ALBANY -- A $570,000 plan to help transition the Albany Bulb into a regional park was approved this week by the City Council.
The council voted 5-0 Oct. 21 to proceed with the plan, which includes spending money on clearing the homeless encampment from the Bulb, cleaning up the property and creating a 30-bed temporary shelter. The plan also includes money for housing subsidies and a six-month, $154,000 contract with Operation Dignity to manage transitional housing.
The future of the Bulb has been a contentious issue for much of the year after the council voted to begin enforcing the city's anti-camping ordinance beginning this month. Plans have been in place for years to turn the Bulb over to the East Bay Regional Park District as part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. The EBRPD will not accept the land until the homeless encampments are cleared.
Several advocates for the homeless population on the Bulb asked the council to delay the previously announced eviction plan set to begin this month and to spend the money instead on housing the population. Most estimates have about 50 to 70 people living on the Bulb.
Park advocates also spoke at the meeting on Monday supporting the progress toward the Bulb becoming part of the park.
The land was cleared previously in 1999. However, the population soon returned.
City staff had recommended $505,000 for the transition, but the Council added $35,000 for housing subsidies and another $30,000 to provide showers at the temporary shelter.
Operation Dignity is a nonprofit in the East Bay that, according to its website, is a "veteran run, service-enriched provider serving the homeless veterans and displaced populations of Alameda County." It is being hired to manage a "mobile transition center" to be located on city-owned property at the waterfront. The temporary shelter will include two modular buildings, toilets and the showers.
The cleanup of the Bulb is expected to include the dismantling of several structures constructed by the occupants as well as hazardous waste cleanup of used hypodermic needles and human excrement.
A $100,000 contract with Tucker Construction was approved for the cleanup.
The council also voted to authorize city staff to make revisions to the city's draft 2007-14 Housing Element, and submit the overdue plan to the state for review. The city was sued earlier this month because it hasn't yet finished its element for the current cycle.
The Housing Element is a state-required portion of the city's general plan that addresses how the city will meet its housing needs in the future.
It requires local governments to address how much housing will be needed at various income levels as well as how those governments will encourage that housing to be constructed through zoning and other measures.