A Federal Judge has issued a temporary order preventing the City of Emeryville from clearing the Ashby/Shellmound homeless encampment. Clearing of the encampment had been scheduled to occur on Monday, April 19th to accommodate construction of a 186 apartment project.
Emeryville had posted notices at the encampment notifying the occupants to remove their belongings and any structures they had created by then or all their property and personal possessions would be disposed of. The location along the Ashby exit frontage road is designated a “construction safety clearance area” necessitating the closure.
The “Bayview” housing development at 6701 Shellmound Street was approved by the City in 2016 but just recently began construction after securing a new loan. Demolition of the previous building occurred in 2019 and grading of the site is already underway. Eight of the 186 units will be designated affordable units and made available to households designed “very low income” defined as 50% AMI. The developer of the project is AMCAL Housing.
“In October of 2020 the City’s homeless services outreach provider began focused engagement with the individuals at that location, letting them know that the housing project was soon to be under construction and that the construction impacts would ultimately require them to relocate,” the city noted in a statement provided by Emeryville City Clerk Sheri Hartz. “Shelter beds at St. Vincent DePaul, funded by the City of Emeryville, are available for individuals relocating from this area.”
On Friday, April 16, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Eviction Defense Center, and Where Do We Go? Berkeley (an advocacy organization that has been working with the encampment) sent a letter to Emeryville City Manager Christine Daniel demanding that Emeryville cease all efforts to evict the encampment until the people living there had “been provided housing suitable to their needs.”
The social media post above shared by The Village Oakland twitter account notes that the only alternatives provided were community cabins and units in East Oakland and that the development would include “no units reserved for people experiencing homelessness.”
The letter requested a response by close of business that day. According to these organizations, no response was received and a request for a Temporary Restraining Order was filed in the Northern District of California at midnight Sunday, April 18.
The Temporary Restraining Order was issued by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers before 10:00 a.m. on the morning scheduled for the clearing.
“This type of forced dispersal of our communities has proven to be ineffective at solving the homelessness crisis, it is worse than it has ever been,” noted WDWGB President Ian Cordova Morales Rogers in a provided press release. “We need to find safe places that people actually want to go.”
Andrea Henson, Attorney at the Eviction Defense Center commented: “During this national COVID-19 pandemic, we must not forget that the United States Constitution, its amendments, and CDC guidelines, apply to every person including the homeless, the disabled, the poor, and the vulnerable.”
Residents of the encampment expressed relief when they learned that their eviction had been stopped by the court. “We should be awarded the same moratorium on evictions as the renter population,” encampment resident Jon Reed commented. “For essentially, the City of Emeryville is evicting us.”
“There should be a process involved with evictions,” added encampment neighbor Asia Ford. “The reasoning should be posted as well as an appeal date and court hearing”
The encampment spans jurisdictions of Emeryville, Berkeley and Caltrans further complicating the issue. The Mercury News notes that the order does not prevent Caltrans from clearing their property.
[4/21 Update:] “The court order will cause significant construction delays,” says Stephen Clarke, AMCAL VP when asked if the order would cause any delays to the project. “Since the sole access to the site is directly from Shellmound Street, encampments blocking full access severely limit the movement of construction workers, logistics of heavy equipment and truck deliveries, and construction of utilities and public area improvements. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to create a safe and secure construction site perimeter that protects the health and safety of everyone in close proximity to the busy I-80 offramp and the active construction site.”
“The court order will cause significant construction delays.”
– Stephen Clarke, AMCAL Housing VP.
Morales Rogers described any construction delays as “not an ideal outcome” when we reached out to him. “But we feel the City should have recognized the need to find somewhere for them to go prior to beginning construction. The residents would rather not be next to a noisy construction site but no alternative has been presented to them that would allow them to stay in the area of their vital services and community.”
A copy of the order issued by the court, its application, the complaint, the eviction posting, and the letter sent to Christine Daniel is embedded below.
