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Berkeley Cancels Plan to Remove Homeless Property from Gilman Overpass

Jeff Shuttleworth
Thursday July 10, 2014 - 10:57:00 PM

City of Berkeley officials today at least temporarily called off their threat to remove property at a homeless encampment under the Gilman Street overpass adjacent to Interstate Highway 80, saying some of the people who lived there have been able to find housing elsewhere. 

Manuel Ramirez, Berkeley's Manager of Environmental Health, said in a notice on July 2 that the encampment was a public nuisance and the city would remove all personal property from the site next Tuesday. 

But Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel said in an email to Mayor Tom Bates and City Council members that a notice was posted on the encampment this morning "informing the occupants that the original public nuisance notice has been terminated based on reports by the East Bay Community Law Center that the occupants are actively working with numerous city agencies to find housing." 

Daniel said, "This action will allow the occupants additional time to make relocation arrangements." 

Osha Neumann, a homeless advocate who works at the East Bay Community Law Center, said he's "happy" with the city's decision and "the spirit of it is right." 

But he said he's concerned about a section in the notice that says, "The city will monitor the situation and may without further notice take appropriate action to abate public nuisance conditions, up to and including the removal of personal property." 

Neumann said he thinks the city should issue a new notice if it decides down the road to remove personal property at the site. 

The number of homeless people living under the Gilman Street overpass increased dramatically earlier this year after Albany officials closed down a homeless encampment at a nearby landfill site known as the Albany Bulb. 

Albany officials cleared out the site, which is near Golden Gate Fields, so it can become part of the Eastshore State Park and provided money to help homeless people who had been there find alternative housing and services. 

Albany Assistant City Manager Nicole Almaguer said today that many former Bulb residents have found housing and a recent report indicated that only two former Bulb residents are living at the Gilman Street encampment. 

Neumann said the East Bay Community Law Center and other community organizations have successfully relocated many of the people who had been living under the Gilman Street overpass to new housing and only about seven to 10 homeless people still live at the site. 

Daniel said city staff "has been actively monitoring the situation at Gilman Street and "the accumulations and related rodent activity resulted in the need for enforcement due to the creation of a public nuisance." 

Ramirez said in his notice last week that, "Since there is no garbage service to the encampment, waste generated during the course of living in the area will accumulate and attract rodents." 

He said the personal accumulations at the encampment include food and large bags of dry dog food and the open-air storage of food will continue to attract rodents. 

Neumann said he believes the problems at the encampment would be largely solved if the city put trash cans there so the homeless people there would be able to throw away their garbage.