Residents of Piedmont, the tiny enclave that's entirely surrounded by Oakland and largely populated by millionaires, don't understand where homeless census counters were looking when they found 42 homeless people there earlier this year.
Piedmont's official count of homeless individuals residing in its borders, according to Alameda County's point-in-time homeless census in early February, jumped from zero in 2019 to 42 in 2022. But as the Chronicle reports this week, if you walk around Piedmont, you're not likely to see what the volunteer counters apparently saw — and some residents are doubting whether those counters even knew where the borders of Piedmont were.
Piedmont is just 1.7 total square miles, with a population of 11,500, and average home prices of around $3.1 million.
A couple of significant thoroughfares go through it, like Grand Avenue and Oakland Avenue, but in Piedmont these are not magnets for tent encampments, and nor are there any unsightly RVs parked along its sidewalks.
As one resident, Henry Eakland, told the Chronicle that he couldn't imagine any tents popping up anywhere in Piedmont without a resident immediately calling the police.
Tim Stucka, another resident, also tells the paper that he hasn't seen any homeless people in Piedmont since moving there a year ago. But, "As soon as you cross the border into Oakland, you see it everywhere."
Could the volunteer enumerators have gotten it wrong? Some experts suggest that Piedmont may simply have some "invisible" homeless who are easily blending in to the community. But in 1.7 square miles, how has no one seen the four people living in tents, 15 people sleeping on the street or outside, nine living in cars or vans, and 14 living in RVs that the counters found in February?
Piedmont's city administrator has reached out to the county for "more detail" about where these individuals were seen.
Also, as the Chronicle reports, the wealthy town is in the process of applying for state funds to purchase a home, something in the $1.2 million range, that could be used as a homeless shelter to house up to six individuals.
But to think there was ever an encampment there!
Stories about Piedmont always have a touch of the absurd to them, just because of the bizarreness of this place still existing in the Bay Area. Piedmont was founded, essentially, as a wealthy white enclave that could keep its schools and its police force separate from Oakland as it became increasingly diverse. As the Chronicle reported last year, via a local historian, Piedmont infamously had racist housing covenants to keep Black people from owning homes there, and a mob of 500 people showed up to greet a Black cafe owner who bought a home there in 1924 with the help of his white mother-in-law. That man, Sidney Dearing, ultimately was forced to sell his home back to the city and leave.
A century later, Piedmont still has a population that is only 1% Black and 71% white, while Oakland, which surrounds it on all sides, is 23% Black and 34% white. The town's median household income is $225,000.
And in 2021, Piedmont Unified School District drew some ire for organizing a "White Student Support Circle" following the guilty verdict in the trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was responsible for the May 2020 death of George Floyd.
Photo via Google Street View