Opinion: Albany mayor is wrong in saying the city dealt properly with its homeless

While Mayor McQuaid says Albany housed many of those evicted from the Bulb, the encampment on Gilman and elsewhere shows that is untrue.

On Sept. 26, Berkeleyside published what was characterized as an open letter by Albany Mayor Peggy McQuaid to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. She stated that she “was dismayed” by his recently televised comments concerning the negative impact on Berkeley of the City of Albany’s action in forcing homeless persons off the Albany Bulb. She claims the number was 50. When the City Council was considering the matter, the number being tossed about was 70. My hunch is that some likely went elsewhere as the storm clouds of Albany’s action began to gather.

Mayor McQuaid did not dispute the accuracy of Mayor Arreguín’s observations. Nor can she. Surely she saw or heard of the encampment that sprang up under the freeway at the foot of Gilman in Berkeley as people were forced off the Albany Bulb, and she surely knows, as do others, that this new encampment was a direct consequence of Albany’s actions.

Rather, she paints a rosy picture of money spent, services offered and a modest number of housing arrangements made. I have a different impression of the effectiveness of those services, but here I observe only that Ms. McQuaid failed to state whether any of the claimed housing placements occurred within Albany. Few if any did. If one or more of those placements in nearby communities fail, the result will be another city’s problem and not one that need concern the leadership or residents of Albany, which now calls itself the Urban Village by the Bay.

It is true that area housing issues cannot be solved by any single city. But in my view, Albany missed an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to a positive result. Worse, it compounded the burden borne by nearby communities. It did so because of City Council alliances with the Sierra Club and Citizens for East Shore Parks, which demanded the City’s actions, intolerance of those who make us uncomfortable, and unwillingness to challenge the not-our-problem position of the East Bay Regional Park District in negotiations to create a park for all who are comfortably housed.

Some will say the Park District’s position gave the City no choice. We will never know because no one on the City Council desired that it be otherwise.

Robert Outis is an Albany resident and local attorney.