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Police Issue Curfew-Violation Citations at Albany Bulb

The City of Albany's planned eviction of Albany Bulb encampments moved a step closer Wednesday evening when police issued three citations for violation of curfew to people on the Bulb.

One of the campsites on the Albany Bulb. Photo credit: Charles Burress, Nov. 28, 2013
One of the campsites on the Albany Bulb. Photo credit: Charles Burress, Nov. 28, 2013
The City of Albany stepped up its planned enforcement of the 10 p.m. curfew on the Albany Bulb Wednesday evening or early this morning when police issued citations to three people on the property.

In preparation for the city's planned eviction of the long-established illegal encampments on the Bulb, the city and police have been posting notices and issuing warnings over the past several weeks about citing those who break the city law against being on any waterfront area, which includes the Bulb, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

"Overnight Albany police officers on patrol at the Albany Bulb issued warnings and citations for violations of the park curfew," said City Clerk Nicole Almaguer, who serves as the city's public information officer.

She said citations were given to three people who previously received warnings, and that verbal warnings were given to six people being contacted for the first time about the curfew violation.

Almaguer said the citations carry up to $100 in fines. 

The city has said that repeat violators of the curfew law are subject to arrest. No arrests were made Wednesday evening, Almaguer said.

The city is taking a multi-pronged approach to clearing the Bulb under a "Transition Plan" that also involves a 30-bed temporary homeless shelter, housing assistance offered in collaboration with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, removal of the campsites and clean-up of trash and waste.

Almaguer said three people stayed at the shelter Wednesday night. No one stayed there on most nights during the first week after it opened on Nov. 22. There have been two or three shelter users on most nights during this past week of cold temperatures.

A city attempt on Monday to remove two encampments that city workers believed were abandoned resulted in a run-in with protestors seeking to block the eviction.

Bulb background

For more information on the city's plan for the Albany Bulb and protests by opponents of the eviction, see our list of recent Patch articles and reader posts about the issue:

