Election Section

Tamalpais Road Fire Hazard By PAUL M. SCHWARTZ

Friday June 24, 2005

I am writing to place the City of Berkeley on notice about a hazardous condition that currently exists on Tamalpais Road in the North Berkeley hills. There is often no access for emergency vehicles, in particular fire trucks. 

This is due to the lack of posted and enforced alternative side street parking on Tamalpais Road. When two vehicles are parked opposite one another, there is not enough room for emergency vehicles to pass and gain access to homes located past the parked cars. This becomes an even more egregious problem when various property owners hire contractors who park large trucks and place dumpsters on the street.  

Recently, last week, there was a dumpster on the block for over 5 days. When a driver would park opposite the dumpster, there was no access for emergency vehicles. I have no idea whether a permit is required for the placing of a dumpster. If it is required it should come with the requirement that no parking signs be placed across the street from the dumpster so that emergency vehicles can pass. Additionally, that requirement should be enforced by the City of Berkeley through any or all three of the following departments, traffic, fire and police. There should be stiff penalties for violations of the terms of any permits issued and violations of posted parking restrictions. Remember, money not only talks, it sings and dances.  

The last few days, a neighbor was having roof work done and the contractor parked 3 large trucks on the street again blocking emergency vehicle access.  

Today, a neighbor was having tree work done and the tree contractor similarly parked large vehicles across from parked cars. There was not even access for a normal sized car let alone emergency vehicles. This condition lasted for several hours. I tried three times to reach the City of Berkeley through their nonemergency number and was placed on hold for lengthy periods of time. No person ever came on the line. I didn't feel comfortable declaring this an emergency as it wasn't yet at that level.  

This is a hazardous condition that needs to be alleviated as quickly as possible to be sure fire vehicles have access to homes and other emergency vehicles have access to those in need.  

I understand the need of neighbors for parking, but it should not come at the expense of denying their neighbors access to emergency services.  

This is a formal request that the City of Berkeley alleviate this situation and create a parking plan for this street that assures the safety of all individuals and protection of property. We homeowners pay extraordinarily high taxes and should be provided at least the most basic of services.  

Councilmembers representing other districts need to check their districts to be sure emergency vehicles have access to their constituents.  


Paul M. Schwartz is a Berkeley attorney.