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Berkeley To Break Up Homeless Encampment Under Highway 80 Overpass, Calling It ‘Public Nuisance’

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A homeless encampment under the Gilman Street overpass adjacent to Interstate 80 in Berkeley. (CBS)

A homeless encampment under the Gilman Street overpass adjacent to Interstate 80 in Berkeley. (CBS)

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BERKELEY (CBS SF) — City of Berkeley officials say they will remove property at a homeless encampment under the Gilman Street overpass adjacent to Interstate Highway 80 next Tuesday because they consider the site to be a public nuisance.

UPDATE: Berkeley Backtracks On Plans To Break Up Homeless Encampment Under I-80 Overpass

Manuel Ramirez, Berkeley’s Manager of Environmental Health, said in a letter last week to residents of the homeless camp that inspections of the site have led him to conclude that “camp activity and accumulations are contributing to rodent harborage and creating a public nuisance.”

Ramirez said, “Since there is no garbage service to the encampment, waste generated during the course of living in the area will accumulate and attract rodents.”

He said the personal accumulations at the encampment include food and large bags of dry dog food and the open-air storage of food will continue to attract rodents, he said.

Ramirez said, “As of this date the property has not been cleaned up” and  “the accumulation of food waste, trash, debris, personal belongings and animal waste must be removed completely and disposed of properly.”

Osha Neumann, a Berkeley attorney and homeless advocate, said Thursday that he has filed an appeal of the city’s abatement order with the Berkeley City Council.

However, the council won’t meet again until September so Neumann said he hopes the city won’t enforce the order until then. He said he would consider seeking a court injunction if the city begins enforcing the order on Tuesday as threatened.

Ramirez and other Berkeley officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Neumann said many of the people who live under the Gilman Street overpass came from the homeless encampment at the Albany Bulb, a landfill site nearby that Albany officials recently cleared out so the site can become part of the Eastshore State Park.

Neumann said community organizations have successfully relocated many of the people who had been living under the Gilman Street overpass to new housing and only about seven to 10 homeless people still live at the site.

In his appeal of the city’s order, Neumann said, “The individuals at the underpass have made significant and successful efforts to maintain the area in which they are living and to keep it as clean and sanitary as possible given the fact that the city has refused to provide them with any means to remove trash and garbage or containers in which to hold it.”

Neumann said, “The decision to declare a public nuisance at the underpass effectively constitutes an eviction for the inhabitants and will only force them to move to other parts of the city that are more dangerous and where it will be more difficult for agencies to contact them, provide services and help them transition into more permanent housing.”

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