The city of Clearlake, Calif., led a cleanup of encampments behind a former grocery store on Friday, April 21, and Saturday, April 22, 2017. Photo courtesy of the city of Clearlake.
CLEARLAKE, Calif. City of Clearlake officials reported that several individuals were arrested late last week for trespassing and unauthorized camping on land surrounding the former Ray's Market following increased enforcement in the area.
City Manager Greg Folsom had reported earlier this month that the city was stepping up its enforcement of ordinances to stop trespassing and unauthorized camping around the market, located next to Walmart on Dam Road.
The property behind the market, which closed in November, has been the site of an increasing number of encampments, which the city said led to a significant increase in health and safety problems, particularly a huge amount of illegal dumping.
Folsom also had reported that the city was working with the new property owner to clean up the area as part of an effort to attract new businesses.
After months of warnings to individuals who were trespassing and camping in the area without authorization, the city increased the enforcement level a few weeks ago by issuing citations to those individuals, as well as booklets with information about the resources available throughout the county for individuals in need, according to Folsom.
On Monday, April 17, a 72-hour notice to vacate the properties was issued to every individual on the properties and was posted at every encampment, Folsom said.
Then, this past Friday, the Clearlake Police Department began enforcing the notice to vacate, Folsom said.
On Friday morning officers, city staff, Lake County Public Health staff and volunteers had a safety briefing by Fire Chief Willie Sapeta and acting Police Chief Tim Celli, Folsom said.
Folsom said officers subsequently arrested six individuals for trespassing and unauthorized camping.
He said there were approximately eight very elaborate camping areas that were hidden or partially hidden in the brush using wire, branches, metal, stolen shopping carts and wooden pallets as fencing.
Evidence workers photographed and cataloged the belongings at each location and Clearlake Public Works staff and Code Enforcement staff removed the personal property to a secure location, Folsom said.
Folsom said the owners of the belongings can recover their personal property within 30 days from Clearlake City Hall, 14050 Olympic Drive. After 30 days the property will be taken to the landfill.
Staff and volunteers worked both Friday and Saturday removing personal property and garbage from the properties, Folsom said. By the end of the day on Saturday, four 30-yard dumpsters full of garbage were removed from the property by volunteers and city staff.
Well over 100 shopping carts were recovered and either returned to their owners or, in the case of the Ray's carts, sent to salvage with the retailer's permission, Folsom said.
Three encampments were still standing by the end of Saturday, Folsom said, and city personnel returned on Monday to remove the remaining encampments.
"The police department is committed to working with business owners and property owners to help reduce crime and improve business conditions in the city of Clearlake. We have had several meetings with Burns Valley Mall businesses that have resulted in improvements and this current operation is sure to bring improvements to the Clearlake Shopping Center," Celli said.
"Helping the businesses in our area to be successful and attracting new businesses to town are two of the top goals of the city council and my staff," Folsom said. "However, we are mindful that there is a vulnerable population out there that needs help also, and the council and I are working with various other groups to identify possible programs that could be adopted locally to assist in transitioning out of homelessness."
Folsom said the city of Clearlake is participating in the upcoming Innovation Summit that will be discussing realistic innovations and best practices from other communities dealing with similar issues.
Celli and Mayor Russ Perdock will be part of a panel discussion focused on a local initiative targeting high utilizers of public services, Folsom said.
The Innovation Summit will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 3, at Marymount California University, 3700 Country Club Drive, Lucerne.
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