Richmond council picks Civic Center over Hilltop Mall for Safe Parking pilot

Richmond council selects Civic Center over Hilltop Mall for Safe Parking program
RV photo by Mike Kinney

Following opposition by Hilltop neighbors, Richmond City Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to no longer locate the city’s upcoming Safe Parking Pilot Program at Hilltop Mall and to instead locate the program in one of two Civic Center parking lots.

The one-year pilot program aims to provide safe haven and wraparound services for a growing number vehicle dwellers in the city, with the aim of transitioning them into stable housing. The city aims to fund it via a $260,000 State Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) grant from Contra Costa County and $300,000 from an in-lieu Affordable Housing Fee program paid by developers.

On Feb. 2, City Council chose to locate the Safe Parking program in a portion of the parking lot at Hilltop Mall, a decision aided by the fact that Prologis, the logistics company that is purchasing the nearly vacant mall property, offered to donate $250,000 to support the pilot program.

Members of the Hilltop community mounted a coordinated campaign to oppose the plan and additionally proposed an alternative: having the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) operate the pilot program at a vacant property at 22nd Street and Bissell Avenue, near GRIP headquarters.

Safe Parking site proposed for Hilltop Mall

On Tuesday, City Council decided against locating at Hilltop Mall. It also rejected locating the program at 22nd and Bissell, due in part to reservations over the cost and time it would take to prepare the site. Questions have also been raised over GRIP’s capacity and ability to take on the program.

Proposed Safe Parking site near GRIP

Instead, council voted to locate the site at the Civic Center, which city staff had ranked among the top three out of 35 sites it had evaluated for the program. Council directed the staff to locate the program in either a portion of the parking lot at 25th and Barrett avenues or in part of the employee lot across from the Richmond Public Library.

One of two proposed Civic Center sites

City Council voted to contract with Housing Consortium of East Bay (HCEB), which runs Safe RV Parking sites in Oakland, to operate Richmond’s program.

Prologis reportedly agreed to still donate $250,000 to the project, no matter where it is located. The council will need to formally approve any agreement with the company.

Mayor Tom Butt, along with Councilmembers Eduardo Martinez and Nat Bates, voted against the Civic Center location. Mayor Butt says the Hilltop Mall parking lot is preferable, as it can take on far more vehicles than alternative sites while also being relatively distanced from neighbors. Part of the project’s goal is to address the growing unsanctioned RV camps at Rydin Road and the Richmond Parkway, where “there are 80-100 RVs,” he said.

Councilmember Bates, who advocated for North Richmond sites that are away from residences, said the project shouldn’t pit neighborhoods against one another. He noted many neighborhoods are “not as strong and as organized” at Hilltop, such as Richmore Village near Civic Center, where he says neighbors also expressed opposition to having the project near them.

Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson said he voted in favor of the Civic Center site due to its “turnkey ability” that can get the project going as quickly as possible, before the grant opportunity goes away.


  1. Do you know what happened to San Francisco when its Civic Center became a refuge for the homeless? An intractable problem that 30 years of mayors have never been able to solve. In fact, the problem has only grown worse. It’s unbelieveable to me that Richmond is going to open it’s Civic Center and invite in a problem that no city has been able to solve. That parking lot is used by a church and a temple, a mortuary, Civic Center audiorium, the Art Center and Senior housing. And of course the beloved Farmer’s Market. Why are none of these things considered? Civic Center is not a rich community. I know, I live a block from Civic Center. We’re already dealing homeless problems, prostitution, trash. Why is this being dumped on us? No one in the city government ever reached out to me our my neighbors saying such a thing was even being considered. Hilltop is a much a better choice. But the council caved when the folks there got upset. Well, there’s a whole bunch of my neighbors in Civic Center who are upset.

        • @Tek
          An invitation to house transient RVs in Richmond should not have been entertained in the first place. ANYWHERE.
          But with liberals/progressives forcing this ill-conceived catastrophe (for state/fed dollars) on Richmond, no surprise the city is now overrun with vagrants, most not even from the Richmond area. These transient parking programs aren’t being pushed in Danville, Alamo, San Ramon or Walnut Creek. No reason why this disaster should be dumped on the city of Richmond.

  2. Councilmember Bates, who advocated for North Richmond sites that are away from residences, said the project shouldn’t pit neighborhoods against one another.

    As long as it’s North Richmond, it’s okay because that’s not a neighborhood, Nat?

  3. I hate to say this, but if you really think the city Council cares about any of our opinions you are mistaken. Do use their political power to gain more funds for their pocket. The mayor uses his political influence for marijuana grows that him and his son‘s monopolize.

    The rest of the RPA are a bunch of crooks also, wake up Richmond this is what you voted for when you elect people like that these are the results that are received

  4. Where would you like homeless folks to go? Should they just vaporize or maybe jump into the bay? They are Americans just like you and for one reason or another have fallen on hard times. If we welcomed them into our communities instead of shunning them that might be a start to solving this societal problem.

  5. Mike- show an example where this has gone well. We need to address this, but it needs more planning/ more community support/ better location not in a residential neighborhood/ better leadership. The fact Richmond city council pushed it to this location so quickly shows they’re ill prepared.


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