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Petition, March Seek to Block Eviction of Albany Bulb Homeless

Protest against the plan to evict the homeless from the Albany Bulb in October is building momentum with an online petition and a planned march from the Bulb to Tuesday night's City Council meeting, where the issue will be discussed.

One of many "homes" set up by the people living at the Albany Bulb. Photo Credit: Euna Park, July 18, 2013
One of many "homes" set up by the people living at the Albany Bulb. Photo Credit: Euna Park, July 18, 2013
Opposition to the planned eviction of the homeless people living at Albany Bulb is heating up with an online petition and a planned protest march from the Bulb to the City Council meeting Tuesday night.


The council agenda includes a time for further public input on the issue and a review of the council's decision in May to begin enforcing the city's no camping ordinance at the Bulb in October. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.

The longterm plan of the city and the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park is to turn operation of the Bulb over to the East Bay Regional Park District to be part of the park. Under a $30,000 contract approved by the council, The Berkeley Food and Housing Project this summer has been trying to help the estimated 50-70 people living in makeshift camps on the Bulb find alternative housing.

The city has been grappling with the issue for many months, if not years. A city-appointed Homeless Task Force presented a report at the council's May 6 meeting.

The protest petition at Change.org, addressed to Mayor Peggy Thomsen and the council, indicated 473 supporters as of 1 p.m. today, Saturday.

The petition says Albany does not have a homeless shelter or other alternative housing for the people living at the Bulb and that the shelters in Berkeley next door are full.

"We insist that the City invest the resources necessary to find adequate, affordable, permanent housing or an alternative site for current Bulb residents—not the sidewalks of Albany," the petition says.

A large number of signers appear to be from outside of Albany.

The protest march will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Bulb and proceed to City Hall for the council meeting, according to a press release emailed Friday by Megan Sallomi of the Neighborhood Justice Center in Berkeley.

"The City has no homeless shelters or affordable housing, nor a plan for developing them, in violation of state law," the news release says. "This Tuesday, Albany’s housed and homeless residents will collectively march to City Hall to demand that the City halt its plan to evict Bulb residents."

When checked by Patch today at 1 p.m., the Change.org petition listed comments from eight people in a list of "Most Popular" reasons for supporting the petition. Four were from Berkeley, two from Richmond, one from El Sobrante and one from San Pablo. It also listed 10 "Recent signatures," which included two people from Albany and eight from other East Bay cities.

Another reason for the council's reconsideration of the issue is that the city received an objection asserting that the council's May decision may have violated the Brown Act, the state's open meeting law, according to a staff report prepared for Tuesday's meeting.

"In an effort to alleviate any public concern about full compliance with the Brown Act, to promote transparency in the City's decision-making, and to provide an additional opportunity for community input, the item has been agendized once again," the staff report says.

The report also details provisions of the city's Municipal Code that prohibit camping at the Bulb:

"(1) Section 8-4.3(a) provides that with limited exceptions, no person shall use, remain in or enter upon any waterfront area between 10:00 pm and 5:30 am. (2) Section 8-4.4 provides that no person shall camp or lodge in any park, recreation, open space, or waterfront area; it also prohibits setting up or leaving any tents, shacks, sleeping bags or any other shelter for the purpose of overnight camping. (3) Section 8-4.7(b) and (g) prohibit construction of any permanent or temporary buildings and prohibit storage of personal property in these areas."

Readers are invited to post their views on the Albany Bulb homeless issue in the comments below.

