A persistent and often problematic encampment community in West Oakland is starting to be aggressively cleared this week, but the operation seems heavier on law enforcement and bulldozing than transitional housing services.
There are certainly no easy answers to the problem of West Oakland's Wood Street encampment, the sprawling encampment at Wood Street and West Grand Avenue, where an estimated 300 or so unsheltered people have taken up residence in cars, RVs, and tents. The Chronicle reported in May that there has been “nearly 90 fires” there in a 12-month period, and as to that a two-alarm fire there on Monday, in addition to a fire that killed someone in April, and a fatal shooting there three weeks ago.
So the city of Oakland has to do something, and clearly action is long overdue. KTVU reported Wednesday that an effort to clear the encampment is underway, having started Monday, and supposedly scheduled to be completed today. Let’s check in on how that’s going.
I’m at Wood Street during an encampment clearance right now. A resident has been detained and is in an OPD vehicle. I hear reports OPD tased him. The fire department is here for medical care. Hearing he had blood all over his face and neck… pic.twitter.com/6CBMRLszSt— Zack Haber (@ZZZZZZZZZZZack) July 14, 2022
Oakland freelance reporter Zack Haber has been tweeting for the scene all week, and today reports “I hear reports OPD tased” one resident, who allegedly “had blood all over his face and neck.” Per Haber’s pictures from on the ground, there seems to be a heavy presence of law enforcement and tow trucks.
here is the notice the city left… pic.twitter.com/SuIER3ujsf— Zack Haber (@ZZZZZZZZZZZack) July 13, 2022
Add a bulldozer to that mix too, according to KTVU, as they said Wednesday that a “makeshift home was destroyed by a bulldozer as part of Oakland's effort to evacuate and clean up the area.” KTVU says the effort started Monday, which is confirmed by Haber’s image in the flyer above. “Public Works will be out to clear and close this site,” it says, but does not offer much in terms of, you know, what to do if they're clearing your shit.
And as one resident told KTVU, "I'd rather be here than a lot of other places because at least here there's some kind of family."
Governor Gavin Newsom himself toured (photo-opped?) the site in mid-April, an the state gave Oakland a $4.7 million grant to rehabilitate the beleaguered encampment. Is this those tax dollars at work? KTVU suggests it is, and that part of the area will become an "intervention site" for the encamped, and some emergency "community cabin" housing is also supposed to be built here.
But Oakland has said they were cleaning this place up before in 2019, and it quickly returned to the same condition, and even got larger.
Update: On Friday, Caltrans, which owns much of the property the encampment sits on, posted notices that the entire encampment will be forcibly cleared by early August. As KPIX reports, the clearing will be happening in phases, with the goal of having everyone off the property by the first week of August.
"The department is taking this action to address the increasingly serious safety risks to life, property and infrastructure at the encampment, including from the fire this week that prompted the closure of the MacArthur Maze," Caltrans said in a statement.
Image: Google Street View