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Council Takes Up Housing, Homelessness, Bulb Issues

Homelessness, housing and the Albany Bulb are all part of the Albany City Council's menu of issues to deal with Tuesday night.

Albany City Council, Sept. 3, 2013. Photo credit: Charles Burress
Albany City Council, Sept. 3, 2013. Photo credit: Charles Burress
The Albany City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21, includes three items related to housing, homelessness and the city's efforts to clear the Albany Bulb of the several dozen people who've been living there illegally in makeshift shelters.

Extension of Berkeley Food and Housing Project contract

Last June, the council agreed to pay $30,000 to the nonprofit Berkeley Food and Housing Project for three months beginning July 1 to help Bulb dwellers get social services and find alternative housing. The contract was renewed for another $30,000 and three months through the end of December, and then again for three weeks through Jan. 21.

On the agenda Tuesday night is a proposal to extend the contract for a year at a cost of $76,000, of which $50,000 would come from the city's General Fund and $26,000 would come from Community Development Block Grant funds.

"The extension will allow BFHP to build upon the outreach and engagement done to date, including offering housing assistance and support to willing homeless individuals, and housing retention support to people who have been housed," says a proposed resolution of approval.

The city staff report accompanying the item provided a summary of BFHP's work for the city to date:

"They have engaged with 60 individuals and of those 60, 40 have been willing to complete a housing assessment. Of the 40 individuals who completed the assessment, 33 have shown interest in housing and have been willing to share personal information necessary to complete an HMIS intake. BFHP has housed 7 individuals of which 5 remain in housing. BFHP continues to provide services to assist clients in retaining their housing."

The city has named the effort "Project HOPE," or Homeless Outreach and Engagement Program.

For more details on the item, see Caryl O'Keefe's Jan. 20 blog post, "PROJECT HOPE for Homeless - 1 year Extension Recommended."

Federal lawsuit against Albany Bulb eviction

The council's closed-session agenda includes discussion of the lawsuit filed Nov. 13 in U.S. District Court against the city seeking to block the planned eviction of Albany Bulb encampments.

In the suit, which was amended in December, 19 residents of the Bulb and the non-profit Albany Housing Advocates allege that the city's efforts, particularly its temporary homeless shelter, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Constitutional rights, including that of due process, protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to privacy.

Closed sessions are not public, but any action taken by the council in a closed session is supposed to be reported in the open meeting.

Related articles on the suit:
Zoning code amendments for transitional and supportive housing, emergency shelters

Another proposed measure on the agenda would make it easier to establish transitional and supportive housing as well as emergency shelters. The changes are being proposed to bring city law into compliance with state requirements, according to the staff report.

The city currently requires that an emergency shelter be issued a conditional use permit from the Planning & Zoning Commission, a process that also entails notification of nearby owners and occupants.

However, a state law that became effective Jan. 1, 2008 (SB2) eliminated this step and requires city's to designate at least one zone where such shelters can be placed "by right," according to the staff report.

The city's planning commission discussed the issue at its Oct. 9 meeting and agreed that the Commercial Mixed Use (CMX) Zoning District be designated, the staff report says. If an emergency shelter requires new construction, however, it would still be subject to design review and notification of those living and doing business nearby, the staff report says.

The same measure would also allow transitional and supportive housing by right in residential and mixed-use zoning districts.

Transitional housing refers to rental units made available on a temporary basis to those in need of housing assistance for a fixed period, and supportive housing refers to housing with no limit on the stay and that is linked to social services.

The changes are tied to the city's long-delayed effort to meet state requirements on updating the Housing Element of its General Plan. The Housing element is supposed to describe how the city plans to meet its quota of needed housing, particularly affordable housing.

The city faces another suit, filed Oct. 2 in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging that the city's Housing Element violates state law and asking the court to block a
ny zoning changes or variances outside of those related to affordable housing. 

The suit says homelessness in the city and the encampments on the Albany Bulb are caused by the city's failure to foster affordable housing. Two of the three plaintiffs in that suit – Amber Whitson and Albany Housing Advocates – are also plaintiffs in the federal suit seeking to block the Albany Bulb eviction.

A community meeting has been called for Jan. 28 about Albany's future housing policies and the city's effort to bring its Housing Element into compliance. It is being hosted by the Diverse Housing Working Group, a community advocacy group focused on implementation of the Housing Element. More information about the group and meeting can be found in Peggy McQuaid's Jan. 20 blog post, "Community-Wide Briefing and Dialogue re Housing in Albany."