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Paw Fund September 04, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Like many people who have strong feelings about the Albany Bulb (and have been going there almost every day for 15 years), posting a comment here is a bit like going to the dentist for an extraction with no pain meds. So, I'm commenting purely because I want to address one piece of the dilemma which gets talked about a lot but which rarely gets incorporated into possible solutions. Whatever your opinion about the dogs who live with people at the Bulb, whatever presumptions you make about why they have the dogs they have, or why they may have multiple dogs - the reality is usually far more mundane. The first thing to know is that virtually every dog living at the Bulb is spayed or neutered and microchipped and up to date on their vaccines. The very few unaltered dogs are an issue at the Bulb just as they would be in any neighborhood where they are allowed to roam - which is pretty much every neighborhood in the East Bay. And the conversation about spay and neuter and free roaming dogs happens as consistently at the Bulb as it does in my neighborhood in South Berkeley. Just as in your community, people obtain dogs in many ways. Dogs get left out at the Bulb, people might get arrested and their friends take care of the dogs so that they don't have to be impounded at Berkeley Shelter (taking up kennel space), they find dogs on the street, they take on the care of pets who belong to people who have been hospitalized, there are people who visit from other places who bring their dogs and leave them. There are great dog owners at the Bulb, and there are some who aren't quite so stellar. Just like my neighborhood. I started a non profit, PAW FUND, to address exactly this sort of situation - to provide preventive care like vaccines, de-wormers and spay and neuter free of charge to low income and homeless communities. We call ourselves a harm reduction model because even though things may seem chaotic to you at the Bulb, the reality is that there has not been a litter of pups born there for 3 years and there has not been an outbreak of parvo for three years, ever since we started going out there to provide services, and to transport dogs to the vet for spay/neuter surgery. What I worry about when I hear the discussion, and what I worry about when I hear about the eviction is that even though we went through the same dilemma during the last eviction of 2000 (there were no options offered to residents with pets), I am not sensing that there are real options being considered this time either, and getting mad at people for having three dogs (who they probably acquired because they care enormously about homeless pets - just like you and I do), is not going to help. To date, no-one at the city has approached me or PAW FUND to ask our opinion, or for our input, even though we have been for years, the primary 'provider' of care for the resident animals. The Berkeley Animal Shelter will obviously step in if need be to impound animals in the event they are left behind or if owners are arrested, but is that really what you want? BACS is a shelter with fewer kennels than they used to have in their old building, and impounding dogs which belong to homeless people is a pretty ugly job. We work closely with them to ensure that pets which must be impounded are given every opportunity to be returned to owners or adopted if they can be, but this must not be our priority when dealing with the pets of the homeless. Part of me wants to apologise for the rant, part of me wants to know why Albany doesn't see the need to work together with an agency which knows the people and their pets better than almost anyone.
thorn September 04, 2013 at 04:14 PM
all it takes is one bad owner- and i have run into 3 or more on the same hike. Too many campers have overly protective dogs that they do not properly restrain. I should not suddenly have a dog 30 feet away off leash looking at me growling and raising it's fur, and this happens almost every time i am down there, sometimes more than once on the same walk. WORSE- i wont even get into the violence and rantings that were the result of one resident supposedly poisoning another resident's dogs.
Susan Miller September 04, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Dover, my dear, my comment as well was about as smarmy as it get. Why use a feather when you have the opportunity to use a hammer? Are my comments mean-spirited? Thanks.
Dover September 04, 2013 at 04:59 PM
LOL! Nice try, but.......no.
Ricardø September 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM
Enough talk, time for Operation: Clear the Bulb. Police please stand by with your batons and tasers. We all wish it hadn't come to this, but it has, it has.
Catherine Sutton September 16, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Dover, Susan Miller, Thorn - this is a three-person rant, with a few comments from a handful of standers-by who agree with them or feel safe to express similar opinions. I wonder how many readers are unwilling to speak up for fear of being excoriated? Without doubt they will be, if they dare challenge these worthy Albany citizens who make contemptuous comments about "squatters" and "interlopers." God forbid that such a fate might some day be theirs! It is a sad thing to see people who enjoy privilege and money exhibiting such a lack of compassion for those who simply don't fit into the narrow and tenuous reality we call "normal".
