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Run-in Between Protestors & City at Albany Bulb

A City of Albany work crew that went to the Albany Bulb Monday morning to remove two campsites was confronted by protestors opposed to the city's planned eviction of Bulb encampments.

Protestors stood in front of City of Albany truck that drove onto Albany Bulb on Dec. 9, 2013 to remove two encampments that the city said had been abandoned. Photo credit: Charles Burress
Protestors stood in front of City of Albany truck that drove onto Albany Bulb on Dec. 9, 2013 to remove two encampments that the city said had been abandoned. Photo credit: Charles Burress
Two stand-offs with protestors blocking trucks took place at the Albany Bulb today, Monday, after police and city work crews showed up to remove two campsites.

The city, which has been taking a cautious approach in its plan to remove the longstanding illegal encampments on the Bulb, went to the site about 8 a.m. today to remove two campsites that city officials believed were abandoned, according to Gale Rossi, a city project manager for the effort.

The two campsites have been the homes of three Bulb residents who found alternative housing as a result of city outreach and community support. The city issued an announcement on Thursday about their finding housing.

When the city crew showed up with a backhoe this morning to remove the encampments, however, the occupant of one was still there, saying she had not yet finished sorting through her belongings, according to Rossi and Bulb resident Amber Whitson.

Police and city workers gave her more time while they began removing a nearby shelter built around and in a tree.

The second shelter, which was soon torn down, had been occupied by two other Bulb dwellers who have already moved to the new housing, but another homeless person named Kris had moved into it within the past few days, according to Whitson and attorney Osha Nuemann, who is assisting Bulb residents.

The tree shelter was not occupied when the city crews got there. Whitson said its new occupant had left a sign saying, "This camp is not abandoned. Kris. S."

A report on indybay.org this morning, headlined "Albany Bulb Eviction Happening Now," said the city was starting the Bulb eviction and that the first targeted campsite, which was occupied by the female resident, was being dismantled and all her belongings being taken to a dumpster.

The city posted an announcement on its website today disputing what it called the "inaccurate claims" of the indybay.org report. "The City is removing only materials associated with abandoned encampments," the city said. "No evictions are occurring at this time."

Neumann said the city did not provide adequate warning about the removals. 

Rossi said the woman who was found still in her shelter had signed a release confirming that she was abandoning the site and relinquishing possession of anything left remaining.

Neumann said she was still waiting for a friend with a truck who had pledged to move her belongings. 

Police and city workers at the scene during a Patch visit in the morning appeared to be taking a conciliatory approach toward the targeted camp whose occupant was still there. Police Lt. John Geissberger told Neumann that the city would be willing to move any belongings she wants to keep to the city's temporary storage lockers at the new homeless shelter near the Bulb.

During the morning, several supporters who oppose the evictions came to the Bulb and some stood in a road blocking a city truck near the two campsites during the late morning. 

Around 2 p.m., about 11 protestors stood in a road blocking a truck that tried to travel into the Bulb along the lower road on the Bulb neck, according to Lesley Haddock, one of the opponents of the eviction. The truck eventually turned around and drove off, she said.

As of late afternoon, the first campsite targeted for removal today still remained.

"Our city staff is still intending to remove those sites," said City Clerk Nicole Almaguer.

Occupancy of the new homeless shelter

Meanwhile, Almaguer provided an update on the number of people using the temporary, 30-bed homeless shelter that the city opened next to the Bulb on Nov. 22.

During the past weekend – when the current exceptionally cold weather plunged some areas below freezing – three people stayed on Friday and two stayed on Saturday and Sunday, she said.

Two also spent Wednesday night at the shelter and one on Thursday, she said. No one stayed at the shelter during most of the first week it was open.

The city has established a "Transition Plan" to evict the several dozen people living in makeshift shelters and tents on the city-owned peninsula in order to realize the city's long-established policy of making the property part of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.