The council usually meets on Monday nights, but it is meeting Tuesday night this week because Monday was the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. The open session of the meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

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Rochelle Nason January 21, 2014 at 07:52 PM
I sort of doubt that either the state or the RWQCB would actually force the issue unless/until something really awful happened. At Berkeley's version of the Bulb, which was called Rainbow Village, the state took action only after a couple of young people were murdered there: http://archive.dailycal.org/article.php?id=27112 And, the threshold of what is considered 'really awful' has risen over the years. I think not too many years ago, the suicide on the Bulb of Jane D. Owens, a young mother who had a foster family that would have gladly taken her in if they had known she was homeless, would have created an outcry. In 2013, that tragedy hardly caused a ripple of concern. So Albany may be able to evade enforcement against what it is doing for some years to come, if it wishes, at least as long as nobody gets badly hurt or killed. BUT the County and state won't legalize the situation either, and that leaves Albany carrying ALL the liability for the risk of permitting a dangerous and illegal situation to go on in its public park. If something awful does happen, a jury might well think that Albany should have acted to protect public health and safety, rather than waiting for the occurrence of injuries or deaths that are perfectly foreseeable to all.
dorthy manser January 21, 2014 at 08:01 PM
One dog mauling of a kid on the bulb (god forbid) and Albany is going to be in deep, deep trouble. I can certainly imagine some family from out of town, having heard about the art on the bulb, bringing their kids to experience it first hand, having one of their kids wandering into the brush to explore getting bitten by a startled guard dog, who, we will be told, was always such a good dog.
Rochelle Nason January 21, 2014 at 08:11 PM
Exactly, dorthy manser. And the worst part is that Albany would completely and totally deserve that trouble. We all know that the City's luck as the proprietor of the open-air drug house on the Bulb will run out sooner or later. At that point, we will ALL be responsible for our collective failure to act. Berkeley's leaders of the 1980s, to their credit, seem to have actually accepted some responsibility for the Rainbow Village killings and has not allowed large waterfront encampments to recur (though it tolerates encampments at People's Park, which is much more susceptible to effective policing than is a place like the Bulb).
Brian Parsley January 21, 2014 at 08:19 PM
Just a note there are quite a few off leash dogs on the beach, bulb, and plateau that belong to park visitors. They too have the potential to maul someone. In fact I have known quite a few people who have been bitten or scared by unruly park visitor dogs. But we probably shouldn't talk about that, let's go back to blaming the homeless.
Rochelle Nason January 21, 2014 at 08:40 PM
Blaming the homeless? No Brian, I am blaming US collectively for tolerating an unhealthy and unsafe condition in our park. The other areas you mention are managed by EBRPD, not Albany. And yes, dogs always pose a certain risk and people should be careful about approaching dogs they don't know. But off leash dog areas are a whole different issue from our city allowing dogs with known histories (or family histories) of aggression to defend their territory in a wooded area where their presence often comes as a complete and unwelcome surprise to visitors.
Ross Stapleton-Gray January 21, 2014 at 09:05 PM
I have no problem with citations for anyone with off-leash dogs in areas where leashes are required. Why the red herring?
dorthy manser January 21, 2014 at 10:14 PM
Brian, the difference is that the dogs owned by the bulb residence are protecting their territories.
dorthy manser January 21, 2014 at 10:17 PM
And Brian, I am disappointed that your don't understand the difference. Think. Then post.
Brian Parsley January 22, 2014 at 02:10 AM
Thanks Dorthy, I do try and think before I post. In that spirit can you explain how a dog bite from a bulb dog "protecting" their territory differs from a bite from a off leash, park visitor dog? Do the bleed different? Does one hurt less than the other?
thorn January 22, 2014 at 03:23 AM
While your efforts to not understand what is painfully obvious to most are quite admirable, Would be nice if you presented an actual point here Brian .. Seems like you should be shoving some numbers in our faces, to prove this wrong>> The main difference is the ratio, the numbers and related statistics= how many problems per- 1 000 visitor dogs, per 50 camper dogs..// having been growled at and threatened by both types of dogs, one big difference is the visitors were within shouting range, and did something about their dogs while the guard dogs have had no owners present. Also, just the idea that i am walking in a park and have to "beware of Dog" at least 3 if not more times according to signage.. cages in a public park.. the list goes on.. at this point it might be time to erect a troll barrier. Unless it can be demonstrated that visitor dogs cause more frequent and more serious problems than resident dogs, there is no debate. Sensible folks know when the camps are gone the dogs will be reigned in as well. It's a non issue.
