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East Bay | Arts + Action | Health, Housing, and Public Services | Police State and Prisons

Last Stand for the Albany Bulb?!
by Amber Whitson ( phlamber.the.bull [at] gmail.com )
Monday May 12th, 2014 3:37 PM
After being harassed with illegal citations by police, nearly all Albany Bulb residents have accepted a settlement payment which comes with an agreement to vacate their residences. Amber is among the few remaining residents, and long-time caretaker of the Bulb with her partner.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like, if the time came, when the people had to make one final stand for the freedom of the Bulb... Well, that time is now...

As some of you may know (and others may not) the recent developments in the City of Albany's economic cleansing are outright inhumane.

The City had Police Officers posted at the entrance to the Albany Bulb, every night (for weeks), issuing curfew violation citations to Bulb residents after 10:00pm, as they came and went between town and their homes on the Bulb.

Albany Municipal Code 1-9 b. states that:

"Unless otherwise provided, any person, firm, corporation or organization violating any provision of the Albany City Code, whether or not previously convicted, three (3) or more times in any twelve (12) month period may be charged with a misdemeanor and upon conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction thereof shall be punishable by a fine of, not more than five hundred ($500.00) dollars, or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding six (6) months, or by both such a fine and imprisonment."

This is the process that Albany Police were supposed to use on violators of the Curfew Ordinance, but: for residents of the Bulb, along with their misdemeanor conviction was to be a stay-away order from the Albany Bulb.

At a case management conference for the recent civil rights lawsuit (filed in federal court on behalf of Albany Bulb residents, challenging the City of Albany's discriminatory treatment of disabled homeless individuals), it was made clear by the magistrate that (with Judge Bryer presiding) we had little to no chance of winning in court. At this point the City had us at their mercy and they drew up some really weak terms for a settlement. However, being at their mercy, our lawyers and most of the plaintiffs (along with some other people whom the City had done wrong) were left with little choice but to accept the settlement.

The terms of the settlement were: The City of Albany would give people $3000 each and work with the courts to drop/dismiss the citations that they had each received up to then... if each person would agree to move out of their homes on the Albany Bulb in less than a week and sign an agreement to stay away from: the Albany Bulb, the Neck of the Bulb, the wooded part of Albany Hill and Pierce Street Park, for a period of no less than 12 months.

28 people accepted the "buyout".

My partner and I requested that the judge dismiss our claims without prejudice. And he did.

We could never have lived with the knowledge that we had sold out. Not now. Not ever. And definitely not in this situation.

We refuse to let the City sweep us under the rug. If we have to leave our home, we will just have to sleep on a main thoroughfare. We would prefer to stay here at the Bulb. But, if not here, then somewhere else here in Albany where we can maintain a stable home. We refuse to just disappear.
In our time here my partner and I have experienced healing that can best be described as spiritual in nature.

Our physical and mental health (although still far from what anyone would describe as "ideal") has vastly improved. And our understanding of our greater purpose in life has taken shape and flourished beyond what either of us could ever have previously imagined.

We have become: Hermits.

In the truest sense of the word.

Seven and a half years living here, watching the crowds (big and small) of people (young and old) who come to the Albany Bulb, enjoying and appreciating this place for what it is, has been an incredibly uplifting experience.

We are the late-night cleanup crew, the unpaid gardeners and "Landfillscapers", the callers of 9-1-1 when no one else is around to do so... In essence, we are the stewards of the Landfill.

Being a steward to land is like being its parent. It's about taking care of the land by protecting its resources, including wildlife, timber, soil, water and natural beauty. Stewardship is about making a commitment to the land that helps preserve it for today and tomorrow.

One incredibly important resource, provided by the Albany Bulb is the ability for people to express themselves freely here. Be it with Bagpipes, paint, driftwood or construction debris... The Bulb has always been a place of freedom and acceptance.

Now, the world stands to lose the great value that the Albany Bulb has held for so many, for so long.