Background on Albany Bulb issue

For background 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:

Published Dec. 9, 2013, 7:29 p.m.; updated Dec. 12, 9:14 p.m.

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Kirsten Schwartz December 10, 2013 at 09:49 AM
"Neumann said the city did not provide adequate warning about the removals." Since when, March? How long has the city been planning this? Isn't that enough time to plan? (And Gary M, it's "kid" gloves, as in made (yuck) from the skin of young goats; it's a symbol of wealth or softness.)
Dave December 10, 2013 at 10:17 AM
How long until the city just puts it foot down and says enough is enough? These people have had more than enough notice that this was coming. Show up with the police and clear it out already. If they meet up with protesters or anyone else trying to stop the cleanup arrest them. As we all know it's less painful to just rip off a band-aid then pulling it off slowly, which the city has been doing for months.
Paul D December 10, 2013 at 10:58 AM
Ol' Gary is working himself up to a stroke.
Alan Eckert December 10, 2013 at 11:13 AM
Following comments
Rochelle Nason December 10, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Following comments
SteveWu December 10, 2013 at 12:22 PM
To clear out campsites during the coldest day of the year is cruel. When the courts talk about the criminalization of homelessness violating the Constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, this is what they are talking about. Around town you can see homeless people with no shoes this week. It is not the time to push the homeless around.
montymarket December 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM
So, let's get this straight, if one of my neighbors moves out of their house/apartment, all one needs do is walk over, put up a hand-written sign that moving in, and then take over the place.
Kirsten Schwartz December 10, 2013 at 12:39 PM
SteveWu: "To clear out campsites during the coldest day of the year is cruel. When the courts talk about the criminalization of homelessness violating the Constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment, this is what they are talking about." No, because the homeless had plenty of warning AND warm shelters funded by us. When people don't take such warnings seriously, they are EXPLOITING good intentions. Instead, like the rest of the living things of the earth and the citizens who live by the rules of society, they should have to take the consequences of their actions--or inactions.
dorthy manser December 10, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Steve, the campers had six months to move out, when it was still warm, and plenty of time to move to the trailers (which are still there). Spare us.
Jo-Anna Pippen December 10, 2013 at 01:55 PM
How much notice on an eviction from illegally occupied camp sites would Steve consider acceptable? Somehow I doubt any solution other than the status quo of a permanent Bulb settlement would be considered acceptable. It seems there is always some excuse to refuse to leave.
doris December 10, 2013 at 02:22 PM
thanks for the excellent tip, Monty Market. My son is looking for a place in Albany and by god, they're so expensive, but I noticed that a house in the neighborhood was just vacated. He's moving in today. Why didn't we think of that before? After all, he's entitled, he's lived here all his life and even if not, he wants to live here.
doris December 10, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Albany police and the city seem to be treading softly, fearing that the residents of Albany will object if these illegal trespassers were to be evicted "forcefully" (after having been given months of notice as any other legal dweller who is to be evicted). Judging by talking to my neighbors and reading Patch, most of us would stand by cheering. And since when has enforcing the law ever been a popularity contest?
dorthy manser December 10, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Not so much Albany residents as activists and their lawyers, who, apparently, get more of a vote than those of us who live and pay taxes here. Of course, we can object, but then we will be exposed as heartless evil capitalists or their bourgeois lap dogs. I guess that's what they mean by think global, act local.
doris December 10, 2013 at 02:39 PM
sadly, you might ve right, Dorthy. They don't give a damn about us poor tax paying Albany residents who are hit up for every feel good program "they" can think of. It's the special interest groups, the lawyers, the big players they are afraid of. Nice. Really does put a sinister spin on the think global, act local logo.....I've always practiced that, but I'm rethinking.
Dave December 10, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Since when is it OK to break the law and defy law enforcement because it's winter time and cold. Steve wants the city to shell out money so he can build low cost housing. And Steve, the next time you see a homeless person without shoes why not pull over and offer to buy them some? Bet you never even hit your brakes.
