It’s probably no comfort to the couple dozen people whose camps have already been removed, but a federal judge has halted Caltrans’ clearing of the Wood Street encampment, though that decision could be reversed as early as Friday.
There is probably going to be chaos and controversy no matter what happens with Oakland’s notorious Wood Street encampment, a nearly mile-long collection of tents, live-in vehicles, makeshift shelters, and other people’s illegally dumped trash that serves as the residence of 200 to 300 people near the West Oakland BART station.
When the city of Oakland has tried to just let the unsheltered people live there in peace, the results haven’t been very peaceful; a string of encampment fires had plagued the site, the most recent being Monday of last week, and a Chronicle report in May counted “nearly 90 fires at the site.” A person was also fatally shot at the encampment last month, and two people were shot and injured there in April.
But an attempted clearing of the site that started last week — which Caltrans said was necessary to avoid future fires that could cause damage to the freeway system overhead and/or further disrupt freeway traffic — has created its own set of problems, and was halted Tuesday by a federal judge.
The Chronicle reports that U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick granted encampment residents a temporary restraining order halting any removal of people, possessions, or structures at the site. The restraining order targets Caltrans, which owns much of the property, and had taken the reins on the encampment cleanup after it started last week. But the Chron adds that Orrick also “scheduled a hearing for Friday at 10 a.m. to determine whether a preliminary injunction will be issued,” and if it is not, the clearing could begin right back up Friday.
“It was just a big wave of relief knowing that folks were going to be OK until at least the hearing on Friday,” resident Jaz Colibri told the Chronicle.
The clearing had already started last week, and Bay Area News Group reports that official estimates of how many encampment residents were displaced ranged "from less than 10 to 20," but "activists said another several dozen people were displaced."
A KPIX report on the court order notes that, according to neighbors, “a group is operating a chop shop in the encampment,” and they say that “the encampment hurts the neighborhood and endangers the people who live there.” The latter is certainly true. While there has been talk of a tiny house community being constructed there, we’ve heard similar promises before. There was a plan to make the site a sanctioned RV triage facility but those plans were scuttled in early 2020 amidst disagreements on who would be evicted, and who would be allowed back in.
Image: Google Street View