ALBANY -- Police began warning people living on the Albany Bulb about the city's anti-camping ordinance last weekend and also began arresting some campers on suspicion of criminal offense or outstanding warrants.
As of Wednesday, three people had been arrested on the Bulb, according to Albany's public information officer, City Clerk Nicole Almaguer. Two of those arrested were for outstanding warrants, and one was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine.
On Monday¿, an amended lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of Bulb residents. The lawsuit, which names 29 plaintiffs as well as Albany Housing Advocates, was originally filed in November.
A previous request for a temporary restraining order preventing the city from using the anti-camping ordinance to remove people from the Bulb was denied Nov. 18.
The amended lawsuit, filed to reflect the enforcement action over the weekend, notes that the eviction is taking place as winter approaches and that reportedly five homeless people in the Bay Area have died because of exposure in the past few weeks.
The suit also claims that police in both Albany and surrounding communities have been directing homeless people to take up residence on the Bulb for years.
"Based on the understanding that the City (of Albany) and its police force approved of their presence on the Bulb, residents erected tents and other structures to shelter themselves from the elements and created an area of privacy for themselves," the lawsuit reads, adding, "These activities have been well-known to the City for many years."
In response, noted the declaration from Albany police Chief Mike McQuiston on file with the court: "The Albany Police Department does not now, nor to my knowledge has it ever, adopted or employed a policy or practice of directing homeless individuals to the Albany Bulb."
It is believed that around 60 people live on the Bulb.
The Albany City Council voted in May to begin enforcing the city's anti-camping ordinance in October in preparation to turn over the land to the East Bay Regional Park District as part of the Sylvia McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, which brought protests from Bulb residents and their advocates.
Enforcement was delayed as the city set up a temporary shelter at the waterfront, consisting of two trailers that can accommodate 30 people.
According to Almaguer, one to three people have been using the temporary shelter on any given night.
The city also contracted with Berkeley Food and Housing Project and the Solano Community Church to help transition Bulb residents into housing. The city said it has moved three former Bulb residents into housing so far.
Albany has allocated more than $500,000 to pay for outreach and temporary shelter and housing.
Advocates for the homeless say the temporary shelter cannot accommodate many of the Bulb residents who suffer from disabilities. That was a focus in the hearing for the temporary restraining order and continues to be a focus in the current suit.
Almaguer wrote that the city has now received 32 requests for accommodation "for persons claiming to experience a variety of physical and mental disabilities. An administrative process will be conducted to review and respond to the requests."
The suit also states that Albany "does not have a single permanent shelter, transitional house or available unit of subsidized housing."