So, it has all come down to this. Twenty years of human habitation, wild art, wildflowers, wildlife, wild lives… All set to come to an end, in a flurry of bulldozers and dirt.
In the early, and mid-1900′s, the Albany Waterfront (along with most of the East Bay shoreline) was a dump, literally. The Albany Landfill was the final resting place for everything from slag (a rock-like byproduct from milling steel), to household trash (I have friends who remember going to the dump with their parents), to debris from the demolition of everything that was in the way when BART was constructed (the original Richmond City Hall, the original Berkeley Public Library, houses, businesses, etc.) The Albany Landfill was created, as a result of that dumping. Twenty years of litigation by various environmental groups finally resulted in the closure of the Albany dump, in 1983.
30 years after local environmental advocates stopped the waters off the Albany Coast from being further filled with trash, the old Albany Landfill is a year-round pitstop for nomadic critters; an endlessly evolving gallery of Found-Object Art; and Home to (at last count) 64 people, who otherwise have nowhere else to live.
In 1993, local police started actually *telling* Albany’s homeless citizens, to go live at “the Landfill”. Then, in 1999, they threw the previously-homeless Albany Bulb residents, back out into the streets. The City of Albany spent money on a dog and pony show of “service organizations”; and put an ordinance on the books (which outlawed, among other things, “loitering” in Albany Parks and Open Spaces), in an attempt to essentially stop homeless individuals from being able to live in their town. Somewhere around the year 2000 (roughly), Albany told their Police to NOT enforce the camping ordinance.
So, not long after the ’99 eviction, people who were homeless in the area, were again, told to go stay at the Albany Bulb. Since then, those living on the Albany Bulb have done so without fear of the police harassment that others endure in nearby Berkeley, being inflicted upon them, just for being homeless.
Since this country’s economy started to *really* tank, and the number of people living on the streets in America has increased, so too has the number of otherwise-homeless individuals, who have (for lack of anywhere else to live) found and made a Home for themselves, on the Albany Bulb.
All these years, alongside those who live here, there are those who visit the Landfill, and enjoy this land for its recreational value. They hike, they walk their dogs, and 99% of them will tell you that the people who profess to be scared of the homeless who live on the Bulb, are being ridiculous.
With all of Albany’s homeless safely quarantined on the Albany Bulb, the City has seen no need to build (or even properly zone part of their town for) a homeless shelter. Albany has only 15 units of low income housing (the Creekside Apartments complex, at 1155 San Pablo Ave.) in the entire city. The City of Albany has never spent any of the funds that it receives from the government, which other cities commonly spend on their *own* homeless, on anything that has actually helped any homeless citizens. Ever.
Yet, in May of this year, a handful of right-wing recreationalists (mostly representatives of Citizens for East Shore Parks) wormed their way into the ears of the Albany City Council. And, in a unanimous decision, the Council voted to spend *more* money, on yet *another* dog and pony show, to be followed up by the “resumption” of enforcement of the camping ordinance, starting in October.
With nowhere else to legally sleep (while homeless), within the City of Albany, an economic cleansing* of sorts, is inevitable. “Economic cleansing” is similar to ethnic cleansing, but is instead done to an economic minority (poor people), as opposed to an ethnic minority.
The goal that the City of Albany is ultimately trying to achieve, is to hand the Albany Bulb over to the State, for the purpose of becoming part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.
However, the transfer of the Bulb to the State, will mean something far more devastating than just 60 or so people becoming “re-homeless”…
From the Eastshore State Park General Plan: “Consistent with the Eastshore park project’s cultural resource guidelines, the practice and products associated with unauthorized artistic expression (e.g., installations, structures, paintings, etc.) on the Albany Bulb will be reviewed in accordance with State Parks’ systemwide (sic) cultural resource procedures prior to their removal.”
East Bay Regional Park District’s definition of a “cultural resource”: “Cultural resources include archaeological, historical, and scientifically valuable sites, areas, and objects.” To the Parks District, as well as to Albany, any art that is not officially commissioned is unauthorized.
That’s right. They’re coming for the art. And, they’ve already started. So far, they have only removed the Art that was on/near the Plateau. But, that’s merely the first few millimeters of their descent down the slippery slope of gentrification.
First, the Art and the Community of Bulb-dwellers… then, off-leash dogs… then…
If you support the right of *all people* to Share the Bulb:
1. Check out sharethebulb.org
2. Write to Albany City Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
3. Go visit the Albany Bulb: At 1 Buchanan Street Extension in Albany, California, on the Albany Waterfront. Come see for yourself, we don’t bite. We just want to Share the Bulb… without being forced (back) into homelessness, first.
Stop Hobophobia. Share the Bulb