At a Clean California project Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide day of action and an initiative that will allocate $1.1 billion to state and local beautification.
The initiative will be enacted alongside a $12 billion project to address homelessness in California. It aims to create more than 10,000 jobs for at-risk youth, formerly incarcerated individuals and unhoused residents over a three-year period, according to the California Department of Transportation. The initiative includes potential projects in every county.
“The Clean California initiative will provide over $350 million in grants to local governments to help clean up our neighborhoods, improve health conditions at homeless encampments and mitigate related fire dangers – without displacing homeless residents,” Berkeley City Councilmember Sophie Hahn said in an email. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Berkeley to access critically needed funds to clean up and improve conditions throughout the City.”
The initiative will take place at the I-80 freeway ramps near the Berkeley Marina, where dozens of unhoused people are currently camped. Those living at the encampment will be offered shelter at Horizon Transitional Village, according to Anthony Carrasco, a member of the Homeless Services Panel of Experts.
Carrasco added that the remaining site will then be cleaned up as part of the governor’s initiative.
“A lot of people in the city think (the encampment) is very dangerous in the sense that it’s the on-ramp and people could be hit in the middle of the night,” Carrasco said. “Some people also think the optics of having such a large encampment in what could be seen as the city’s front door is very undesirable.”
The project aims to remove 21,000 tons of litter from state highways each year and will include a public education campaign, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Yesica Prado, former vice chair of the Homeless Services Panel of Experts, said she is worried that in the effort to clean up public spaces, the unhoused individuals who occupy them will be displaced. She added that she would like to see money allocated toward regular waste control services for such encampments.
“It’s being phrased as an idea to make these areas liveable for everyone, but if you’re removing people that isn’t making it livable; it’s putting them back into chaos,” Prado said.
Prado noted the importance of individuals taking action to keep their communities clean. She said she is concerned about the California Department of Transportation’s role in the cleanup efforts.
The department faced a lawsuit in 2016 for the destruction of property belonging to unhoused individuals during sweeps of public areas, according to the lawsuit.
Carrasco echoed the sentiment, adding that it is important for the city to provide shelter to any individuals displaced by the project.
“It makes sense that when people get housed, where they were formerly will get cleaned up,” Carrasco said. “The question is about transitioning them into good opportunities.”