Amber Whitson January 22, 2014 at 03:29 AM
Pitcher: "So: dwellers of the camp/squatters/people experiencing homeless/ etc. Would you consider moving to a more localized area and obeying some kind of negotiated rules? And squatters what would you be willing to live with. How about a maximum number of people? Or perhaps not allowing in new people to join?" "A more localized area"? If it meant the difference between leaving or not leaving the Bulb itself, as our home? Hell yeah! "Obeying negotiated rules"? As long as they aren't as condescending and prison-like as those at the "Shelter" Hell Yeah! And, those of us who have been here for years and years would almost certainly agree to a "cap" on the population. I know I would!!! :-) Thank you for your realistic, forward-thinking and humane contribution to this conversation. It's a pleasure to see.
thorn January 22, 2014 at 03:30 AM
dogs? why.. how about that council meeting that this article is about? ... anyone else watch and wonder why the public has so many suggestions re: legalities that the City is paying (supposedly) good lawyers to figure out? I felt bad for the Council tonight hhehehehe... some suggestions regarding allowing a shelter in more places than san pablo, ok not bad But some overlook the obvious, why Solano is out of the question- yes, it is on many levels about hiding the "poor people" but reality, Solano is worth too much in property and potential sales taxes to be putting a shelter there. Solano pays for the shelter san pablo doesnt..
Amber Whitson January 22, 2014 at 03:32 AM
Of course, I can only speak for myself, for sure. However, I have had many conversations, with other Bulb residents, in which we have suggested the very Dignity Village model, of which you speak. They all liked it to. Thank you.
thorn January 22, 2014 at 03:40 AM
Amber, there is nothing realistic about what Pilcher is suggesting. You can only keep telling us this is a fight for housing for so long before you will have to give up the Bulb.
orion edmoson January 22, 2014 at 04:14 AM
GG SPEAKS TO ALBANY CITY CAPITALIST CITY COUNCIL YEAH that goes double for me you want to see the future hike up the middle trail for 5min on the right by the solitary tree is the future STATE PARK construction they destroyed all the birds nests I know because I use play my guitar and watch those great black and yellow oriels in the trees) animaal habitat,s art ,bushs and trees what they left was barren ground seeded with grass and signs saying Don't walk on the grass. they want to destroy the rest of the 30 acres of the most public and awed park around.how many of you have taken your out of town friends to the Bulb Ive met hundreds of delighted tourists over the last twenty years go to google image and type in the bulb make no mistak the state does not have to do any thing that albany suggests when the East bay regional park took over the flat lands all the mudflats art were destroyed "we dn/t hve the man power to keep up the art" they whined all art people birds trees bushs will be ploughed uider and 4 inchs of mulch spread with grass seeds for the future sierra club and albany city planed state park of pristine back to nature state park and in 15 years after the state park syustem goes broke since there not taxing the the rich they will sell it to themselves like the berkeley post office and build condo/s ps dogs will be leashed or banned unless we stop um. which we have done since the 1st of october which was the eviction date the Workers and students of the the area will be hurt greatly if the capitalist 1% and appologists get there way hopefully you won't say "awe gee I should have done something I didn/t know" well u do know now so join our ranks and fight the lies lies lies the masses are the makers of history .not the 1%
dorthy manser January 22, 2014 at 07:40 AM
Brian, I am saying that you are more likely to be bitten by a dog defending his or her territory than you are by a dog who is out for a walk. You are also more likely to be bitten by a dog that has been abused or mistreated by an owner with mental or substance abuse problems. And for what it's worth, I think any park that combines off leash dogs with young children is a bad idea.
Kei January 22, 2014 at 09:45 AM
But as Rochelle pointed out (and her input is simply EXCELLENT!!), a significant part of the issue is whether the city of Albany is legally liable in the event of a dog-bite. As I understand it, the issue is that a dog on the shoreline is not on City property, but a dog on the bulb is. And therefore-- the injury to be set aside (unfortunately)-- the issue is whether the city could be sued in the event of someone getting injured by a dog on the bulb, due to not having dealt with the issue of illegal camping and the loose dogs, for over a decade.
