OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – A new proposal to move homeless people from the City of Oakland to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton is drawing criticism from county leaders as well as Tri-Valley residents.

The idea was first proposed by the Oakland City Council earlier this month.

“Right now, Oakland’s homeless population, unhoused population is growing dramatically on a daily basis,” said Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale area.

The latest estimates show about 4,000 people are living on the streets in Oakland. Gallo said he’s concerned about a growing encampment near Home Depot near Interstate 880 and High Street. He says he doesn’t want the encampment to impact businesses, potentially leading to lost jobs.

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Gallo went on to say that Oakland needs to look at every option to manage the crisis.

“We’re in Alameda County, and Alameda County has greater open space than the City of Oakland,” Gallo told KPIX 5.

That’s why on October 14th, the Oakland City Administrator wrote a letter to the Alameda County Administrator asking to use the fairgrounds for unsheltered residents.

October 14, 2020 letter from Oakland City Administrator Ed Reiskin to Alameda County officials about a proposal to house homeless at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. (City of Oakland)

October 14, 2020 letter from Oakland City Administrator Ed Reiskin to Alameda County officials about a proposal to house homeless at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. (City of Oakland)

“I immediately responded that I thought this was a preposterous and ridiculous request on the part of the City of Oakland,” said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley. He represents the district that encompasses the Alameda County Fairgrounds and says this isn’t a case of NIMBY, or “Not In My Back-Yard.”

Miley said it’s about how to best serve the needs of the unhoused in Oakland. The supervisor suggested creating a large encampment in the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum.

“We have over 10,000 spaces there that are totally under-utilized at this time,” Miley told KPIX 5.

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He also said the majority of Alameda County social services geared toward the homeless are already located in Oakland, so keeping organized encampments there makes more sense.

After talking with the Alameda County Supervisors, the County Administrator wrote a letter back to the City of Oakland on October 27 suggesting they find a site that’s jointly owned by the county and the City of Oakland – which is the case in terms of ownership with the Coliseum.

October 27, 2020 letter from Susan S. Muranishi to Oakland City officials about a proposal to house the city's homeless at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. (County of Alameda)

October 27, 2020 letter from Susan S. Muranishi to Oakland City officials about a proposal to house the city’s homeless at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. (County of Alameda)

But Gallo said the Coliseum site needs to be kept open for future business opportunities. He says a number of professional sports teams have expressed interest in using the Coliseum in the future and the Oakland Athletics have also discussed buying the site as well.

“We’ve got to create jobs so many of us won’t wind up unhoused,” said Gallo.

Pleasanton residents say they’re not comfortable with the idea of moving Oakland’s homeless into their community, partly due to worries about social issues, as well as mental health and addiction issues that could follow.

“There’s drugs everywhere, but I wouldn’t want to see more coming to Pleasanton because we’re a pretty peaceful community at the moment,” says Pat Rodrigues. She’s lived in Pleasanton for more than 20 years and now lives downtown, less than a mile from the Fairgrounds.

The idea is still in the early phase, but the letter from Alameda County to the City of Oakland makes it seem like it will not be moving forward. Councilmembers in Oakland said they do not want any ideas taken off the table, but the Fairgrounds is in Pleasanton, where Oakland city leaders do not have jurisdiction.

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