Tuffshed-ification: Phase 2

Posted on October 29, 2018



Last month, the city council passed a city administrator’s office-recommended proposal to create a tuffshed encampment at Lake Merritt. Though it was the city’s 4th homeless camp, passing the legislation necessary to enact the Lake Merritt Tuff Sheds marked a new phase in the city’s homeless intervention strategy–or rather, it marked a phase of now clearly identifying these efforts as a homeless management strategy.

The city’s Tuffshedification policy began with Potemkin pilot processes–the Magnolia permitted camp was the first step. The city and state’s declaration of a shelter crisis in 2017 lowered legal standards for emergency housing to combat homelessness, which set the stage for the next step, the Castro Tuff Shed Camp. Castro followed the general blueprint of Magnolia, especially in using the city encampment as the means of eradicating an existing nearby encampment. In many ways the second Tuff Shed camp–Northgate–marked the end of the testing phase for Tuffshedification.

Northgate’s clear master plan of phased clearing of large existing camps, partnered with concurrent phased relocation in the Tuff Shed camps has become the standard operating procedure for Schaaf and the City Administrator’s Tuff Shed plan. The Tuff Sheds are now clearly described by the city administrator’s office (CAO) primarily as “resolutions” to current encampments, not as city interventions to ameliorate the impact of homelessness.

On October 30th, the city council will hear and vote on a resolution from the CAO that will aggressively expand the blueprint of Tuffshedification with three new encampments using the same “resolution” model–the eradication of an existing camp with a new city camp nearby. The new resolution potentially extends the “resolution” model on several large RV and vehicle street camps, proposing the creation of “safe parking” as a way of “resolving” RV/V encampments the city has deemed problematic. It’s not yet clear whether the city will more aggressively enforce local ordinances around long-term parking around the proposed sanctioned RV/V parks–but if the methodology behind the tuff shed camps is any indicator, its likely. The language around the RV/V portion of the ordinance does indicate that the city intends not just to offer the safe haven sites not just as one alternative to parking on the street in these areas, but the only alternative.


Several features of the Phase 2 Tuffshedification made possible by the resolution to be voted on October 30th city council session are noteworthy:

Tuff Sheds on City Property with HEAP Funds Will No Longer Need Authorization: The CAO is asking for council permission to disburse the HEAP funding for its Tuff Shed and RV/V regime. It’s also asking for council permission to enter into contracts with Caltrans, possibly Peralta, Lao Family Center, and various unnamed service providers currently operating, and yet to be contracted for designated expanded tuff shed, RV/V programs (and expanded shelter operation). CAO will enter into a lease contract with Caltrans and Peralta for the tuff shed and RV/V camps on their property, service providers will do the rest.

But one thing CAO are not asking for is the permission to use city property for the creation of tuff shed encampments with the HEAP funds. The CAO will be able to use the funding at its own discretion for Tuff Sheds on city land–the proposed locations could even be changed. CAO are also asking for permission to enter into no-bid contracts with any service providers, so no further city council agreements will be necessary for the expansion of service provision with HEAP funds or any other donated funds. All of this means that a yes vote on this resolution will give the CAO the power to pay anyone to run tuff sheds on any city property it likes in any city-owned location chosen.


More and More Planning and Efforts are Being Directed to East Oakland:
CAO is apparently planning to split the permitted encampment at 23rd Avenue in East Oakland, which took in a large number of campers from areas in downtown Oakland into two separate encampments on two seperate city owned parcels–both in East Oakland. The city proposes using a city owned open lot on International Boulevard off of Derby Street for a large group from 23rd ave. Another smaller portion will have a hybrid model run by Lao Family Community Development–a local non-profit–and a group of activists calling themselves The Village to be placed on a neglected city lot which once housed the Miller Library before it burned down. Its worth noting that a smaller autonomous homeless encampment pre-dated the current 23rd avenue encampment, but that the expansion of the population came largely from closed camps in downtown and adjacent areas.

Two of the city’s four proposed RV/V safe parking camps are planned for city owned land in East Oakland. One is adjacent to the Coliseum close to a series of curb-side RV encampments. The other camp will replace a large set of RV/V encampments around the Home Depot/24 Hour Fitness stores, 880 and High Street. All of the current CAO-recommended “resolutions” that will place Tuff Sheds on city-owned land are in East Oakland.


As the Period for Tuff Sheds End, the City Can Shift People to Other Encampments: The city’s legislation implies that other tuff sheds may be used to house the population at Castro street as that Tuff Shed camp’s term sunsets. What that could mean in a larger context, especially given the CAO’s over-arching “resolution” goal, is that slowly downtown Oakland’s homeless population may be moved further east into city tuff shed camps. Its worth noting that 2/3 of the city’s list of possible tuff shed and RV/V parking camp sites are located in East Oakland according to the legislation’s accompanying report.


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