Many governor proposed homeless housing sites in Bay Area

Not far from the bright city lights, people without stable housing are sleeping wherever they can.

Along Interstate 80 in Berkeley there are RV's in empty parking lots and rows of tents. Signs on the chain link fence are painted with the question "Where do we go?" near the University Avenue highway ramps.

Christina Kingston is one who has slept in the tents as she travels between temporary housing in El Cerrito and Oakland.

"At night, huge, huge rats. I mean, their tails are like that long," said Kingston.

The two parcels of land along University Avenue are state-owned, Caltrans property.

On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced these are among 286 sites that will be made immediately available to local governments for homeless housing and shelters. The state has created an online map that shows the locations of the empty available lots. They include Caltrans land adjacent to highways, state armories and fairgrounds.

The governor said the properties would be leased to local governments for just one dollar and $650 million dollars in State Emergency Homeless Aid would be made available for developing the sites.

Kingston said she would be glad if the state and local governments decided to develop the parcel in Berkeley. 

"Definitely," Kingston said, "I'd help build it...I would help build it today."

Many nearby residents say they think the plan is a good idea.

"As somebody who's lives in this community, I'd be happy to see a much more stable and sound kind of a housing situation then the one we see here and have seen here for months and years," said John Marshall who lives in Berkeley.

Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley's mayor, says he's glad Governor Newsom is taking action.

"Strongly support it. One of the challenges we have in Berkeley is we don't have a lot of land available. But we want sites for RV parking. we want sites for temporary shelter, we want sites to build affordable housing. and we need the partnership of the state government," said Arreguin.

The mayor says some locations on the state's list are problematic because of fire codes and dangerous locations.

"One of the challenges is literally, they're right on the on ramp and off ramp and on ramp of a major freeway. So there are safety and access considerations that make it difficult for us to use those particular pieces of land," said Arreguin.

Eva, a nearby resident on University Avenue who only gave her first name, says she hopes the state will expand the list to include other sites.

"As you can see, they're right next to the freeway, there's constant noise, there's the train, and if these people are in any way trying to create some sort of psychological stability or wean themselves off of any sort of substance abuse, or just trying to establish a normal pattern of sleep, can you imagine, giving them this?" said Eva, "This is less than ideal. There are many other parcels of state land that could be used that would take them out of this stressful situation."

The governor says the state will continue to identify more potential parcels and update the list as they partner with local governments.