Susan Miller September 16, 2013 at 04:11 AM
I don't, wouldn't, and can't prevent anyone from posting their opinion, nor do I excoriate anyone for posting. This is an open forum, which is obvious from the comments during elections. Check my posts. I have never personally attacked anyone here. As to the terminology used, if they are not squatters what are they? They certainly are not homeless because judging by the amount of personal property they have and the extent of the structures they have erected, they look very much at home. Bob, on the other hand, who sleeps in a doorway near my workplace, and whom I have supplied with socks and outerwear, has no more than his pack. He is truly homeless. Even though he goes to a shelter in bad weather, he prefers to live outdoors and it is not easy for him. When he is asked to remove himself he does. I am neither privileged nor moneyed. I work to pay for my housing, a shared arrangement. I try to be an asset to my community. What's wrong with wanting public lands to be managed in a way so that there is no hazard to the community? Sanitation, drug use, dangerous animals, violence are not an asset to this city. The people who chose to live illegally at the bulb knew their position was tenuous and temporary. Time's up, that's all. I would say that the taxpayers of Albany have been very generous to fund the mitigation. No one is being forced out into the cold; housing is being offered again, just as it was before. No one can be forced to accept the offer. It's about the choices people make about how they live their lives. I have never seen "normal", just a range.
Susan Miller September 16, 2013 at 04:13 AM
If you are reading my previous post with an angry tone, you are doing it incorrectly. I am not angry, just resolved.
Rochelle Nason September 16, 2013 at 10:06 AM
Catherine, not everyone uses the word 'compassion' to mean the soft warm self-regarding feeling you get when you think and talk about unfortunate people and how much you would like to help them. Some of us use the word 'compassion' to characterize carefully thought-out action taken to reduce suffering as best we can in an imperfect world. Enabling addiction, and helping people evade treatment for mental illness, may be 'compassionate' by your lights, but not necessarily others'. In thorn's case, in particular, he has been very clear that he is seeking constructive change on the Bulb out of care, not contempt, for the campers. Also that his position is based on extensive knowledge of the situation - can you say the same? This discussion should be about substance - what is best (1) for the community as a whole, and (2) for the current campers. So please stop accusing other people of lacking compassion because their feelings about the situation are different from yours. Explain to us why you think allowing the encampments to stay and to continue to grow is a good thing - or if you have some other course of action in mind, please share it with us. Remember, time is growing short, and by advocating for the campers to stay put you may be offering them false hope . . . which is not necessarily a compassionate course of action, if we judge by results rather than by feelings.
Dover September 16, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Catherine, I would like to remind you that you are still a GUEST in this country. How dare you advocate breaking the law, how dare you support others breaking the law and how dare you break the law yourself. Shame on you. If you want to be a lawbreaking troublemaker, get on a plane and go home. As for "G-d forbid that such a fate might some day be theirs!" I can guarantee you that I will never be a thieving meth-head or a thieving pothead or a thieving alcoholic, NEVER. I have been working since I was a teen. Sometimes I worked 3 or 4 jobs. Sometimes I worked 3 or 4 jobs while attending school full time. I have never been lazy. I never will be lazy. I would take any job to feed my family. I see no shame in any honest job. If I couldn't find a job, I would invent one, as I have done many times also. I will never abandon my children. I will never burn my friendship and family bridges. I will never assault police officers. I will never blame others for my mistakes. I will never sit on my a@@ and expect other people to feed me and give me money for drugs. So I can indeed tell you that "such a fate" will never be mine. And really, excoriated? Dramatic, much? Give me a break, woman. I realize you expect to be lauded for everything you do, riding your little bike out in traffic lanes, flat out LYING to people so they sign a petition, trespassing on UC property, forcing your moonbatty world views on others, expecting, no DEMANDING that the rest of us live as you do, etc, etc, as nauseam, but guess what? Some of us don't respect you, worship you or want to be you. Get a grip, get used to it and get over it. The world does not revolve around you.
Amber Whitson September 16, 2013 at 01:31 PM
It is yet another example of the right wing attempting to scare others, by demonising those who feel differently than they do, by propagating the belief that there is no middle-ground to their opponent's point of view. For instance: Let the Brochure-Thumping Right tell it: Anyone who *doesn't* want to see 62 American citizens get thrust into *homelessness* and pushed to nearby cities, *must* want the number of people living on the Bulb to *increase*. Does that actually make any sense?
