Albany Bulb residents to move out of encampments following settlement with city

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After a settlement Wednesday, dozens of residents of Albany Bulb — a former landfill that has become a home to many of Albany’s homeless — are preparing to pack up their belongings and find a new place to reside.

In May, Albany City Council voted to begin the process of removing the residents at the Bulb by enforcing the city’s no-camping ordinance. But several law firms, on behalf of the residents, filed a suit against the city claiming the relocation process violated the residents’ rights. A settlement reached Wednesday offered 28 residents $3,000 each if they leave by Friday and agree to stay away from the park for a year.

The City Council is also continuing with a one-year contract with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project to help all of Albany’s homeless find new living arrangements, jobs and services for people struggling with mental disabilities and drug addiction.

Characterized by the diverse array of urban art and clear views of the bay, the Bulb is also a popular park and hiking spot for the Albany community. According to the Albany city manager, however, the area has become hazardous due to debris, so the city hopes to clean it up and make the park a more inviting and open space. This requires evicting those who live there, many of whom have been residents of the Bulb for years.

“The solution to homelessness is not to push people out or tell them where they can’t be,” said Elisa Della-Piana, an attorney for the East Bay Community Law Center who worked on the lawsuit. “The solution is housing.”

Bobby Anderson, who has lived at Albany Bulb for two years, described the Bulb as a safe haven and a welcome change from the streets of Oakland. Nonetheless, Anderson appreciates the money from the settlement and the prospect of a cleaned-up Bulb.

Not all residents, though, agree.

“It’s horrifying to think about living anywhere but here,” said Bulb resident Amber Whitson.

She and her partner were the only ones who rejected the settlement offer. They have lived at Albany Bulb for nearly eight years and said they are determined to stay there.

“The city has tried to work with (Bulb residents) since July, and we will continue to work with them,” said Penelope Leach, Albany’s city manager.

The city has provided temporary housing for the Bulb’s residents, but many are unhappy about the arrangements, saying they do not accommodate people with disabilities.

“I’m at the end of my rope,” said Bulb resident George Harris. “A lot of us are reclusive, and a lot of us have terminal illnesses.”

Leach, though, said the city is doing its best to “safely, compassionately and humanely” work with the homeless at Albany Bulb.

Contact Kathleen Tierney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @kathleentierney.