Caltrans officials continue clearing homeless encampments

Sam Albillo/Staff

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On Thursday, Caltrans cleared the Seabreeze and University Avenue Interstate 80 underpass homeless encampment in the Berkeley Marina.

This clearance comes in the weeks following Caltrans’ clearance of several homeless encampments — including the clearances of encampments near Gilman Street, University Avenue and Hearst Avenue, Ashby Avenue and Shellmound Street, as well as Hollis Street and MacArthur Boulevard.

According to Andrea Henson, lead organizer for the “Where do we go?” campaign, three residents refused to leave when Caltrans arrived at the encampment in an act of civil disobedience. Henson added in a press advisory that City Council members Rashi Kesarwani, Cheryl Davila and Kate Harrison visited the encampments to speak with residents about living in encampments.

“The (Seabreeze and University Avenue I-80) encampment has been there for a long time,” Henson said in an email. “What is changing is how the City of Berkeley and Caltrans are enforcing their evictions.”

According to a Sept. 7 “Where do we go?” press advisory, the clearances of the five encampments began Sept. 11. During these clearances, people living in RVs parked near Harrison Street received 72-hour red tag notices last Monday, forcing them to move or risk vehicle impoundment, Henson said. She added that the city began enforcing the new sidewalk ordinance that prohibits people from having a shelter and belongings that take up more than three square feet, causing more strain on those who are homeless.

According to Henson, a march involving unhoused residents of the Seabreeze and University Avenue I-80 encampments to the West Berkeley Homelessness Town Hall meeting occurred Sunday.

Mike Zint, an activist and co-founder of the advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless, said he believes Caltrans is removing people who are already struggling.

“When I would get raided, I would try to find a new spot that had what was needed for survival close by,” Zint said in an email. “Bathrooms, food, a plug for charging all had to be within range for a disabled person with mobility issues.”

Leon Chen is a crime and courts reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.