Amber Whitson September 16, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Whereas, let us Constitution-Thumping Left tell it: Almost everyone who *doesn't* want to see 62 American citizens get thrust into *homelessness* (in *any* city), also *Does NOT* want to see the number of people living on the Bulb *increase*. Duh.
Kirsten Schwartz September 16, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Amber, now you are demonising: anyone who disagrees with you and wants the Bulb cleaned off (for the use of law-abiding and tax-paying residents of Albany) (tax-paying) is "right wing." Snif. As if. It remains that I am afraid to walk on the entire Bulb, and it remains that the population of the Bulb will grow because it is an attractive place (no rent, no taxes), and because those already there have no right to keep out people who want to move in--because you who are already there have no legal right to be there, either. So there's no legal way to keep the population from growing. No moral way, either! If you deserve to be able to squat there, so does anyone else. You actually haven't a moral leg to stand on when it comes to the inevitable growth of population on the Bulb. But keep posting; it's interesting.
Catherine Sutton September 16, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Rochelle, When I use the word compassion I use it in the sense of walking in another's shoes, seeing the world from another point of view. I have observed an unfortunate tendency to lump all the people at the Bulb in the same category, which is as silly as saying that all the people in, say, the Pierce Street apartments - or your block - could be meaningfully described in one sweeping brushstroke. As I understand it, some of the people currently at the Bulb are there because their options have run out and they would love a house and everything social services can offer them. We pay taxes to help such people. Others do not operate well in society, for whatever reason - are we saying that there is no place for them here, that they should be drugged and put into an institution so we don't have to look at them? If they do no-one any harm, I say it is better for them to live in a community that supports and tolerates them. And if they're addicted to dangerous drugs, let's get them into supportive rehab. Some of the people out at the Bulb are simply more comfortable living outside and have rejected the values of the consumer age. Who are we to tell them Not In My Back Yard? There's supposed to be a park there? The idea of a park was born in a different time, decades ago, when no-one foresaw an end to "business-as-usual." As a community we're capable of better than hanging onto an old idea simply because it's there. Times have changed and we need new solutions. And to say they're interlopers, "not from here".... where does that put all the people who have recently moved into an Albany house from somewhere else? I can predict the answer - that people who buy or rent a house are clearly "different." But does them not having that kind of money (not being, by my definition, "monied") give us the right to shoo them off? I have heard the arguments about people feeling too uncomfortable to go to the Bulb or being threatened by dogs. Knowing - from experience on both sides of the fence - the human tendency to fear and "label" strangers, I would wager that most of the reaction would melt away if people on both sides would talk to each other. Rather than hanging on to the old for the sake of it, let's create something new together that works for everyone - not just the ones privileged with money for the bills and a solid roof over their heads. On October 1, there will be an opportunity to discuss out-of-the-box solutions to the problem of affordable housing in Albany at St Albans Parish Hall, 6:30 pm, at the First Tuesday Potluck with Purpose. For each one of us, our perspective is necessarily limited, and the written word is one-dimensional and presents too many opportunities for misunderstanding. Face to face there's the possibility of getting a glimpse at possibilities we may not have considered on our own
Rochelle Nason September 16, 2013 at 04:51 PM
October 1 ? Catherine, please consider the potential damage that can be done by raising false hopes. Some campers may be willing to be put through an eviction in order to make a political point. And many may be resilient types who will land on their feet in any case. But there may well be vulnerable people out there, who will not move unless and until they are certain they have no choice. By giving them the sense that things may change in October, you may be persuading them to forfeit their last opportunity to seek a voluntary transition, exposing them to an eviction and unnecessary suffering. Please give some thought to the potential unintended consequences of your actions; the path of true compassion is not always obvious or easy to walk. Personally, I think the much more compassionate thing to do under the circumstances is to encourage and assist people to take advantage of the help that is being offered so they can move before October arrives. Please, give it thought.
Dover September 16, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Oh please. Let's all walk in the shoes of drug addicts! That'll work.
