The long delayed clearing of the West Oakland Wood Street Homeless Encampment by Caltrans began today.
The encampment on Caltrans property has been the site of more than 240 fires that have impacted the region’s freeway network and threatened the nearby EBMUD wastewater treatment plant.
Federal Judge William Orrick issued a court order back on August 26 allowing a phased clean-up of the camp after approving an outreach and services plan by the City of Oakland.
Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to pull funding from the city a week earlier after expressing frustration with the pace of the City’s efforts accusing the city of “seeking to shirk their responsibility.”
Approval of the order hinged largely on the City of Oakland’s plan to provide outreach and services to the 200-300 unsheltered people living there.
Orrick, while acknowledging the shortcomings of the plan, cited the “thoughtful proposal based on the resources the City has at present” as his reasons for ultimately approving it.
Orrick stated the following aspects from the city’s plan would be included in his order:
- 40 beds within the City of Oakland’s shelter system are immediately available and are being held in anticipation of the operation
- Specialized housing is available through Alameda County for veterans and COVID-positive individuals
- Resources through the Homeward Bound program are available to relocate people who have opportunities for housing and support outside Oakland through family and friends elsewhere
After indication that Orrick would lift the injunction, Newsom and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a joint statement saying “[This] means Caltrans will hopefully be able to proceed to clean up the most dangerous portion of the Wood Street encampment in its efforts to ensure the safety of those living at the encampment and the surrounding community. The City of Oakland will support Caltrans by providing housing outreach and offering available shelter beds to those living at the encampment, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.”
Occupants of the camp have fought any removal plan for years expressing discontent with only being offered shelter beds and that being provided complimentary housing was a “Human Right.”
Further details of The City of Oakland’s Outreach & Shelter plan:
- In the immediate term, Caltrans will begin with the northern portion of the site adjacent to the EBMUD wastewater treatment plant. Once Caltrans posts closure notices on the site, the residents in that area will be given 48 hours to relocate.
- Every two weeks thereafter, over three consecutive phases, residents on the remainder of the property will be offered shelter and services, and the area will be cleared.
- In a coordinated approach, the City of Oakland and Alameda County will provide outreach, services, and shelter offers at a total of six emergency shelter intervention locations to the Wood Street residents.
- Once shelter offers are made, residents will have 72 hours to accept or decline; if offers are declined, residents must move before Caltrans operations commence. If no beds are available at that time, residents will still be required to move.
- Caltrans will store residents’ personal possessions for 60 days, and the City will store them for 90 days in accordance with its 2020 Encampment Management Policy and Public Works’ Standard Operating Procedures.
- Caltrans is required to work with Alameda County and the City of Oakland to ensure that the vehicles belonging to unsheltered residents and those being used as shelter are relocated somewhere they can be recovered by their owners.
The order cleared the way for Caltrans to address clearing the hazards posed by the sprawling encampment due to the massive accumulation of combustible materials, burned out cars, and debris.
Caltrans posted notices in the vicinity, as required, warning of the inevitable clearing.
After months of delay, the Wood Street encampment under 880 in Oakland has been posted with 48 hour eviction notices. CalTrans plans to begin cleaning up the site tomorrow morning. Listen to @KCBSRadio for more on where unsheltered residents are going now. https://t.co/4spTThPtJ4 pic.twitter.com/s3E2KosimC
— Matt Bigler (@mattbiglerradio) September 7, 2022
Some residents created barricades with debris in an attempt to thwart the efforts of cleaning crews.
— Erin Baldassari (@e_baldi) September 8, 2022
A standoff between the crews and some residents was captured by local news reporters on the scene. At least two residents of the encampment were restrained or arrested.
Clearing of the encampment began at about noon with a crew of an estimated 200 workers quickly filling at least four dumpsters with debris.
STAND-OFF: Caltrans workers stopped by Wood Street unhoused residents before cleanup can begin. pic.twitter.com/i4Ww50K2qc
— Brooks Jarosz (@BrooksKTVU) September 8, 2022
Oakland plans to set up a 50-unit emergency shelter program on a portion of the “GameChanger” parking lot at Wood and 26th streets, funded by a $4.7 million grant from the State of California. The City is also seeking funding to add an additional 50 units potentially bringing the total of shelter beds to 100 units.
We will update this story as new information of the progress of the ongoing clearing efforts.