Last stand at the Bulb

With Albany looking to clear a bayshore homeless encampment, residents brace for a conflict

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As the squatter residents of Albany Bulb make one final push against being evicted from their home in a former landfill, the city of Albany is pushing forward with its plan to change the untamed space into a waterfront state park (see "Battle of the bulb," Sept. 24).

The first signs of the transition came on Nov. 22, when a temporary shelter was set up for residents whose camps would be cleared. The shelter came after a disappointing week in court left the 50 to 60 residents of the Bulb without the stay-away order their advocates had sought, which they intended to use to keep the city and police at bay during the winter.

On Nov. 18, the residents and their attorneys received word that the stay-away order was denied by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer. After the decision and an Albany City Council meeting later that evening, campers and area activists set up a permanent settlement against the eviction after marching through the streets of Albany.

Barricades made of rocks were set up at the Bulb to resist police getting into the camps. However, the rain that followed for a few nights inhibited their efforts, according to activists involved in the action. And the police, using a backhoe, destroyed the rock barricades. The city of Albany, according to a press release, is calling the transition "ACT" which includes, "Assistance to homeless, including housing-centered outreach, transitional services, support, and shelter; Cleanup and maintenance of the Bulb; and Transfer of the Bulb to McLaughlin Eastshore State Park." "As part of the City Council's Strategic Planning Process conducted in 2012, the City Council identified key goals for the City," Albany City Clerk Nicole Almaguer wrote in an email to the Guardian. "One of which is to 'Maximize Park and Open Space' including developing a plan to transition the Bulb into Eastshore State Park, and to improve accessibility for general public use of all of the Albany Bulb as a waterfront park." Almaguer stated that part of the plan included a temporary shelter and support services, which started this summer and is headed by Berkeley Food and Housing Project. The BFHP also provides case management for the Albany campers interested in securing housing outside of the Bulb.

While the city has provided a housing subsidy program to help Bulb residents with rent, a portion of it will also need to be covered by the tenant. Many of the Bulb residents are only supported through government programs such as SSI, and cannot afford housing costs.

In addition, most residents, and their attorney Osha Neumann, who is also a longtime contributor to art at the Bulb, say that the city does not have any affordable housing in which the residents can transition into. Managed by Operation Dignity, a nonprofit designed to help homeless veterans, the transitional shelter is set up by Golden Gate Fields racetrack near the entryway into the Bulb.

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