Catherine Sutton September 16, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Rochelle, I have no illusions that a meeting on October 1st (simply the first potluck meeting date available) will change anything immediately. But if anyone is interested in sitting down together earlier than that - with an open mind, please - let's do it. Ideas for a date, a place?
Rochelle Nason September 16, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Catherine, I am very happy to meet with you, and just sent you a message on Facebook (you need to look in your 'other' message folder, it won't be delivered to your inbox as we are not friends on Facebook). I want to be clear, though, that I believe that anyone who is camping on the Bulb who does not want to be evicted next month should be working hard on securing their next place to live. And anyone who cares about the potential negative impacts of an eviction on the Bulb campers should be doing whatever they can to help the BF&HS and the Solano Community Church succeed in motivating people to avoid eviction by finding housing under their own power ASAP. It really is going to happen, and people really, really need to move, and they need to do it now.
Catherine Sutton September 16, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Rochelle, let's see who else accepts the invitation to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to low income housing in Albany before the end of September. As for your insistence that "people must find alternative housing" and that we help them, can you tell me what kinds of avenues are open to very low income people to find housing? I will ask the same question of Solano Community Church and BF&HS.
thorn September 16, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Catherine i was away so havent read all of this yet but for starters- 3 person rant, maybe - but check the # of recommends on various posts and face reality. 3 of us arent generating 15 recommends, and the pro camper posts are barely getting 3 recommends if any. MOST people in Albany are afraid to go out there and few citizens have known these people as long or as well as i do.. does every person in albany need to sign in to patch and say :"im pro or anti camper?" no.
Catherine Sutton September 16, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Thorn, it's true, I saw all those recommendations and sighed. How do we get over the "them and us" thing? I continue to hope for a win-win solution for everyone out there and those of us who have houses. In this economy, the housing situation for low income folks is pretty abysmal.
Catherine Sutton September 16, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Dover, thanks for letting me know something of what makes you tick. You've worked very hard in your life, I can see. You've always puzzled me, and I manage to feel offended every time you write (perhaps because you intend to offend). It offends me that you refer (by implication) to the people at the Bulb as "thieving meth-head or thieving pothead or thieving alcoholic." In my experience that is patently untrue. Having lived here as a resident alien and tax payer for 25 years (married to a US citizen for the last 7), what makes me a guest? As for your explicit accusations, let me address these once and for all: lying to petition signers, I did not. I was responsible for making a flyer that contained inaccurate information. I am sorry that it was so. I never intended, and have never in my life intended, to deceive anyone. As for expecting people to do what I do - not true. But I have to be true to myself, just as you do. The more information I take in, the more convinced I am that we are headed for a fall, and I can't sit back and say, f*** them, so even if some people may think "my ideas" are "moonbatty" I soldier on. Transition Albany is simply trying to build up some alternatives that are less likely to fall down if indeed there is a collapse. If not, hey, we're getting to know one another and learning some useful stuff. Perhaps one day I'll be able to recognize you in a crowd. And give you a friendly wave. That'll be the day.
thorn September 16, 2013 at 08:15 PM
now that i have read your posts Catherine, i don't think you understand what type of addicts we are dealing with here, but great idea- if we got all the addicts on the Bulb into rehab we wouldn't need to evict them. The population would then be 2 or 3 quiet folks who were hidden away in the bushes.
Rochelle Nason September 16, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Catherine, in this country, a low income person's first step into housing (from homelessness, from one's parents' home, from school or foster care, from divorce, from jail, or whatever) is usually into a roommate situation - one rents a room from someone else (and if one's income is very low one must shares that room with an intimate partner or friend.) If someone is working at or near minimum wage, or is dependent on a small disability or retirement income, their options are extremely limited, especially in a high rent area like the San Francisco Bay Area, and it can be hard to find a homeowner or master tenant willing to rent a room to a couple or to a pair of roommates. Here in Albany, rents are inflated significantly by the demand for admission to Albany schools. Thus, Albany is not a particularly desirable place for people without children at home unless they have friends or relatives who would give them a special break on a room. If they are looking on the open market, their rental dollars will usually get them more in an area