Following many months of court battles and years in which the encampment grew to house hundreds of people in makeshift shelters and RVs, the sprawling encampment around Wood Street in West Oakland has been entirely removed.
Homeless advocates have long argued that the encampment, which took shape around 2018 and grew to dozens of acres over a couple of years, housed a tight-knit community and became a veritable village home for many. And despite public health and safety issues — including, at one point, near-weekly fires that broke out — judges have at various points blocked or delayed city and state agencies from forcibly moving the encampment's residents for a host of reasons.
Ultimately, because the tents and RVs were on private land, and because the residents had been given many months of warning that they would need to plan and move their belongings, a federal judge last month denied the residents' final effort to stay put.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick had previously put pauses on Oakland's efforts to clear out the last of the campers due to this winters' rains and the ongoing flu season and COVID pandemic. Previous injunctions had been put on Caltrans — on whose property, under the Nimitz Freeway, some of the encampment resided — to forcibly move people due to the lack of adequate shelter available to offer them as an alternative.
In the end, 57 residents of the encampment accepted shelter, which included tiny homes in the Wood Street cabin program and the Safe RV Parking program. The final group of 70 occupants had moved in recent months to a three-acre city-owned parcel at 1707 Wood Street, which is slated to be developed as 170 units of affordable housing.
"Tonight, at least 57 fewer Oakland residents are sleeping outside on the street," said Oakland's Homelessness Administrator LaTonda Simmons in a statement after the final encampment dwellers left Wednesday. "And the city is now able to move forward with the development of 170 units of permanent affordable housing for up to 500 Oaklanders."
In a statement Friday, the City of Oakland said it had hauled away 700 tons of trash, towed 30 vehicles including nine stolen vehicles, and environmental services crews were still clearing hazardous materials. Oakland Animal Services also rescued 49 cats and kittens "from individuals requesting assistance."
"Safety and securing dignified shelter for every resident were our primary goals in this closure," said Mayor Sheng Thao in a statement. "I am grateful we achieved both and thankful for the collective efforts of the many staff in City Departments, Alameda County agencies, Operation Dignity, and community partners who contributed to this massive effort."
Oakland first began ordering encampment residents off certain parcels back in late 2019. The city first needed to clear a privately-owned parcel where they created the Safe RV Parking program, and in early 2020, the property owner entered into an eviction fight with some encampment dwellers who did not want to leave that lot.
The legal and logistical battle heated up in early 2022, at which point around 300 people were reportedly living there, and after pandemic-related delays and a series of fires at the encampment, some of which endangered freeway infrastructure above.
There were also at least two shootings at the encampment last year, one of them fatal.
In February 2023, the city unveiled a tiny-cabin village on part of the cleared, former encampment site, with room for 100 residents.