Public Comment

It Ain’t Rocket Science: It’s Housing

By Carol Denney
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:37:00 PM

One can hardly blame Albany for electing not to house its homeless, not to square up its 1999 obligations to the Bay Area Governments’ Housing Needs Plan, and for spending $330,000 not on housing subsidies but on police, clearing vegetation and belongings, and inaccessible trailers for a few people for a few months who have lived for years at the Albany Bulb landfill. Why not? The city of Berkeley and the media are more than willing to describe it all as benign, humane, and just part of making the Bulb a nice park. 

Berkeley’s city-funded Food and Housing Project is offering “services” during the eviction period. Why would Berkeley support the wholesale eviction of the Bulb’s poor, especially when the probability is strong they will end up in Berkeley’s doorways, railway beds, and parks? Because it “works” in Berkeley. 

There isn’t a park in Berkeley that doesn’t transform into an open air shelter late at night for those discrete enough with their belongings to manage not to telegraph their presence. There are alleyways and cul-de-sacs all over town which are understood to be a more acceptable option for people with no housing options than an Occupy tent, and tolerated as lodging until they’re discovered, or until someone complains. 

Whole families are chased from one place to another while trying to stay sane and out of the rain. People with severe injuries and disabilities are expected to navigate busy streets and keep track of severely limited hours to access “services.” This is Berkeley’s approach to poverty, homelessness, and housing after giving up even the paltry “inclusionary” housing approach which never honestly met the community’s human needs in the first place. 

The San Francisco Chronicle hosted an article by Mary L.G. Theroux after Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the inclusionary housing bill AB1229, claiming that Brown was drawing on his first-hand experience with such proposals: "As mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it can be to attract development to low and middle-income communities. Requiring developers to include below-market units in their projects can exacerbate these challenges…” 

Well, of course. If you offer a roomful of developers the choice between making boatloads of money on a project for the well-off and a less lucrative project for low-income people, it ain’t rocket science which they’ll choose. But Berkeley has another choice; calling for Albany to be realistic in providing low-income or no-income people honest housing options rather than criminalizing the state of homelessness and joblessness, and setting an example. 

If people in Berkeley are content to attend “Why Wine Matters” workshops while walking past homeless people on the streets, if the hypocrisy of Berkeley’s approach to homelessness goes unchallenged, then look forward to the approximately 70 people, almost the exact number once housed by the still unreplaced 77 units in the arson-destroyed Berkeley Inn so many years ago, to greet you from a nearby doorway.