3
3. A City-operated safe parking site program with comprehensive wrap-around services. Another approach to safe parking would be for the City to develop its own safe parking site and, over time, potentially develop several sites. The safe parking site would provide basic facilities as well as wrap-around services to all participants. The lot would be open to both operable and non-operable vehicles of all types, with a capacity of approximately 30 to 50 vehicles at a time. It would be open 24/7 so that program participants can focus on finding jobs, employment, or other assistance to get back on their feet.
Staff has identified that the combination of these three programs would most effectively serve the many different types of vehicular habitation situations (operable and non-operable, RVs and cars, etc.).

Anticipated Process and Timeline

At the City Council meeting on February 16, 2021, the City Council directed staff to proceed immediately with developing the first option, a private host site program, and to return to the Council at a later date with additional information about the other proposed programs. Staff plans to take an ordinance establishing the private host site program to the City’s Planning Commission for a recommendation in April 2021, prior to bringing it before the Council for consideration later in the spring.
Host Site Program Timeline
Staff expects to present additional information about a sanctioned parking program to the City Council in late spring. A specific date has not been set.

As updates to the project timeline become available, they will be posted to this webpage and emailed to subscribers of the Safe Parking Strategy Interest List.

Community Survey

To start the process of developing a Safe Parking Strategy, the City asked the community to provide their input through a community survey. The survey launched in early December 2020 and remained open until January 25, 2021. Over 450 responses were received, and the City thanks everyone who participated in the survey.

View an overview of the survey results.

More Information