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.