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Berkeley Cleans Up Seabreeze Homeless Encampment

Julie Falk. Creative Commons/Used Under CC BY-NC 2.0
Work Gloves

On Sunday, dump trucks cleaned up one of Berkeley's largest homeless encampments. But residents haven’t been displaced, yet.

If you’ve driven along the highway in Berkeley, next to the bay, you’re likely familiar with the Seabreeze homeless encampment, though you may not have known it by it’s name. The tents and tarps of the Seabreeze are spread across the land between the freeway and the frontage road on both sides of University Avenue. Over 100 unhoused individuals have called the encampment along the freeway home, and for the months of the pandemic the population has been living in an ever increasing collection of discarded material and waste.  

The land is under the control of the California Department of Transportation, but the City of Berkeley has long been concerned with the conditions in the camp, and the health and safety issues they present. 

Early Sunday, in a planned clean up effort, the Berkeley’s Public Works Department closed the I-80 onramp to allow their crews to bring in a backhoe loader with a large lift bucket and a dump truck. The crews hauled away mounds of debris. Broken furniture, discarded clothing, and garbage were in the mix. By 3:30 p.m. the onramp was re-open.

Although the cleanup was undoubtedly disruptive for the encampment,  residents and their tents are not currently being asked to move. This fits with CDC COVID-19 guidance regarding encampments which states that, “clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers,” which could potentially increase the chance of infectious disease spread.

Berkeleyside reported in February that the city was considering upgrading the facilities to make it an official outdoor shelter, but there is no report on what the next steps will be.  

(he/him/his) I’m a second-generation Berkeley native. I feel lucky to have grown up in an area with a rich non-commercial and alternative radio scene. As a kid I hid a transistor radio below my pillow, exploring across the dial, long after bedtime. I got to work in radio production with KDVS at UC Davis while getting a degree in Wildlife Photography and Writing in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Documentary film and television production was my main work after college. Volunteering with the Gay Men’s Health Collective of the Berkeley Free Clinic, deepened my interest in science and health advocacy, and drew me into work and further studies in public health. In addition to the Bay Area I have lived and worked in Washington, DC, Central America and Mexico. I’m currently involved helping free clinics across California and I’m a medical student educator in several Western states. I love hearing and sharing people’s stories and working to help make lives better. I’m very happy to be learning and practicing journalism and audio production with KALW.