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Erika Lockhart December 14, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Check out the book "In the Name of Justice: Leading Experts Re-examine the Classic Article 'The Aims of the Criminal Law'." The last essay is entitled "You are Probably a Federal Criminal". It examines selective enforcement of the law, which is actually very common. In fact, the notice given by Albany that they were going to begin to enforce a law is one of the side effects of too many laws and not enough people to enforce them. Also, it's probably one of the arguments probably being used by the attorneys for the Bulb residents - that they are being targeted for law enforcement because of disability, race, poverty, etc. Plus, since there are so many laws and most of us have violated one or more, there is probably some feeling of guilt at enforcing laws against others. Only guessing. Even so, notice has been given and enforcement should commence. Otherwise, it's a charade and waste of taxpayer dollars.
Caryl O'Keefe December 14, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Rochelle, on Oct 21 Council approved up to $154,000 for Operation Dignity to operate transitional housing for six months. So transitional housing will continue into March, possibly April. A factor in the selection of Operation Dignity was that its bid was lower than BFHP's.
dorthy manser December 14, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Erica, I do feel defeated. On the Bulb, and earlier, at Gill tract, I feel as if our voices don't count, and when they do, we are vilified for expecting a basic level of lawful behavior.
Rochelle Nason December 14, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Thanks Caryl, yes I am aware that the shelter was authorized to operate for six months. But your comment - "The outcomes of the six months of intensive work by BFHP this spring and summer indicated that camper relocation was going to be a protracted effort, one that may take more than the current 6 months thru March" - suggests that the City has a "camper relocation" policy, extending to March and perhaps beyond, that to my knowledge it does not have. The City's adopted policy is to offer outreach and engagement to the campers through BF&HP through the end of the year, and also to offer them shelter through Operation Dignity for the six month period (the City also agreed to provide a certain amount of financial help to those campers who had begun the process of looking for housing during the BF&HP's initial contract period). BUT the adopted policy is also that the enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance was to occur in October, and it is now December. The reason for the failure to implement the policy should be shared with the public. If it is a legal issue, and/or some agreement has been reached with the Cody v. Albany lawyers, the public should be informed and have an opportunity to comment on the matter, even if the substance of the issue or agreement is discussed only between Council and counsel in closed session.
David Sanger December 14, 2013 at 11:17 PM
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Erika Lockhart December 15, 2013 at 12:06 AM
I agree that reasons for delays should be shared with the public. Dorothy, don't give up. Seems we need some feet on the ground for this! In talking to neighbors and members of my walking group, a lot of people are unaware of what's going on (except that many are afraid to walk in that area). There's the potential of much support for enforcement but people have to be made aware of the facts. Seems like there are only 100 people involved in this fight and 60 of them live on the Bulb. I hate to see decisions on issues for a community of about 18,000 decided by so few.
Caryl O'Keefe December 15, 2013 at 12:58 AM
Rochelle, the better understanding of my sentence is that the experience last spring/summer suggested strongly that relocation was going to take longer than Dec 31. Council didn't create a policy so much as acknowledge reality. And it really isn't correct to say that there's been a "failure to implement the policy" (of enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance). Enforcement has begun. Selected campers have been warned, and some have been cited. Actions are consistent with Chief McQuiston's statement which you quoted, and which Council and staff including the City Attorney surely saw before we did. Again, I'm sure staff have worked together to develop the best ways to enforce the ordinance, and to achieve Council's goals.
Rochelle Nason December 15, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Caryl, I am sorry, but still don't understand what you are trying to say. When you talk about 'the experience last spring/summer,' do you mean the fact that the campers are not leaving? You know my own opinion about that - based on a camper's statement that she 'is not at liberty to disclose' why they are not leaving, I think they are staying put based on the advice of their small army of lawyers. But what is your opinion? When you say that 'relocation [is] going to take longer than December 31' it sounds like you are saying that given enough time, people will leave. Is that what you mean? If so, what makes you think that? Some of us think most of the campers will NOT leave unless and until (1) their lawyers tell them it is time, and/or (2) Albany starts enforcing the anti-camping ordinance. But maybe we are drawing a different lesson from 'the experience of last spring/summer' than you are.
Rochelle Nason December 15, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Also - I don't understand your statement that 'Council didn't create a policy so much as acknowledge reality'. Council rather clearly established policy back in May, and then reaffirmed it - twice - in the fall. Enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance was set to resume in October. It is understandable that resumption of enforcement was delayed as (1) it took longer than expected to establish the shelter, and (2) the Cody v. Albany case was filed, which may have raised issues that were not initially anticipated. I don't disagree with your assumption that staff have worked together to develop the 'best ways to enforce the ordinance'. I just think that since the established public policy of enforcement resuming in October could not be implemented at that time, the public has a right to know in which month we can now expect that to happen.
Caryl O'Keefe December 15, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Rochelle, the warnings and citations police gave selected campers are anti-camping enforcement. Why do you say enforcement has yet to happen?
Rochelle Nason December 15, 2013 at 02:38 AM
Caryl, have you ever heard the expression 'one swallow does not a summer make'? Well, a handful of citations to campers does not constitute enforcement of the ordinance in any meaningful way. Do you actually think that the public should not be informed of the revised schedule for enforcement? Why?
Caryl O'Keefe December 15, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Rochelle, I called a friend who is a retired police captain, never worked in Albany, to ask about law enforcement. He said warnings and citations are important, frequently used components of municipal law enforcement. A citation typically requires a court appearance, and if the person cited does not appear, the court could order a bench warrant. Since the question was, when will enforcement happen, I still conclude that enforcement is underway, there is no revised schedule nor need to ask when enforcement will happen. What may be most productive is for you to share with Council (tomorrow at 7:30) what you see as meaningful enforcement.
