U-Haul Takes City to Court Again Over San Pablo Site

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

Although the Berkeley City Council declared the U-Haul location at 2100 San Pablo Ave. to be a nuisance and voted unanimously in October to shut it down, the business is suing the city a second time to keep its doors open. 

The city’s October use-permit revocation was the culmination of a decade of formal complaints during which the 33-year-old Berkeley business parked more trucks on its lot than permitted and allowed customers to leave trucks in the neighborhood when they returned vehicles after hours, city reports say. 

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland May 5 says the business should be allowed to operate on environmental and civil rights’ grounds. 

“Consistent with the local green philosophy and the city’s purported policy, U-Haul has dedicated itself to protecting and preserving the surrounding environment by maintaining an environmentally friendly truck-sharing business model limiting harmful carbon dioxide emissions and removing polluting vehicles from the streets,” the complaint says. 

U-Haul’s attorneys also make an equal protection argument: “It is well recognized that as an affordable alternative, U-Haul is often the choice of protected classes of people who by definition have limited choices.”  

U-Haul appealed the city’s permit revocation in Superior Court in October. The court ruled in the city’s favor at that time, according to City Attorney Zach Cowan, who spoke to the Planet on Monday. 

The time alloted for U-Haul to appeal that decision ran out last week, Cowan said, noting that the company had taken an unusual step by filing a new lawsuit in federal court, rather than appealing the super-ior court decision. 

“I kind of wonder why they had to find a new court,” Cowan said. 

U-Haul spokesperson JoAnne Fried told the Planet Monday that U-Haul is exploring its legal options to respond to the Superior Court decision as well. 

Eric Crocker, president of the U-Haul Company of West Sacramento, which operates the Berkeley business, told the Planet on Friday that the company continues to operate, abiding by the conditions of the use permit, leaving gates open at night so that customers can park on the grounds, even though, he said, the result is, “there are almost nightly fuel thefts.” 

Cowan, however, said the company is operating only as a retail business—selling moving supplies but not renting trucks. A person answering the telephone at the Berkeley U-Haul location Monday confirmed that the business no longer rents trucks.