Workers from the city of Albany and Tucker Construction continued removing debris from the Albany Bulb on Friday morning, as some of the last remaining residents moved out of the East Bay homeless encampment. Albany agreed to pay $3,000 to 28 Bulb residents in exchange for vacating the 30-acre peninsula so it can be transformed into Sylvia McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. The deal required residents to leave by Friday in order to be eligible for the money.
The grim, overcast weather reflected the mood on the Bulb. But not all residents agreed to leave.
“There’s 36 people here now, and 28 are receiving settlement payments,” Bulb resident Amber Whitson said. “If they don’t get scared off to somewhere else, and if the don’t get arrested, then there will be eight people out here.”
Whitson didn’t agree to the settlement and said she plans to remain living on the Bulb as long as she can.
Mark Matherly from Albany’s Public Works Department was operating a backhoe on Friday morning, removing debris from abandoned campsites.
“It’s a really tough situation for them,” Matherly said, referring to the homeless. “I used to come down here with my kids, but we stopped coming down, mainly because of the dogs.”
“I’ll be all right. I’m a survivor,” said Pete Cabrera, who was using a butter knife and a piece of concrete to try to fix a broken bike wheel.
Cabrera has been homeless for about three years. He took the $3,000 settlement and is moving out of the Bulb, but he hasn’t found a place to stay yet.
“I slept outside on the sidewalk last night,” Cabrera said. “I couldn’t get a room.”
Many of the former camp sites have been reduced to rubble, and much of the Bulb is littered with debris. Workers said they were instructed to remove only abandoned possessions and to leave occupied campsites alone. Under the terms of the settlement, Bulb residents must leave by Friday, and they are banned from visiting the Bulb for at least one year.
“Albany could care less about human rights; they could care less about civil rights,” Amber Whitson said.
For now, Whitson and her partner are planning to continue living at Albany Bulb. Whitson said she’ll leave when Albany forces her to.
“They’re going to have to work a lot harder than just paying me off,” she said.
Osha Neumann, a lawyer who represented Bulb residents in a recent lawsuit, was at the Bulb on Friday morning. Neumann said the $3,000-per-person settlement is something, but it isn’t enough.
“It won’t get them into a stable, secure place to live, which is what they need,” Neumann said.
“For many of them, they have no idea where they’re going to go,” he said. “They’re going to get kicked out of homes they’ve been in for many, many years, and they’re going to be back out on the streets.”
Former Bulb resident Gary Amar returned to the Bulb on Friday morning to retrieve some possessions he left behind. Amar wasn’t part of the recent settlement, but he was able to find housing in West Oakland.
“They put us up in a real nice place — you can’t ask for too much more than that,” Amar said.