Authorities Face New Estuary Challenges

Brock de Lappe    Workers from the City of Oakland clear debris from the hilltop at Oakland’s Union Point Park directly across the Oakland Estuary from Alameda.

Homeless camps dispersed from park across the water

A new issue has arisen on the Oakland Estuary across from the Alameda Marina. Alameda and Oakland residents and businesses along the estuary breathed easier some five years ago with the completion of a $4.3 million cleanup of the waterway. The Alameda Police Department (APD) was among 15 agencies involved in clearing the estuary of debris. (“Estuary Cleanup in Full Swing,” Oct. 25, 2013). 

They used Francis Collins’ property at Clement Avenue and Oak Street to stage their operations. They raised the tug boats Respect and Captain Al, a pair of barges and a large amount of trash from the estuary’s bottom. 

In 2015 Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to facilitate keeping the estuary safe and clean (“New Law to Help Keep Estuary Clean,” Oct. 15, 2015). The new law aimed at helping authorities more quickly handle derelict, unseaworthy vessels or parts of vessels and provide an expedited procedure for ridding the estuary of marine debris. 

The City of Oakland christened Union Point Park, almost 13 years ago. “The park had enticing views of the estuary, picnic and barbeque facilities, expansive lawns and gardens, spectacular landscape architecture and play structures with a marine theme,” the city boasted on opening day, Sept. 5, 2005. 

That all changed over time.  

“There is a major problem with multiple homeless encampments at the Union Point Park,” a Nov. 13, 2017, complaint filed with the city read. “This results in large unsightly piles of trash and debris, rampant illegal drug use and discarded hypodermic needles. It makes this park unsafe.”

On May 15 the City of Oakland responded with a major cleanup project. The city plans to move through the park in stages, cleaning and evicting those who have set up camp there on the way. Supporters of the cleanup call it a “huge development that should be wildly supported by the members of the community who want to use the park as intended.”

Brock de Lappe contributed to this story.