SteveWu December 10, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Since when is it okay to break the law and defy the law and not have a housing element, not comply with SB2, and not provide affordable housing?
Bart Grossman December 10, 2013 at 03:41 PM
I think the City is right to move slowly and cautiously avoiding any incident in which someone is hurt. If people are moving nothing is lost by being a bit patient. Imagine trying to move this time of year with nothing but a bicycle. It's not like the Eastshore Park is taking over tomorrow.
doris December 10, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Slowly and cautiously are somewhat of an understatement...there have been months of warning. And you seem to forget, Bart, that there is a place to go to: the new shelter, erected at great cost. Not good enough?
D. Mehrten December 10, 2013 at 04:31 PM
The City "allowed" the campers to occupy the Bulb for years and years, so it is not surprising to me that removing them is not so easy. After all the hand-wringing, it seems that the City is starting to gain headway; to rush things now (out of embarrassment over all the delays, to my mind) would serve no legitimate purpose--slow and steady should accomplish the City's purpose. But no more foot-dragging, please. Also I think the come-lately "activists" should be dealt with as summarily as is legal.
Robert Cheasty December 10, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Bart, I agree with the approach the City is taking, being circumspect and as kind and fair as possible in dealing with stopping the camping at the Bulb. Unfortunately there is an issue of bad faith on the part of the campers. Their refusals to accept housing help, or to move off the Bulb are apparently motivated by their desire to privatize and keep the Bulb for themselves. At this point some anarchists who are advocating and directing the campers are openly advocating resistance and apparently seek a confrontation. One of the campers was recently quoted in another publications saying: “We're trying to get organized as fast as we can to be able to defend ourselves as this place is – as a liberated zone..."
dorthy manser December 10, 2013 at 06:43 PM
I agree. Slow and steady is preferable.
Dave December 10, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Bart, " Imagine trying to move this time of year with nothing but a bicycle." Really? They new for months this was coming. They choose to ignore it.
Stephanie Travis December 10, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Uniformed police officers are not lawyers and are not expected to decide city polices. Yes, police officers obviously make determinations on widely agreed upon violations of the law, like robbing a bank or running a stop light (if you drive a car, bikers of course are always given a pass), but in areas where there are disagreements about laws and/ or how they should be enforced, decisions on enforcement are generally made by administrators like a mayor, a city council, or the chief of police. If you feel the police are not acting aggressively enough to remove the squatters on the Bulb, your concerns should be addressed to city administrators. My personal opinion is that we should move as quickly as possible on removing the squatters. The longer we wait, the more time we give for fringe groups to join the them, as the Occupiers are apparently attempting to do now.
doris December 10, 2013 at 08:22 PM
I fear we've missed the quick boat and am now on a very slow on. The police does get paid to enforce the law, yes, not to make laws, but to enforce them. Ours has done a terrible job in enforcing the no camping law. Our city officials have been criminally negligent in allowing this. They are useless.
Rochelle Nason December 10, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Slow and steady in the right direction might be a good thing. My concern is that things may actually be going in the wrong direction. I could see holding off on clearing a camp for a day or so, while the occupant named Doris finds temporary housing for her cats and moving assistance for her stuff. But why is 'Kris S' being allowed to establish an entirely NEW claim to a campsite, more than seven months after the City decided that camping on the Bulb must come to an end? I realize that this situation involves both legal and police issues that may be interrelated and complex. But the deference being shown to an occupancy of just a few days' duration is really hard to accept.
Edward C. Moore December 10, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Isn't it clear by now the 'campers' are not ever going to voluntarily leave their community? Why would they unless it starts to really rain? And if not effectively prohibited, even if removed many may well return to their scenic abodes this Spring or Summer. I suggest again the City close the park temporarily based on substantiated findings of need that are truthful and look forward to both cost-effective realities and a court challenge. When the park has been closed, loud and clearly posted notice to campers and their attorneys should be given about when arrests are going to start and campsites demolished, meanwhile holding open the temporary shelters. Requests should perhaps be made of their attorneys' for the identification and location of any camper with special needs of a nature that makes it difficult or impossible for that person to comply by moving into the temporary shelters. For anyone arrested, the Alameda County District Attorney's office should be prepared to obtain a court order that the arrestee stay away from the Bulb as a condition of probation without further jail time if complied with.