with less desirable public schools. However, Albany does offer subsidized housing support through Alameda County (as is generally true with small cities in this county, and even with some medium-size cities like Hayward, although Berkeley and Oakland operate their own programs) If a person's income remains low, and their assets are exhausted, and if they are persistent and patient, they can eventually either get into an Alameda County subsidized complex or get a Section 8 voucher. I have heard that apart from our grad student housing, there is only one small subsidized complex in Albany and it is oriented to families who want their children in Albany schools, but that there a number of landlords who accept Section 8 vouchers. Of course, if someone needs to recover from drug or alcohol addiction, or needs treatment for mental illness, or has been homeless for a very long time, the path may be very different - they may enter either rehab or transitional housing, which is a whole different subject. Does this answer your question ? If not, I think that BF&HP is the best source of information (you can learn a lot from looking at their website, and that of BOSS, and that of the Alameda County Housing Authority).
Catherine Sutton September 16, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Thank you, Rochelle.
Rochelle Nason September 16, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Catherine, you should understand that the Bulb's two most outspoken camper leaders both gave up or turned down subsidized housing affordable on their SSI checks, preferring to live on the Bulb. I don't know how many campers are in this category. But - the benefits of Bulb camping that is based on non-enforcement of ordinances actually lure people away from subsidized housing - first and foremost because it is free (subsidized housing requires payment of 30-40% of income), but also because it offers lots of space and sociability, it permits large and multiple pets, and it is easier to engage in socially disapproved conduct (especially drug use and excessive use of alcohol) without getting pressed (or forced) to stop. Obviously, if camping based on non-enforcement of ordinances were somehow replaced by something officially sanctioned (which clearly won't happen, but I think this may be what some people still are hoping), a lot of these benefits would disappear (there would be rent to pay and rules to follow, etc.). You would likely end up with a very different population from those who live on the site now. Just food for thought.
Brian Parker September 16, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Catherine- Glad that you are self aware enough to realize that you are viewed by many as "moonbatty". And I must say not in a Jerry Brown ahead of his time kind of good way. You tell us that "Some of the people out at the Bulb are simply more comfortable living outside and have rejected the values of the consumer age. Who are we to tell them Not In My Back Yard? " While you’re big on predicting near term industrial/societal collapse (yeh this is what Catherine really thinks), what's more likely with your thinking is a slide into "everything goes" anarchy (and just to be clear that I am not a right winger making this comment I include in that category the “I’ve got mine” greed of the 1%). You really need to get comfortable with the idea that most of Albany supports the Council's decision to enforce our laws equitably and fairly including on the squatters who have decided to build long term permanent residences on our public lands (the Bulb is officially designated as the City’s Albany Waterfront Park). So on May 6th the Albany City Council gave a FIVE MONTH notice that police action would be taken to enforce the City’s no camping ordinance at the Albany Waterfront Park in October. They later hired a social services nonprofit to help bulb squatters access available public and private social service resources to assist in their relocation. Since then they have expanded and extended that contract to a $60,000 amount. Thus five months notice and about $1,000 per bulb squatter into this endeavor and somehow those of us who support the Council's action are characterized by you as heartless and lacking in compassion? Kind of hard to see it that way. A little late to have a potluck dinner on October 1st and debate the niceties of what should be done. If anyone has been heartless in all of this it is the misguided few in the community (and Amber) who have lulled the Bulb squatters into a belief that they do not need to be looking for housing options.
Dover September 17, 2013 at 12:09 AM
"Having lived here as a resident alien and tax payer for 25 years (married to a US citizen for the last 7), what makes me a guest?"I feel like I need to type this v e r y s l o w l y so you will understand, instead, I will shout, YOU ARE NOT A CITIZEN. THAT MEANS YOU ARE A GUEST IN THIS COUNTRY. Clear enough?
Dover September 18, 2013 at 11:53 AM
On a semi-related note, I'm a day late but......Happy 2nd Unemployed Useful Idiots "Occupy" Hard-Working Americans Anniversary, everybody! Woo hoo! Let's all go poop on some cop cars in a show of solidarity!
Ricardø September 30, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Enough talk, bring the soldiers in. After three LOUD and unmistakable orders, put the bayonets out and CHARGE. I predict that these bums will finally get the message. Ouchy!

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