As Albany's economic cleansing nears completion, the City Manager and Council are proud to be on their way towards handing over the Albany Bulb to the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD).

What they know better than to be proud of, is the conditions that their heartless and hasty actions have pushed the now truly homeless former Bulb residents into.

Since there is no affordable housing in Albany (and since all disabled Bulb residents filed Requests for Reasonable Accommodations, in order for them to be able to use the shelter, which were all denied) the resulting refugees have settled underneath the Gilman Street overpass for I-80, in Berkeley.

If you can, I encourage everyone to go see for themselves these allegedly "better" accommodations that our community is relegated to existing in. Park at either the soccer fields or on Eastshore Highway or 2nd St. then walk on the sidewalks that run under the freeway. This cannot be seen merely by driving by! As most of the beds are up against the wall that is closest to traffic. The people there are human beings, former Albany neighbors... and they are living in conditions so deplorable that words cannot adequately illustrate the slum-like environment that the people there (some of whom had homes, with kitchens and beds, on the Albany Bulb, not even a month ago) have been forced to live in.

And, contrary to what the City of Albany would have people believe, most of the former Bulb residents would love nothing more than to have somewhere to live indoors. But, the reality of the situation is that the City of Albany does not care about the people enough to even try to support them with housing and was barely willing to spend a mere fraction of the money that was mostly spent on destroying people's homes and throwing away their belongings, on actually getting people into housing.

So, those of us who can (myself and my partner), along with those who must (the other two current Bulb residents) are taking a stand.
The City of Albany wants to give the Bulb over to EBRPD, for as little money as possible, as quickly as possible... at all costs, human or otherwise.
Now, there is a total of 4 people, living on the Albany Bulb.

We are all aware that we are one of the last obstacles that stands in the way of Albany giving away this most treasured cultural resource, thereby sealing its fate as yet another part of the State Parks system.

And, what is wrong with that?...

The following quote is from the Eastshore State Park General Plan:

"The practice and products associated with unauthorized artistic expression (e.g. installations, structures, paintings, etc) on the Albany Bulb will be removed."

If you take a moment to read that sentence over, you will understand what we are protecting, with all of our strength.

Freedom. Freedom for people to express themselves (artistically, or otherwise) without fear of being deemed "unauthorized".

And, for those of us who feel that this place holds nothing short of a deep, religious significance: the freedom to worship as we do (in a way that is not only sustainable, but that also benefits mankind and nature in an immediate and tangible way).

We have all known that this time was coming...

We have watched it coming like a storm, closing in around us like dark clouds.

This is the time to rally all the people who love this unique place AS IT IS AND HAS BEEN!!!

Whether you have only been here once (and vowed to return to this magical land(fill))...
Or if you have lived here before and know the healing power that this place holds.

Whether you have attended a funeral or a wake here, in memory of a fallen friend who knew and loved the Bulb...
Or if you have attended a wedding ceremony here, to celebrate the union of friends.

Whether you walk your dog here every day, rain or shine...
Or if you have only been here once, at night, to a party at Mad Marc's Castle.

Whether you are only able to view this place from afar, yet you understand the spirit of the Bulb and the spiritual power that this place holds...
Or if you haven't been here, yourself, but you know people who lived/visited here, heard them talking about the Albany Bulb and said to yourself "I have got to go see that place for myself, someday."...

This call goes out to you.

Last Thursday, we were told that our days, living on the Bulb, are numbered.

Friday, I received my first camping citation and my partner received his second. (He got his first one in the middle of the day on his birthday, last Wednesday.)

As soon as the last person is flushed off of the Bulb, the rest of the Bulb as we know it is in danger of extinction!

Please, come down to the Albany Bulb and join us in our final attempt to save more than just our only shelter, but the last place of truly free expression.

Before this last bastion of freedom gets regulated into history. And the land of the free becomes the land of the restricted.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
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Mr. OMr. OMonday May 12th, 2014 8:17 PM