Rochelle Nason December 15, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Caryl, I am not advocating that the City Council dictate to the police how to do enforcement - I am advocating that the City Council set public policy in a public forum, and then hold the staff accountable for implementation. I think there would be a public benfit from a session in which the city staff and police explain what is being done to enforce the adopted policy. This isn't on the agenda for tomorrow, but hopefully it can happen in the new year.
Edward C. Moore December 15, 2013 at 11:24 PM
I suggest citations be issued to the ring leaders and then enforced in a timely fashion. The police chief should engage the District Attorney's office to ensure a bench warrant is in fact issued if the person cited fails to appear in court. Execution of the bench warrant by arresting the person who failed to appear should also follow as a matter of routine. Unfortunately the threat of a $100 fine is not going to deter anyone because no one is going to enforce it (e.g., probably no jail time for failing to pay). I have not researched this recently, but I suspect that if the park were temporarily closed as, for example, a public nuisance, and if temporary housing is available, people found in the park would be trespassing on public property, which I believe is a misdemeanor and subject to heavier penalties including stay away orders as a condition of probation. Otherwise, I am afraid all the city officials are going is creating a cause celebre.
Lisa Schneider December 15, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Alvin and the chipmunks, loud, all night long? Music of limited appeal has been used successfully to disperse people.
montymarket December 16, 2013 at 12:04 AM
When judging how cautiously the City and APD are proceeding, let's not forget to factor in the matter of attorney fees. Even when attorneys provide legal services on a pro bono basis, typically they also request that should their clients prevail, the court will require the losing side to pay their costs, including fees. The City of Albany could likely be stuck paying tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, given that the partners at one of the firms earn over half a $MM each and probably bill out at over $500 an hour. So all the filings and motions can run up the potential liability to the City. Ultimately, there is little gained by delay, since that gives more space to roll up the legal costs. It's time to fish or cut bait. End the cruel and unusual punishment the campers are undergoing, shut down the Bulb now, and move the campers out of their "prison" and into the transitional shelter already in place. That's the humane thing to do.
Anabella Maria Fontini Della Rossa La Bellissima December 16, 2013 at 11:04 AM
I'm glad that these people are finally going to be kicked out. We can no longer walk around the bulb because it's not safe. Last time we were there we were surrounded by a pack of snarling dogs. No humans in sight. We were terrified. I thought my dogs were going to be torn to pieces right in front of me. We left immediately.
Kei December 17, 2013 at 10:09 AM
I do hope that the police, and the City Council members, and the leaders at the Bulb, and the lawyers read what you have written, Annabella. Such consistently dangerous conditions should not be permitted, but should be dealt with.
dorthy manser December 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM
People have been complaining about the danger posed by the camper's guard dogs for a long time, but absolutely nothing has been done. It was OK with me that people were camping there, but the dogs are totally unacceptable. And no, it's not the same as people bringing their unleashed dogs to the bulb, because the camper's dogs are going to defend "their" homes. What happens when someone not savvy enough to know where they are not supposed to go on the bulb brings their kids to see the art? Who is responsible if one of those kids gets bit?
Anabella Maria Fontini Della Rossa La Bellissima December 17, 2013 at 12:04 PM
We should have called the police. Our encounter with the dogs happened a year ago. It's just amazing to me that the situation hasn't changed. I have a large dog, over 100 lb. and the other dog is about 65 lb. My larger dog was small in comparison to the vicious dogs. It would have been a blood bath. Luckily we convinced our dogs to leave.
Alan Eckert December 17, 2013 at 05:44 PM
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed an amended complaint yesterday with the federal court. Lack of "Due Process" is one of their claims, and after reading through the document, it makes sense that the police are doing as much as they can to issue warnings and citations as laid out in the plan from City Council. It helps reduce the power of particular claims and strengthens the City's case substantially.
Alan Eckert December 17, 2013 at 05:49 PM
I don't have a Scribd account, so Google Drive is the best pace I can upload it for now. It's worth the read if you want to know the exact grievances and demands for relief. The response from the City is due January 20, 2014. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8bcwMbZezhVN0xTeFRWRWVRUk0/edit?usp=sharing
Robin Onaka December 17, 2013 at 06:08 PM
I was able to take a brief look at the amended complaint. There are now more plaintiffs; Amber and that guy Kris who was previously mentioned in another blog post are two of them.
Alan Eckert December 17, 2013 at 06:09 PM
There are 29 people listed as Plaintiffs, so about half of the people on the Bulb.
Kei December 17, 2013 at 06:11 PM
This is becoming, for the city, a grim example of "No good deed shall go unpunished." The people were given six months to make other plans, and then even past the last minute have filed lawsuits which presumably can be extended and extended and extended.
Alan Eckert December 17, 2013 at 06:17 PM
From a document dated Dec 10, both sides agreed to allow the amended complaint and the January 20 response from the City. http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/california/candce/3:2013cv05270/271888/51
Anabella Maria Fontini Della Rossa La Bellissima December 17, 2013 at 06:39 PM
I suppose we could all go for walks, with cameras in hand wearing protective clothing, and tape record some of the dog attacks. I hate to pick on the dogs but these people need to go.
downerave December 17, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Thank you for the link to the amendment, Alan. I have a few questions/comments: 1. Have police checked all of the names on the amendment for any outstanding warrants? If so, I would guess that they could legally arrest those residents immediately. 2. Are all of the mental and physical issues outlined in the amendment verified by physicians? If not, they hold no water. 3. Do the conditions stated for each person typically cause a horrific inability to enter enclosures? Many of the people who are listed as not able to take advantage of the shelter are living inside their own four walls, otherwise known as enclosures, the same thing they are saying they cannot bear to enter. 5. Does anyone in their right minds take this amendment seriously? I certainly hope it is thrown out. 6. Every last ounce of empathy I have for the residents has finally eroded with this last act. What a slap in the face. These people and their advocates have taken entitlement to new levels. The attorneys should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic.
Kei December 17, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Attorneys, ashamed of themselves...? Um... not in this Universe, friend. :-)
dorthy manser December 17, 2013 at 06:57 PM
If the lawyers for the plaintiffs lose, I trust they will be expected to pay all court costs.

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