Seventy otherwise homeless people live on the Albany Bulb, a piece of landfill created decades ago that juts out into San Francisco Bay from its eastern shore. It’s located west of Albany, CA proper, just north of the Golden Gate Racetrack, and south of Point Isabel.
The view from San Francisco Bay.
The City of Albany is outside the top edge..
The racetrack and Berkeley are out of the upper right.
They won’t live there much longer if the good burghers of Albany have their way. Days ago their City Council voted 4-1 to evict everyone on the Bulb from the makeshift shelters they have occupied for years, some for a decade or more. (The Bulb has been home to otherwise homeless people for at least twenty five years).
No matter the rainy season coming. No matter the gross inhumanity of rousting seventy people, seizing their possessions and tossing them onto the streets of other East Bay towns to be arrested for sleeping under bridges. Out they are going, so the Council mandated, despite protests and petitions, starting October 1st.
East Bay residents come to the Bulb every day to enjoy walks and take pleasure in watching their dogs run in the surf on the small beach between the Bulb and the racetrack. For many years the residents of the Albany Bulb have lived in peace with their neighbors in Albany and with nature. The Bulb is a crazyquilt of vegetation, debris, artwork created from that debris (above and right) and people – someone even made a documentary about it all. Were the Bulb to continue to exist as it has been for another ten years no one in particular would be put out (and, speaking in the future perfect canine tense, my dog would be very happy: “woof!”).
So what’s the there there with the eviction? Some years ago Albany was thinking of having someone develop the land, perhaps even expanding the racetrack with a casino. When the Great Recession hit that became impractical. Now
The longterm plan of the city… is to turn operation of the Bulb over to the East Bay Regional Park District…
In other words, the City of Albany wants to wash its hands of the Bulb. The powers-that-be and some well-meaning but in my opinion misguided people want to take this unofficial on-the-wild-side park and turn it into… a park! The Parks District is happy to get more parkland – as long as they get the money to develop it. There’s just one catch to the whole scheme: Albany has to evict seventy people, because the Park District isn’t going to take over the property unless they’re gone.
Could the City of Albany find some housing for these people; help them get on their feet if they need to; offer them medical and psychological services if appropriate? They are, after all, Albany residents, no matter the vitriol spewed at them on various local blogs by other Albany residents.
The city probably could. But they’re not. They’re barely trying. Or maybe they’re not trying at all, just going through the motions to say they tried. There are no homeless shelters in Albany, so…
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…
So far, the organization has been unable to find housing for any residents.
What did the City Council of Albany do then?
… ((They)) renewed a $30,000 contract with The Berkeley Food and Housing Project to provide support and help secure housing for Albany Bulb residents through the end of the year…
Sigh. (BFHA seems like a great agency, but if their ministrations aren’t working…)
It’s bad enough to do nothing for the homeless in your town. It’s another level of nastiness to actively go and create more of a problem.
Most (not all, but most) homeless people would like housing. If Albany can’t do right by the people living on the Bulb, they should leave bad-but-better-than-on-the-street-in-the-rain alone.
- By JP Massar