By Katie Nielsen

BERKELEY (KPIX) — Massive piles of trash and garbage are piling up along the sides of Berkeley streets. It’s irritating city residents and even those who live in the homeless encampments along the Interstate 80 corridor.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín says he knows the trash is an eye-sore, but it is also a source of growing frustration.

“It’s incredibly frustrating because it’s not our property,” Arreguín told KPIX 5. “We’ve received countless emails and phone calls from our residents who are just appalled that the entrance into our city is full of trash.”

The areas around the freeways are owned by Caltrans. It’s also where dozens of homeless encampments have popped up along the University Ave and Gilman St offramps.

“We don’t want to be an eye-sore, and we want to work together, and a little help helps,” says Joseph Ruiz, who lives at the encampment near University Ave.

Ruiz has been living along the Interstate 80 corridor for more than 3 years and says he doesn’t want the garbage here either.

“You don’t want to create mess, because it’s going to come to you,” says Ruiz.

He says the camp is responsible for some of the trash, but the bigger issue is people illegally dumping on the outskirts of the encampment.

“You just happen to be walking by and you’re like, that wasn’t there, and you know it’s not ours,” says Ruiz.

Caltrans agreed to come in every two weeks to clean up the trash, but Berkeley’s mayor says that’s not happening.

“They’re just really stretched thin,” Arreguin said. “They have limited resources. This is an issue along the Caltrans right of way throughout the Bay Area.”

Caltrans spokesperson Robert Haus released a statement Sunday saying the agency is “working with all our local partners to find solutions to the complex problem of homelessness in the Bay Area.”

People who live in Berkeley say they don’t care who owns the property. They just want the garbage gone.

“This is in Berkeley and somebody should take responsibility for cleaning it up,” says David Frankel who has lived in Berkeley for 30 years.

“I do wonder if when we leave trash if that gives people permission to leave more trash,” says John Cornwell who has lived in Berkeley for 5 years.

Arreguin says he’s trying to work out a deal with Caltrans. He says he’ll send city crews to clean up the trash so long as Caltrans gives them permission to go onto the state-owned land and will reimburse the city for the cost.

He says he’s also working with the mayors of other cities in Alameda County to go to the legislature next month to ask for more funding specifically earmarked for Caltrans freeway clean up crews.

A few weeks ago, the Berkeley City Council approved funding to put dumpsters and portable bathrooms near the freeway homeless camps.

Residents of the camps say one of the biggest issues right now is they don’t have anywhere to throw away their garbage, so if they had dumpsters, it would solve a lot of the problems.

Comments (3)
  1. Chuck Lantz says:

    Berkeley Mayor Arreguin;s comment speaks volumes; “… the entrance into our city is full of trash.” He’s 100% correct, since the highways and off-ramps are the first impression visitors get of our cities. It’s like leaving garbage in your front yard and inviting guests over. I’m far from a clean freak, but it would be nice if the cities and CalTrans at least made an effort to deal with the worst of it.

  2. Linda Carolson says:

    If manpower is the problem why pay the homeless that live in that area to clean it up. City if Albuquerque, New Mexico do just that and it works wonderfully. Trash gets cleaned up and homeless get paid $10 per hour (in cash) and get a shot at being part of the solution rather than just being blamed for being the problem.

    1. Chuck Lantz says:

      Great idea!

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