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Gov. Newsom Urges Clearing of Ashby-Shellmound Encampment

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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.”

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.


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“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.

Photo: @EmeryvilleBruh via Twitter

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.

Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

9 Comments

  1. Thanks for this coverage. I learned from the EPD that when they go in to clean the area under Powell St, staff wears hazmat gear to protect themselves from the toxic trash, rodents and human waste. Is this really a good area for pedestrians, parents with babies, seniors with walkers, to be walking through? For the moment, why doesn’t CalTrans use the ample funds it has to be spent on more garbage trucks and cleanups during this limbo period? Finally this has reached Gov. Newsom’s ear. About time.

  2. Ashby interchange with all of its rolling trash for YEARS – is the SAME area where Caltrans wants $157 million to develop a new interchange. In its public meeting on Jan.11, 2022, I repeatedly inserted the words “sanitation” and “maintenance” into the chat asking Caltrans about supporting these responsibilities for the site. Caltrans deleted my comments each time. Gov. Newsom has provided $1.1 billion in Clean California grants. Cities and local governments can apply. https://www.gov.ca.gov/2022/03/01/governor-newsom-announces-nearly-300-million-in-clean-california-grants-3-1-22/

  3. Btw, at its January 18 2022 meeting, I asked Emeryville City Council to include the words “sanitation” and “maintenance” in its letter of support to CalTrans about the proposed $157 million Ashby Avenue Interchange project. However, although CalTrans consistently exhibits glistening renderings of the proposed area, these 2 words were NOT included. I am not certain why since we sure want the area to be maintained for ALL with a standard of sanitation and maintenance, whether old interchange or new.

  4. Are we Californians too sympathetic on homelessness? Are we too afraid to do something about it? Should the few dictate the way the many live? Are we now over-woke? Is this how authoritarianism sets in?

  5. To tell the truth, I think that it is absolutely necessary to take certain measures to clear the Ashby-Shellmound encampment because it is important to put safety first. People don’t need to be in danger and their lives don’t need to be in risk. From my point of view, the decision to keep people living at the Ashby Shellmound encampment is absolutely not justified and it can only lead to negative consequences. If they live there, it will have no advantages and positive sides because there are a great deal of things that can harm them. Of course, it is important to work on California’s homelessness crisis and strive for the prosperity of the city, using all available resources, otherwise, this situation will always get worse. Also, it is impossible to be indifferent to this significant trash because it is absolutely unacceptable and this is not right to make peace with it because it causes enormous damage to the environment and people’s health.

    • It sounds logical honey but how do YOU KNOW? Do you know ANYONE THERE? Do you know WHY they live THERE? Do you know there are literally ZERO innovative or clued in programs and IF you didn’t see them everyday would you know anything at all about what they got or don’t ? It’s a culture of resilient survival and it’s definitely in need of help but if the concerned society is truly in their court , let’s find away to utilize ALL THIS FREE LAND all around the highways and in between and in open feilds ,structure free transportation to and from the camp culture groups and see them as resourceful and experts in What they Need. Certainly not found experts in the society that failed them to begin with . NOT ALL PEOPLE want traditional housing . The current society makes them into minority’s of a non racial definition as a whole .Any Random Citizen mostly found on the 14th amendment class can fall I to I housed condition and second classification . Most of these folks are incredibly intelligent but only for in with a group of other black sheep individuals and yes drugs booze and mental differences could be a footnote but the same said upon those hiding inside homes with foundations mortgages or landlords . Your a sweet person to be caring as 5 years ago it was not so friendly I. This forum for unhoused comments .

  6. Our of site out of mind. Keeping those you best survive the condition of poverty and staying in the bay are under attack by ametures who have no experience in the COMMUNITYS and the culture evolving from with in the suffer age . As the curve of population with existing unhoused and new unhoused grew in recent years I’ve been right in the front row serving up details of human faces and heart felt storylines about my beloved Wood Street now known as The msecond most dangerous cities first most dangerous homeless neighborhood. . KThat sucks for us except now we have opportunity for real and funded betterment . Yet what we now face and poverty pimps with dollar signs in their eyes aare sharpening their forfs and knives. In our community their are people with duress and PTSD but also mental differences that society would use conservatorship upon and take them away from a community of zero judgement and total acceptence. Who understand their episodes and provide family life and respects . But society would dope them up and talk that cutesy babysitter talk to them as people will rather than attempt to relate or crack their language codes . I’m concerned for our better older community that had experienced survival by simple means and recycling ,building as an art form and then what of the support from our local loving blessed black community who we would share time with ? The city dropped the ball during covid and killed off our local support replacing it with other funded nonprofits who brought us shit for food and forced veganization on soul food and meat eating folk , We have been infested by opportunistic groups in need of housing and whom built compounds upon awarded cal trans land that has been responded for their protecting their free housed territory’s without concern for our original leadership and with out respect to our neighborhood . The Wood Street People Collective is not The Wood Street Commons, and the land waste and revolting escalation of crime has been a wild west shit show. Restore the old school leadership , invest in the Wood Street Original plan for supporting natural and creative reboots not offered EVER for this much appreciated old school black neighborhood with a plan for centralized service hub connections a radio station for ensuring up to date info to the unhoused , provide better portable housing and promote innovative variations for those whom just don’t fit comfortably or successfully in the standards of society house planning . Open yet fucking minds and get to know the local unhoused as your neighbors and stop saying HOMELESS . It’s like saying the N word people seriously . It promotes a detached superiority that replicates the horrors of second class and segregation . YES IT DOES . We are Americans ..our home is here in Oakland . Home is land . Housing should be covered under the 1st amendment and People Experiencing Unhoused Condition on the 14 the . FUCK Concervatorship! Understand Diversity and embrace Equality and for those who are challenged , remove the challenges starting with yourself , be respectful . Given the number of people out here that suffer from parental sexual abuse and exploitation in foster care ,I am outraged at this rather dangerous thinking . Too many monsters and corrupt in the system and now with soooo much money to fund half assed housing and petting zoo environments that remove the public’s daily interaction with the ground level people , I can only see a nother version of exploited humanity failed budget allocation spending on farming the unfortunate. Was this what our founding fathers wanted ? FUCK no

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