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New: Judge Declines to Block Planned Eviction of Homeless Campers from Albany Bulb

By Julia Cheever (BCN)
Monday November 18, 2013 - 08:35:00 PM

A federal judge in San Francisco today turned down a bid by 10 homeless people to block the city of Albany's plan to evict them and others living on a bayside landfill known as the "Bulb."

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said in a one-page ruling that the homeless people and a nonprofit group that joined them in the case had "failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits" of their lawsuit, which was filed last week.

The ruling came two hours after Breyer completed hearing arguments on the request by the 10 individuals and Albany Housing Advocates.

About 60 people are now living in tents and structures at 40-acre tip of the landfill, according to the lawsuit. The site juts out into San Francisco Bay near the Golden Gate Fields horseracing track.

Last May, the Albany City Council voted to begin enforcing a no-camping ordinance there in October. The city has not yet begun evictions, but on Oct. 21, the council approved a $570,000 transition plan that includes assistance and temporary shelter for the Bulb residents and cleanup of the campsites.

The plan also includes completion of a transfer of the site to the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.  

The 10 homeless plaintiffs, who say they are mentally or physically disabled, contend the removal would violate their federal constitutional rights and also transgress the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act by allegedly failing to accommodate their needs in the transitional shelter.  

Toussaint Bailey, a lawyer for the city, told Breyer during the hearing that Albany is concerned about the health and safety of the homeless campers, as well as warnings from state regulatory agencies about contamination at the site. 

Breyer did not announce his ruling at the hearing, but suggested in his comments that he was unlikely to block the evictions.  

He indicated that he didn't agree with plaintiffs' argument that the eviction would subject the plaintiffs to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment and questioned attorney Maureen Sheehy about whether the campers had requested specific accommodations in the transitional housing.  

"I look at it in a snapshot of what exists today. As of today, you haven't made any requests" for accommodations, he told Sheehy.