Occupants of the encampment and Where Do We Go? Berkeley, are being represented by Andrea Henson of the Eviction Defense Center, and Dan Siegel and EmilyRose Johns of Siegel, Yee, Brunner & Mehta.
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This makes my blood boil. That encampment has been there for years. It only grows and gets worse. It is an environmental and public health hazard and is no place for human beings to live. I have no personal grievances against those who live there as individuals. Anyone can become homeless and where you end up can be random. I do have a problem with them having a “right” to be there on public and private land. It is trespassing! Why is it Emeryville’s responsibility to find them alternative living accommodations at the city’s expense? They don’t pay rent, they didn’t sign a lease, it is trespassing on public and private land! Municipal homeless outreach and land owners can certainly provide information on options where they can go such as shelters, public housing as well as assist in applying for public services.
Besides the environmental and public health hazards of the encampment, those who live and work in the area are unfortunate victims. There have been stabbings, murder, fires, Stolen packages, trash and litter everywhere. Some wander the area at all hours of the night and day, screaming and shouting due to mental issues that some are challenged with. Not to mention deterrent to local business providing a less than inviting “welcome to the neighborhood”.
The argument that it is Emeryville’s responsibility to provide alternative accommodation at the city’s expense is outrageous!
How is it trespassing if it’s public land? We are in a housing emergency.
These are our lands and I appplaud the good judge’s decision.
Right On! Encampments are allowed in the public street in front of the Bauters, Donahue, Martinez, Medina and Patz mansions. The lack of free housing is an emergency. It’s a fundamental human right!
We have a housing crisis and we need to build more homes. You can’t have a homeless encampment on a construction site. They know this and yet persisted with creating a risky environment for neighbors, business, drivers and now construction workers.
We have housing standards and safety rules for a reason, most of them are a monument to some terrible accident or death. This is just irresponsible on the part of these “Activists”. It is no different to what we saw in Echo Park in LA where activists took advantage of citizens good intentions by exploiting a situation for their own personal gain.
Why do the rights of people trespassing and destroying a neighborhood supersede those of families, small business and law abiding? I’m an immigrant from a poor family and no fancy degree, I had to take considerable risks and struggle to get where I am.
The encampment had a choice to be whatever it wanted and it chose to be a burden on the area.
Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear greatly that the storm will not pass. It will rage and it will roar ever more loudly, ever more widely.
War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, Private Property is Public, Yours is Mine.
I am glad to see construction on a site that has deteriorated in the last 3 years (progress!😃). I agree with John and Steve, the area it no less than a toxic waste site that no one can walk by on their way to the Aquatic Park. Simply, it is a contaminated waste site and for people to defend it is ludicrous. This is a freeway off ramp area and people can/will die from being hit by cars/trucks exiting.
Winston and George, the people of Emeryville do not live in Zombie Land nor welcome you to create one.
Winston & George,
Have no idea what you mean or what you offer to the people of Emeryville in your comment.
It’s just a matter of time before that dump is cleared and agree with all the common sense folks here. A freeway EXIT is not a place for anyone to live. No explanations or excuses needed.
It’s interesting that the encampment advocates called the rental housing development “condominiums”. I guess if they were more honest, then they’d have a harder time drumming up support for their actions?
Good observation. These are in fact apartments. I often hear the term “luxury condos” used with intention.
is it possible to write a piece about the amount of junk that is accumulating in all this area of the 580 offramp that falls within caltrans jurisdiction but also Berkeley and Emeryville?? If you drive (north bound) on Shellmound/Bay st you will see mountain of junk all over that do not belong to the encampment. It is just a dumping ground. Check out the intersection of potter and bay st for example. Some of us have been reporting through seeclick and caltrans but nothing happens and the situation is simply deterring. It is an environmental nightmare. City officials talk about not dehuminizing the folks in the camps but they are the first ones that do not care about their wellbeing. We are just simply trying for the city to clean up! not remove the camp necessarily