Brian Parsley January 22, 2014 at 10:19 AM
So following that logic the City would also be responsible if a park visitors dog attacked or bit someone? Do we know if the Bulb residents abuse their animals? Is their any quantitative or off of that ie reports, arrests for animal cruelty? Shelters are full of abused pets, were these all abused by people with substance abuse or mental health issues?
Kei January 22, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Are you fishing? Or is this in some way related? Sorry to be too mundane, but-- this being the State with many litigious lawyers (am I being redundant?)-- the issue specifically here appears to be: Is it possible that years of ignoring the camping/dogs opens the city up to a lawsuit, in the event that someone is injured by one of the campers' dogs, out on the bulb itself?
Rochelle Nason January 22, 2014 at 10:41 AM
Brian, you seem to be just a lot more interested in attacking those with whom you disagree - park advocates and off-leash dog walkers - than you are in engaging in constructive dialogue about how to reclaim the park and help the campers who want shelter to achieve that goal. But if you really can't understand the difference between the potential liabilities for allowing aggressive guard dogs to protect their territory in a wooded park area, and allowing pet dogs to play off leash in an open park area, try imagining yourself as a juror reviewing likely dog-bite scenarios arising in each situation. Add that Albany knows that several Bulb dogs descend from a dog that was shot after attacking a police officer in Golden Gate Park, and that one of her offspring died the same way on the Bulb itself. A reasonable person can make an argument for allowing off leash dog play in certain areas where people who dislike or fear dogs can easily avoid them. But I don't see how any reasonable person can make an argument for allowing the Bulb guard dogs to continue menacing park visitors. Does that help?
dorthy manser January 22, 2014 at 10:52 AM
Brian is taking a rather odd tact, perhaps due to a feeling that residents of the bulb are being demonized, and I'm sympathetic to his concern. However, my concern that mentally ill or drug addicted people with unleashed dogs in a public space might not be a good idea seems pretty obvious. It might not be too big of a leap to suggest that one of the jobs of the dogs is to protect their human companion's territory. Odd that anyone would find my concern controversial.
Rochelle Nason January 22, 2014 at 11:55 AM
If dorthy manser is right about your motivation, Brian Parsley, then I retract my criticism of your posts. I agree that the campers should not be demonized. They should be both required and assisted to relocate, and to become as self-sufficient as possible (and should get the care they require to the extent they are not able to care for themselves). It seems to me these are things we can all agree on.
christopher papazoglow January 22, 2014 at 03:48 PM
Hmmm. The 4 times that i was bitten by a dog on the "city-owned" portion of "the Landfill", i never once considered any 'liability' the city had with regard to the incidents. Or when i've been bitten on public sidewalks. Nor did i give thought to any potential responsibility that EBRPD might have on the occasions of those 3 dog bites at Point Isabel. It simply does not occur to me that any responsibility lies further than the dog and/or the owner ( or with myself, should i do something to elicit aggressive behavior ). I can't fathom how a right-thinking person could hold "the city" liable.
dorthy manser January 22, 2014 at 04:00 PM
You haven't thought of suing because, thankfully, you aren't sue happy. Not everyone is like you, though. By the way, how did you manage to get bitten by dogs eight times? That's a crazy lot of dog bites...
christopher papazoglow January 22, 2014 at 04:27 PM
Approximately 20-year time period. And i figure higher-than-normal traverse/presence at areas where dogs often are, during that time period.
christopher papazoglow January 22, 2014 at 04:31 PM
.....maybe they can sense that i'm a "cat" person, lol...
christopher papazoglow January 22, 2014 at 05:16 PM
Oh, and 4 of those times i was bitten 'because' "he/she doesn't like bicycles". Oh, okay, MY bad.....
dorthy manser January 22, 2014 at 05:24 PM
Neither do I, but I certainly wouldn't bite you : )
thorn January 22, 2014 at 05:33 PM
So the point here is the dogs on the Bulb pose no threat, and nothing needs to be done... this is simply a troll barrier it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point proceed at your own risk
Brian Parsley January 22, 2014 at 06:47 PM
I don't mean to say dogs on the Bulb pose no threat jut no greater threat than other off leash dogs.

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