California Governor Gavin Newsom is urging the closure of the Ashby-Shellmound encampment that straddles the Emeryville/Berkeley border
In a statement through his office, Newsom supported the closure of the encampment and implied that the state’s efforts to provide real solutions were being impeded.
A federal judge issued an injunction a year ago preventing the cities and Caltrans from clearing the area that is also an active construction site. The group of homeless activists calling themselves “Where Do We Go Berkeley” (WDWGB) are now asking a judge for an extension to find housing for the homeless that reside there before Caltrans is allowed to clear their camp.
“Allowing individuals to live in encampments alongside our highways is not only hazardous but inhumane,” Newsom wrote. “Those who argue that the status quo is acceptable leave folks languishing on our roadways to face uncertain, unsafe and overall dire conditions.”
“This litigation has significantly slowed our progress in Berkeley by preventing Caltrans from delivering on important efforts aimed at revitalizing California’s streets and public spaces through litter abatement and local beautification projects. It is critical that Caltrans be allowed to continue their vital work, especially in this case, where safer alternative housing had been identified for those currently living at the Ashby-Shellmound encampment. Housing should be left to local municipalities, which have been given more resources and support than ever before to address California’s homelessness crisis.”
Everyone deserves safe, stable, sanitary, secure housing & self-sufficiency. The I-80 corridor offers none of these.
I stand with the City & the Horizon Transitional Village at Grayson. We will keep working.
— Terry Taplin🚰🏳️🌈🥑🌹🚲🚍✍️🏾 (@TaplinTerry) September 28, 2021
City of Berkeley D2 Councilmember Terry Taplin addressed the topic in his own statement issued back in September, 2021. “I am disappointed by District Court Judge Edward Chen’s decision to keep people living at the Ashby Shellmound encampment. A freeway exit is not a stable, secure, or sustainable location for anyone, let alone vulnerable and marginalized individuals.”
Emeryville leaders have been mostly silent on the subject although Councilmember Ally Medina did express concern over a proposed underpass as part of the I-80/Ashby Interchange Improvement project being occupied by homeless.
Newsom, who successfully fended off a recall effort last year, is up for reelection this year. He has made addressing homelessness a priority for his administration and has allocated $12 Billion from the state budget as well as expanding conservatorship policies for mentally ill homeless.
“As a state, we’ve invested unprecedented billions in local governments to provide housing and implement bold, transformative solutions to move people off our streets and into urgently needed services,” Newson concluded in his statement.
“It’s really unfortunate that the Governor chose to inject himself into this litigation, without talking to any of the homeless people who brought this lawsuit or their representatives, and without understanding all of the facts of the case,” WDWGB fired back at Newsom in their own statement.
The dire conditions of the area and significant trash build up have gained significant attention including a radio segment on KCBS that voiced the frustrations by residents who feel their requests for trash cleanup are being ignored.
Emeryville resident Fran Quittel has been especially outspoken on the subject and estimates she has contacted the agency about the trash buildup at least 75 times.
Quittel points to the growing danger of the debris causing a collision. “I thought, some poor sucker, maybe a senior like myself, is going to drive through that [underpass], and that tarp is going to blow free. And you’re going to kill yourself … or another person,” she recently noted in a story for the Jewish News website JWeekly.com.
The Ashby-Shellmound Encampment is just one of the many homeless encampments in and around Emeryville including the Powell street underpass, City-Owned “Art Center” encampment and the large Wood Street encampment in West Oakland.
The case is set for a hearing in federal court this week.