ALBANY -- The city this week continued a cleanup of campsites at the Albany Bulb, one week after a settlement was reached with a group of residents at the homeless encampment who had sued over plans to remove them from the property.
Early this week, 25 of the 28 people who agreed to the settlement had received their payment of $3,000 in relocation fees, according to City Clerk Nicole Almaguer. She added that 27 of the 28 had left the Bulb and that the last one was expected to move out that afternoon.
Thirty people were eligible to take the settlement, either as part of the lawsuit or because they had requested accommodations with the city under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Amber Whitson and Phillip Lewis were the only two eligible for the settlement who declined to sign on. Whitson has been a de facto spokeswoman for the campers, speaking at several City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings.
A camper who was not eligible for the settlement despite being one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was Katherine Cody. She was arrested at the Bulb for drug possession shortly before the settlement agreement was reached.
In return for accepting the payment, the campers agree to stay off the Bulb, even during daylight hours, for one year. They also agreed to stay off the Neck, the Albany Hill area and city-owned property on Pierce Street.
The city also promised to work with the Alameda County Superior Court to dismiss any curfew or camping violations filed against those who agreed to the settlement.
It's unknown exactly how many people remain on the property. Whitson last week told KQED that there were 36 people still living on the Bulb at the time of the settlement and that eight would remain.
Last year, the city estimated that 60 people were living on the property. Thirteen of those have found housing through a city-funded program facilitated by local nonprofit organizations.
The city has been working for the past year to remove the homeless population from the Bulb so the land can be turned over to the East Bay Regional Park District as part of the Sylvia McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. The EBRPD will not accept the land as long as people are living on the Bulb.
Encampments on the Bulb date back decades, as the property was once a waterfront dump.
The city cleared the property of people in 1999, but the camps soon returned. Some campers created art out of the various items found on the Bulb. A documentary, "Bum's Paradise," was released in 2003, focusing on the lives of the campers evicted in 1999, but also emphasizing the art they created.
Once the homeless camps are completely removed, it's expected that the city and the park district will negotiate a deal on the transfer of the land.