Erika Lockhart December 10, 2013 at 11:01 PM
I'm wondering what kind of disability requires that one live for free on public land. That is truly a "special need".
Alice M December 10, 2013 at 11:22 PM
I'm glad that the homeless encampments are finally being dismantled. It's something that should have happened a long time ago. Anyone who has walked at Albany Bulb regularly over the years has seen it transform from a public park with a few homeless living in it, to a massive homeless encampment full of trash and threatening dogs, a place no longer a public park in any real sense, where it is uncomfortable and often disturbing for members of the general public to go for a walk. Places at Albany BUlb where I used to walk became, over time, not really possible to walk to, as they had been taken over by the homeless who had appropriated these public spaces for their own private use. Homeless persons need help and need housing, but an unregulated campground on public land with NO toilets (where has all the human waste gone, over the years?), no showers, where drug and alcohol use and abuse can take place freely, and more and more trash can be hauled in by any "resident", is not a solution. It is a problem. It was kind of the city of Albany to allow the homeless to live at the BUlb in the first place. What other city has ever done likewise? Now that the city of Albany is being sued in multiple ways by the misguided attorneys representing the homeless, and is being forced to pay thousands to move these people out, the city is likely to regret its own kindness, and other cities observing this situation will learn never to make this sort of kind mistake. After having been given a free place to live for over a decade, the BUlb residents should leve with gratitude for what they were given. Instead, they are responding in a despicable manner with lawsuits. This a disgusting waste of the court system. DOes anyone imagine that any judge in their right mind is going to rule that the squatters should be able to stay in this public park with their mounds of trash and no sanitary facilities, til the end of time.?? Lawyers should be fined for filing such frivolous and malicious cases. The bulb squatters did not have mere minutes to retrieve her belongings. They had several months. The BUlb residents have known for months that they would have to leave this area. They have been given warnings and notices to vacate. If they chose to ignore all notices to vacate and wait until the last 15 minutes then the consequences of that are their own fault. It is disingenuous if not an outright lie to suggest otherwise. It is also ridiculous to argue that people should remain squatting under tarps and amid trash and wreckage on public land because it is cold out. The fact that it is cold out now is precisely why these people should be removed from their makeshift hovels and placed in the temporary indoor shelters that have been created for them. Campgrounds for the homeless might be part of the solution of providing housing to them, but such campgrounds cannot be located in public parks, must be strictly run and huge piles of trash, as well as drugs and alcohol would have to be strictly banned. As well, it is no use to provide ONLY housing to people who are so in need of substance abuse treatment or psychiatric care, that without such treatment they will quickly and inevitably make themselves a serious nuisance in the housing they are given, and then quickly lose that housing. Albany should pass anti-camping laws as needed for the BUlb, then erect large signs at the BUlb, at all points of access, stating that camping in the park is prohibited, and that illegal camps will be immediately dismantled and campers removed. I am eager for the opportunity, after many years of waiting, to be able to return to and walk in a truly public albany bulb, which is not longer being hijacked and appropriated for private use by squatters in trash filled shanty shacks.
dorthy manser December 10, 2013 at 11:22 PM
Whatever. I'm sick and tired of this. We tried to help. Now it's time to enforce the law. If the commenters that pretend to care actually do care, then they can take them in. If the rich lawyers threatening to sue our town care, then they can put them up, or pay for their housing. Otherwise, they are a just a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites.
doris December 11, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Compassion fatigue ...that's what we all feel, brought on by those who claim they want our help, on their own terms, of course. Let's help them by getting them 3 squares a day and a dry place to sleep.....Santa Rita, here they come.......

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