Safe Parking Pilot Program


On June 22, 2021 the City Council adopted an urgency ordinance amending Sections 9.40.010 and 9.40.015 and adding a new Section 9.40.018 “Safe Parking Sites Pilot Program” to the Richmond Municipal Code to allow private property owners to host up to four vehicle households for a limited duration. 

The Safe Parking Sites Pilot Program would create opportunities for safe and secure places for car and recreation vehicle dwellers to park and sleep, reduce the number of people living illegally in their vehicles on City streets, decrease enforcement actions and resulting legal costs to homeless individuals, and provide resources to secure permanent housing and economic stability. The scattered safe parking sites pilot program would allow a variety of community-based organizations, such as non-profits and educational institutions, to become host sites for up to four vehicle households. These organizations have a compatible parking demand profile and may be able to fill certain niches of safe parking demand.

To learn more about how to apply to become a host site please click the application checklist.

The Safe Parking Sites Pilot Program would allow safe parking sites as an accessory use to an assembly use, quasi-public facility, or public facility regardless of underlying zoning district. Such uses include community assembly, cultural facility, government building, public use, public safety facility, quasi-public and social service center. The ordinance would establish a ministerial permitting process subject to objective standards. The standards included in the ordinance primarily address fire and life safety considerations and ensure quality-of-life for vehicle dwellers and minimizing off-site impacts.

Specifically, the ordinance specifies that Safe Parking sites must meet the following performance standards:

(1)  Operation.  Safe parking host sites shall be operated as an ancillary use subordinate to or part of the principal use at an existing facility.

(2)  Approved Site Management and Operations Plan.  Safe parking host sites shall have a site management and operations plan approved by the Community Development Director or designee.

(3)  Hours of Operation.  On any night that safe parking is offered, a safe parking host site shall operate for a minimum of ten (10) hours. The specific hours of operation for each site, including additional hours up to and including 24-hour operation, shall be established with the approval of the safe parking host site permit.

 (4)  Types of Vehicles Permitted.  Safe parking host sites shall be used only by operable cars, recreational vehicles (RVs), and vans that have received a valid permit from the site operator to park at a specific safe host parking site.  For the purposes of this subsection, “operable” shall mean that the vehicle is capable of moving or operating on its own power or that of a companion tow vehicle, is not missing any significant component part, and can be driven on and off site without assistance.

(5)  Maximum Number of Participants.  No more than four (4) inhabited vehicles shall be allowed to park at a safe parking host site at one time.

(6)  Facilities. Restroom, potable water, and trash facilities shall be provided, maintained, and accessible to participants on the site during safe parking hours.

(7)  Vehicle Clearances.  A minimum clearance of six (6) feet shall be maintained between any vehicle used for safe parking and any other vehicle. 

(8)  Fire Safety.  Fire extinguishers and combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors shall be provided within each RV.  A combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector shall be provided within each passenger car or van.  Communal fire extinguisher(s) shall be provided such that there is one fire extinguisher located within 75 feet of each inhabited vehicle.

(9)  Circulation.  Parked vehicles shall not obstruct drive aisles or otherwise interfere with established circulation patterns on the site.  The site shall maintain adequate emergency vehicle access and access to fire protection systems, as determined by the Fire Marshal or designee.

(10) Setbacks from Property Lines. Designated safe parking spaces for cars and vans shall be located a minimum of ten (10) feet from any property line. 

(11)  Setbacks from Buildings.  All vehicles shall be located at least 10 feet from any other building or structure located on the property.

(12)  Noise. Safe parking host sites shall observe quiet hours between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. Use of generators shall be prohibited during quiet hours.

(13)  Posting.  The site address and phone number for the representative of the site operator shall be posted in a visible location on the safe parking site.  Notification of the neighborhood Council shall be provided by the permit within 30 days of permit approval by the City. 

(14)  Exterior Storage Prohibited.  Outdoor storage around parked vehicles shall be prohibited.  Tents, tarps, and other temporary outdoor shelters, either affixed to a participant’s vehicle or freestanding, shall be prohibited.

(15)  Fire Prohibited.  Fires, heaters, barbeque grills, and other outdoor cooking or warming appliances shall be prohibited.

In addition, the pilot project period would allow for a total of 15 scattered sites to be permitted at one time and would terminate 24 months following adoption.

The proposed ordinance is intended to provide flexibility for host sites in program management, while also setting objective life safety standards that all sites must maintain. As described in the ordinance, each site would be required to submit a site management plan that includes details on participant screening, site monitoring and coordination, and waste disposal, including both greywater disposal and trash disposal. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's):

  1. What will each Parking Safe hosting site provide?                                  
    • The program allows up to four operable vehicles (i.e. RVs, cars, etc.) per site, and is required to have a restroom, water, and trash facilities for its occupants. These amenities such as restrooms, water, and trash will be managed at least on a weekly basis.
  2. How will the households living in the Parking Safe site be screened and who will be responsible for their security and the security of immediate neighbors?
    • The applicant and SOS Richmond will be responsible for selecting residents, their security and the security of immediate neighbors.
  3. How will the site provide the Parking Safe tenants with amenities such as clean water, and disposal of garbage and waste water?
    • The applicant is responsible for site management which includes monitoring and facility operations. To be approved, the applicant is required to submit a plan that ensures these duties that are outlined in the ordinance will be performed. SOS Richmond will also help with these responsibilities, and the City of Richmond will help by providing money to cover some of these expenses.
  4. What are the hours of operation for the Parking Safe sites?
    • Sites will allow occupant vehicles for at least 10 hours, overnight, and can allow occupant vehicles up to 24 hours a day.
  5. How long will the permit last for?
    • Permits are issued for 6 months and must follow the requirements set forth by the ordinance to stay in operation and/or extend the permit period.
  6. Where are sites allowed to be located?
    • Sites may be located at any zoning district, provided the site is located at an existing and properly permitted community assembly, cultural facility, government building, public use, public safety facility, or quasi-public and social service center.
  7. Will any sites be located outside of the City of Richmond?
    • No, sites must be within city limits to qualify for this permit.
  8. What other cities have Safe Parking Programs?
    • Many other cities have safe parking programs including Oakland, Walnut Creek, Fremont, Mountain View, East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, San Leandro, Monterey, San Jose, San Diego and more.
  9. What can I do about homelessness in my community?
    • There are many ways that residents can impact homelessness:
    • VOLUNTEER – Volunteer your time or effort with programs that provide homeless services such as the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), Safe Organized Spaces (SOS), local congregations.
    • SERVE - The City of Richmond has a homeless taskforce, and we invite residents to participate and share their policy suggestions with the taskforce. For more information contact Michelle Milam at
    • DONATE – There are many local efforts in need of funding, resources, land use, and other financial assistance to help with specific projects. Please feel free to contact us if you are looking to try and make a donation.
    • ADVOCATE – Use your voice to advocate to city and county and state policymakers on the need for homeless services. 

For additional questions please contact Michelle Milam ( or Andrea Villarroel (