CalTrans clears trash from homeless encampment near Berkeley Marina

A red shopping cart rests alone in the middle of a field, overflowing with random items such as a purse, a bicycle helmet, and clothes, alongside a metal fence. Under the shopping cart an in the background there are more random items and clothes.
Sunny Shen/Staff

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About four of the 17 residents at a homeless encampment near the Berkeley Marina had to move after CalTrans cleared trash from the encampment Friday, along with some of the residents’ personal belongings.

CalTrans spokesperson RocQuel Johnson said CalTrans cleans the encampment, which is located at the corner of University Avenue and West Frontage Road, twice a month. Some of the encampment residents, however, said that in recent months, the crews have been taking personal belongings as well as trash.

Encampment resident Darice McClendon, who moved from Second Street to the encampment in June, said that on Friday, CalTrans “pulled down” some of the encampment members’ tents. One of her neighbors was inside her home when it happened.

“They don’t work with us,” McClendon said.

Pixie, an encampment resident who requested that The Daily Californian only use her first name because of safety concerns, said CalTrans bulldozed into her “space” and in the process, crushed some garbage into the dirt. She added that many of the people living in the encampment are not comfortable living inside of houses because of traumatic experiences in their pasts.

According to Johnson, encampments receive a 72-hour notification before a cleanup, though it is not guaranteed that CalTrans will come as soon as expected. Johnson added that CalTrans normally posts the signs a week before it comes to clear an area. The posting is meant to give people time to move their personal belongings out of the area so that only trash is removed.

“The unfortunate thing is because there was so much, they might not be able to get everything in one day’s worth of work,” Johnson said. She added that at this location, CalTrans has collected 24 tons of trash and debris.

The encampment is cleaned by CalTrans because it is situated on the green space off the exit ramp of the adjacent highway, which is under state jurisdiction.

McClendon said CalTrans used to clean the encampment regularly, but added that in recent months, the signs declaring cleanups have been posted with no follow-up. She added that encampment members are unable to dispose of their garbage because many of the trash cans in the area are locked.

“People who object to what’s going on should pick up the phone — write an email to the mayor,” said homeless advocate “Guy” Mike Lee. “It would take two minutes.”

Boyce Buchanan is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BuchananBoyce.